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How Even a Great Agent Can Be a Bad Agent for You

I’ve written on this before, but I’ll write on it again. One of the many reasons I encourage every author to explore her options before committing to an agent is because of this question from a reader:

Obviously there are ‘bad’ agents out there, but is it possible to essentially get a good agent who is just bad for you or your book?

I don’t encourage competition for your business because I worry about authors signing with scam agents, it’s because I think all authors deserve the opportunity to find the “right” agent for them and their work and the right agent for one author, even your very best friend, is not necessarily the right agent for you.

I know there are some agents who, when offering representation, very aggressively push the author to sign. I think there are some who even give or imply short deadlines. Why would anyone do that? Fear. These agents, in my opinion, don’t truly believe they can compete with other agents so, in an essence, bully authors into signing with them.

I don’t and I don’t think you’ll find this sort of behavior from any BookEnds agent (you better not). In fact, I offer representation and encourage the author to explore other options. Sometimes I’ll even give advice on how to do it. Yep, I’m rolling my eyes at myself here. Why would I do such a thing? Why would I essentially send an author with a book I love off to my competition? Because I’m not afraid and because I don’t want to work with an author who doesn’t believe I’m the right agent for her.

Publishing is a rough business and no author’s career is a constant upward trajectory with all joy, champagne, and celebration. Every single author, at some point or another, is going to hit a rough patch and she and her agent are going to need to struggle through that together and at no point in time will you know you have the wrong agent more than when you hit that rough patch.

So yes, taking the time to choose the right agent is important. You go with your gut, but you also know that when you make the choice you did the best you can. It’s why you need to get on the phone, ask questions, and trust your gut to know whether you’re connecting or not. All that being said, the wrong agent isn’t the worst thing in the world. It happens, you move on, and you find the right one elsewhere.


Category: Blog



  1. Thank you for this. I’ve spoken with several authors who are unhappy with their agents. When my manuscripts are ready for submission, I want vast knowledge ahead of time. It’s a joint venture.

  2. I think the hardest thing for an author wanting representation is not blurting out an immediate “yes” when the first agent offer comes in. After desperately wanting something, you don’t want to let it slip from your grasp. But this is still a business decision so I can understand the validity of your comments, Jessica. I only hope, when the time comes for me, I can remember to follow them!

  3. I found this post searching for similar experiences to my own. I’ve had terrible luck, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying! My first agent quit the business one month after signing me. What luck! She passed me to a friend who wasn’t interested, so I ended up back in the slush. My second agent and I just didn’t see eye to eye on the direction of that particular manuscript and after two years and many rewrites, we had a hard but amicable split. Then I landed a third, sold a book to a major publisher, went through a pretty tough editor shuffle and the book was ultimately canceled at the 11th hour resulting in that agent dumping me, too! With the exception of the first, (arguably) it all came down to having the wrong fit for my work – and the inevitable toxicity created by those mismatched relationships and mistakes made by all. I would encourage everyone seeking representation to not just say yes right away! It’s extremely hard to do – especially after the years of rejection we all face and the feelings of desperation that can come with that – but having the right people in your corner is key. This business is spaghetti at a wall and as I’ve discovered, it’s way more important to have an agent who likes your pasta just as much as it’s potential to stick!

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