Latest News

What To Do When Your Agent Leaves The Business

I haven’t really ever seen a whole lot of blog posts about what to do in a situation like this, at least not compared to the posts that explain what to do in a situation where you fire your agent. Maybe it’s because it’s a scary situation we don’t want to think about; it can happen without warning, so you might find yourself blindsided in a way that you aren’t if you make the choice to leave your agent (or even if your agent decides to drop you as a client, because I think you’d have an inkling that all was not well before they did it, at least in most cases). Or maybe it's because it's just a less common scenario than others. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I want it to be general advice, and I found it harder than I thought not to make it personal (since this has happened to me).

Which leads me to this: No matter how it goes down, you’re probably going to be upset. This is a significant relationship, and it’s ending. It’s only logical to be upset. Let yourself mourn, and don’t be afraid to tell your friends/family how you’re feeling, because a support system can be really helpful here, emotionally. And by helpful, I mean vital.

But you also will have to get brave and prepare to move on.

I don’t think there’s one standard way that agents leave the industry, because I’ve heard of all different sorts. Your agent might continue to work with you on the book you currently have on submission,* or they might pass you to someone else at the agency, or they might not have plans for you at all, or anything in between. The most important thing to do as soon as you learn that your agent is leaving is to find out what is to happen with your book. And even if your agent still plans to keep working with you on the book, make sure you get a list of all the editors it has been submitted to. Even if they told you who they’d be submitting it to before the process started, you should still ask again, in my opinion. There can be surprises.

If your agent doesn’t communicate with you about their departure or won’t give you information that you need about your book, get in contact with someone else at the agency (ideally, whoever is in charge of the agency). It’s okay to be annoying if you’re being ignored without answers. This is your career, so don’t let yourself get trampled over**. Ultimately, you just want to make sure that everything is properly severed so that if, later, you try to do something with that book, no ugliness arises.

If you don’t get signed by someone else at the agency, or a referral via your agent, or something like that, and have to go back into the scary querying waters, keep in mind that you’ll probably have better luck with a new manuscript (assuming that yours has been on submission. If it hasn’t, it’s probably your call). And as horrifying as the idea of querying a new book is, you did it successfully once, you can do it again. I truly believe that, even if it takes a while sometimes.

And since different types of agent breakups can have similarities, here’s a great post from back in 2010 by YA Highway blogger Lee Bross on a similar subject—what to do when your relationship with your agent isn’t working out.

*If the agent leaves before you’re ever put on submission, the process is a little simpler, but still contact the agent and/or agency to make sure you know if the agency has plans for someone else to take over representation of your book (which, by the way, you can say no to, if you don’t think another agent there would be a good fit) or if you’re free and clear.

**Most of the time—okay, I have no stats to back up “most of the time,” but I’m basing it on optimism and a relatively small pool of personal knowledge—when an agent leaves their job, they’re going to do it in a professional way and you’re not going to have to worry so much about being assertive, but it’s good to know what to do, worst case scenario.

Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

Posts by Kaitlin

website twitter goodreads tumblr

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. I've actually had two agents leave the business. One was with a prestigious agency and I'd been afraid to "bother" him while my book was supposedly out on submission. Six months later, my ms. was returned with a two-line note saying my agent had left. The second just sent a mass e-mail to all her clients--she had her own small agency--saying she was leaving New York and the business. I wrote back asking for at least a list of submissions, but the email account had been closed. I didn't write for two years after the first one. After the second one, I went to a small press.

  2. Anne, wow, that is a horror story if I've ever heard one!

  3. I can imagine this is a really hard situation. A good agent would hopefully try to get you set up with another agent in his/her agency. But if not, I agree that you should talk to whoever is in charge of the agency and they should give some guidance as to where your manuscript has been submitted and offer some assistance.

  4. Thanks for sharing this Kaitlin, and I agree-- there's not much information about this issue out there. But considering publishing and how it is changing, and also the simple fact that many people change careers in life, it must be happening more than most of us realize.
    A great post!

  5. Argh! That's horrible. I have that fear, that it could happen, but I try not to concentrate on it. I would be devastated but I guess I could move on. It reminds me of when Nathan Bransford announced on his blog that he wasn't agenting anymore. What a shock!

  6. this is a super brave & honest post. thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Great post, Kaitlin. My agent left the biz in May to begin working for Technicolor Film. She was awesome b/c she made the transition as easy as possible for me. It's been very traumatic, especially when you have to put yourself out there AGAIN!

    With my adult book, I was in the process of working on some agent specific suggestions when the agent had to leave for health reasons.

    So, I've kinda been there, done that...sadly, there's no tshirt!!


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: What To Do When Your Agent Leaves The Business Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward