We get a lot of questions about how to handle switching agents and even how it looks to others if you switch agents. A question recently came up about what if you want to stay at the agency, but switch agents.
This is a great question and a fun one to answer, but it probably isn’t a fun one to experience.
I’m a big believer in asking for what you want and challenging the norms. There could be a lot of reasons you want to switch agents. The one that usually comes to mind first is that the relationship just isn’t working anymore. Maybe you communicate differently, or the agent and you have different visions, or worse. But wanting to switch agents doesn’t always mean something bad is happening.
It could be that you’ve gone from writing romance to thrillers and the agent you currently have only represents romance, but someone else you really like at the agency represents thrillers. Or maybe you’re making the switch from writing for adults to children?
My first suggestion is not to assume your agent does or doesn’t do something. We all live and work in a bubble which means if you write romance you are likely enmeshed in the romance community and only know your agent’s romance clients. That doesn’t mean it’s all your agent represents.
I can’t tell you how many times a client has approached me with something I do a lot of, but with the assumption, I don’t. So before you decide your next book is not right for your agent, talk to your agent about it. Do they represent this and do they want to?
Having the Hard Conversation
If you (or you and your agent together) determine that this book, and your vision for your career, are not in line with your agent’s it’s time to have the hard conversation. You need to talk to your agent first about your desire to move within the agency.
I think we can all agree that this feels very awkward and, depending on the agent, might be very awkward. There are likely agents who will take it in stride. There might also be those who don’t. But there really is only one way to find out. And that’s ask.
I would be very honest, that the vision you have is no longer aligning, but you have met Agent Z, you like Agent Z and you were wondering if the agency would support the possibility of you switching to Agent Z with your new books. And then find out if this is something you need to bring to someone else or will the Agent talk to their boss, or themselves, about it.
Making the Switch…or Not
Personally I would be flattered by anyone who values BookEnds so much they want to stay, but as a leader, I also see the potential downfalls of making such a move. There would definitely be a lot for me to think about including the feelings and politics within the agency.
I can’t speak to how anyone would handle this. It’s so situational. Does Agent Z want to take on a new client? Do I as the leader feel the value of keeping you is more than the value of potential tension? Will there even be potential tension?
Every agent and agency is going to be different, but if you explain yourself and your reasons clearly I don’t think there’s ever harm in asking. You succeed in life and the world because you asked. If you and your agent already agree your visions don’t align you’ll likely not be working together anyway, so why not just ask.