Differing Advice on Signing with an Agent

Yesterday we started our week of discussing mixed messages, so today I want to continue by addressing some contradictory advice on signing with an agent. With so many agents and others writing blogs, it’s natural that many of us are saying things in opposition to one another. As a writer, it must be hard for you to know what to do sometimes.

Case in point: I often tell people that I like to represent a writer, not just a book. To me, this feels like the right way to run my agenting business. I believe I can serve people better if I’m thinking of them as people, not just products; and I also think it’s important for me to keep in mind each writer’s long-term goals so that I can guide them in a way that will help get them there.

Well. I just read an article about signing with an agent that said categorically that agents should “represent the work, not the worker. ” It recommended that you limit your agency representation to a specified project or projects.

Really! I couldn’t believe it. (How dare anyone disagree with me.)

To be fair, it was a publishing attorney who wrote the article, not an agent. (Although many agents do agree with the lawyer’s philosophy.) He made some very good points, all in the name of protecting the author.

The important thing here is: there are differing points of view. You, the author, have to take in all the advice that’s given, and make your own decision as to what seems right.

I prefer to represent authors rather than specify a book-by-book basis. But one thing I do that serves as a protection for both the author and myself is that I DON’T have clients sign term agreements in which they agree I’ll represent them for all their creative work within a specified amount of time. Rather, my agreement is “at will” which means either of us can terminate it at any time (and there are provisions spelled out for how to do this).


Some agents prefer to represent projects and others represent authors.

Some agents require term agreements and others have at-will agreements.

You may or may not have the opportunity to choose, based on how many agents are interested in repping you. I just wanted to bring up a couple of areas in which you’re going to hear contradictory advice. Remember, in situations like this, there’s no right or wrong. There’s only what works for you.

Q4U: If you could choose, do you think you’d prefer an agent to rep you book-by-book, or simply rep you? Do you think you’d prefer a term agreement or an at-will agreement? Why?

Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Leigh D'Ansey on June 17, 2010 at 4:02 AM

    >I would much prefer an agent who represented me. I'm probably showing my age, but these days so much is superficial. There was a time when you wanted a mortgage you spoke to your bank manager face to face. The relationship might have been businesslike and professional but there was an awareness of each other as human beings. This is important to me. An 'at will' arrangement sounds fine but I would also be looking for an agent with whom I could build a long-standing professional relationship.

  2. Anna L. Walls on June 16, 2010 at 5:53 PM

    >I so very much need an agent who is willing to represent me as a writer. Living in the wilderness of Alaska and many drawbacks when it comes to promoting my work.

  3. Jesse on June 16, 2010 at 3:41 PM

    >I would prefer someone to represent ME, not a genre. I'm a very eclectic reader and that shows in my writing. I understand the need for genres when marketing but if I fancy a romance today and a paranormal thriller tomorrow, it's where the story takes me. Someone representing me will know that. Someone who's representing the genre is probably going to drop me like a bad habit.

  4. Anonymous on June 16, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    >I think some of the commentors are mistakenly thinking that the distinction here is whether or not an agent will "appreciate" the author as a person or will "impersonally" focus on the object in question, i.e., the book. I don't think this is the point. By definition, an agent needs to sell a WORK, so the question is really whether an agent's representation is organized around one work or around (potentially) additional future works produced by an author. In either situation, the agent may be personable and hands-on (i.e., "appreciating" you as a person) or cool and arm's-length. Also, keep in mind that an agent is working for free until they sell a work of yours, so again–an agent's services need to be organized around an actual work that they feel they can sell.

  5. Jil on June 16, 2010 at 11:02 AM

    >My writing is me. The first thing an agent meets is my manuscript and if he/she likes that she will probably like me and if she likes both I'm sure to like her and we will understand and trust each other.
    I think an at will agreement sounds good as who knows what will happen through the years- perhaps my agent will become enwrapped in some torrid affair and forget her poor clients! (:

  6. Chris Richards on June 16, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >I prefer an agent who represents all of my work, not just one piece because I am a diverse writer. However, I think it is unfair to expect an agent to be interested in things in my life other than my writing. I absolutely would prefer an "at will" agreement.

  7. Barbara Krasner on June 15, 2010 at 11:06 PM

    >I am currently seeking representation and am finding it very difficult, because I write both nonfiction and fiction for adults and young readers. I don't want two (or more) agents. So far I've only met two agents who even asked what I write beyond the immediate manuscript I'm trying to sell; both were enthusiastic about my current fiction and nonfiction projects (or seemed to be). When I do manage to find the right agent for me, I would prefer an "at will" agreement.

  8. Stephanie Shott on June 15, 2010 at 10:25 PM

    >Since I'm preparing my manuscript to be agent worthy, your post is very timely for me.

    My personal preference would be to work with an agent who represents me, not just the books I write. I'd like to think that I'll be able to find an agent who I can develop a relationship with and one who considers themselves a friend, as well as a ministry and business partner.

    That may be pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I really want to 'click' with my agent and know that I can trust her experience in the business.

    As far as the contract is concerned, I'd prefer an at-will contract. It seems like that would give both parties an opt-out clause in the event we come to an impasse.

  9. Stephanie McGee on June 15, 2010 at 10:24 PM

    >As to whether I'd want an agent to rep a project or rep me, I think that I'd rather it be me. It might just be that I'm a people person and I like feeling that connection, like I'm more to them than just a short-term acquaintance or a paycheck. I do worry that with the project-by-project basis that I would feel more like I'm just viewed as a means to an end as opposed to a person.

    Regarding term or at-will, I'd personally prefer at-will just because I feel like it might take more pressure off and serve for a healthier working relationship. I would feel with an at-will agreement that there's more motivation to work for a healthy and mutually beneficial professional relationship.

  10. RosieC on June 15, 2010 at 8:09 PM

    >I think it's important to develop a relationship with your agent, and would much rather someone represent me than just one work of mine. But an at-will contract seems to be the best. A friend of mine was locked into a 5 year term agreement, and after the first book got picked up by a small publisher, the agent didn't do anything to sell the woman's other books for the entire 5 years. As soon as she could get a new agent, she had a multibook contract with Tor within a couple of months. Too bad she couldn't have found her new agent 4 years earlier.

  11. Jillian Kent on June 15, 2010 at 5:55 PM

    >I want someone who will help grow me and my career. That's why I'm so blessed to have you as an agent, Rachelle.

    You said: Case in point: I often tell people that I like to represent a writer, not just a book. To me, this feels like the right way to run my agenting business. I believe I can serve people better if I'm thinking of them as people, not just products; and I also think it's important for me to keep in mind each writer's long-term goals so that I can guide them in a way that will help get them there.

    It feels right to me too. Thanks!

  12. Krista Eager on June 15, 2010 at 5:49 PM

    >As a previously unpublished twenty-something who just sent out initial queries for the suspiciouly long first book of her fantasy trilogy yesterday, my pristinely inexperienced opinion is that it depends on variety of genre. If you plan to write books with the same genre and feel as your first, you should look for an agent who will be willing to represent you for a long period of time. If you have erratic taste in genre, you may receive better representation on an individual book basis, since then you'll know that the person representing you on each book is enthusiastic about it. Personally I would prefer the former – but truthfully I would take any non-sleazy, non-demonic agent. Actually I would probably take a demonic one.

  13. nightwriter on June 15, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    >I'd prefer an agent to rep me for life–IF it works well for both of us–so I wouldn't have to spend all my time worrying about finding an agent. But I'd definitely want an easy, pain-free "divorce" option if/when things aren't going as hoped.

  14. Anita Mae Draper on June 15, 2010 at 2:30 PM

    >I'm looking for an agent to rep me with an at-will agreement.

    I want an arrangement where I feel free to bring all my book ideas knowing they may be laughed at, or shot down, but at the very least, seriously considered.

  15. Phoenix on June 15, 2010 at 2:26 PM

    >Hmmm. I guess it would depend on what the term was. Ten years and all my work, probably not. Two years and all work in X genre, maybe yes. "At will" works both ways. An author may love their agent, but I've known authors who've been dumped by their agents when the first book didn't sell and they were back out on the agent hunt for their next book.

    Conversely, I've known authors in "at will" agreements whose first books didn't sell, but their agents stuck by them and sold their next ones.

    It seems to be a relationship gamble either way.

  16. Trish Lawrence on June 15, 2010 at 1:44 PM

    >I'm currently repped by a different agent for each project. Non-fiction and fiction are two different things and I want the best for both sides of my writing. I've found the top agents that mesh with my style and so far, so good. We just landed our first deal (non-fiction) and more to come.

    I appreciate our POV. It is good for a writer to think these issues through!

  17. Kate Larkindale on June 15, 2010 at 1:32 PM

    >I like the idea of an agent repping me. When (or if) I get an agent, I'd really like it to be someone with whom I can form a strong longterm relationship. But, of course my work varies wildly and perhaps the agent who loves my YA books, may not be so hot on the Western…

  18. Richard Waskiewicz on June 15, 2010 at 1:29 PM

    >I don’t believe anyone wants to be treated as product. Writers, as any artists, tend to be guarded people who fight the uphill battle for reasons of passion. We have enough jaded attitudes I our lives (often from family and friends), and we want a little lovin’.

    We also have to consider life from the agent, editor, and publisher’s point of view. Sure it’s great when they are passionate about what we do, about pages turning themselves and gripping characters. But like anyone, we can fail to see things from the other person’s perspective. We are, after all our hard work, producers of a product to be sold in mass quantities. We are factory workers, wordsmiths churning out merchandise at wholesale value to make money for all parties.

    Sure, I’d prefer an agent that represents me rather than a single book… but I’m not trying to sell them on me because I’m not for sale. I’m trying to sell my novel. So, I think I’d rather have an agent that represents my body of work more than anything else.

    If it isn’t right for an agent, they need to be up front about that – tell me it’s not right and I will find different representation for that body of work (genre, subgenre, series, etc.) It doesn’t mean I dislike working with that agent, it only means they want me to have the best representation I can and are humanly admitting that they either do not have the knowledge or connections to best represent what I’ve done. That’s great! Thank you for being honest! Now, let me get to work finding someone who can help me. I’ll be back when I have something more up your line of expertise. At the same time, I’d like the ability to walk away reasonably without excessive strings. If I’m not happy with the deal, or if the agent is more parasite than symbiotic, I again want out to find an agent that has both of our futures at heart.

    Bottom line: I’m OK with book-by-book deals, but I think for a series/genre writer, consistent representation may be the best choice if the deals are going well. Both the agent and the author need the ability to back out if things are not working.

  19. Nikole Hahn on June 15, 2010 at 12:44 PM

    >I would prefer the 'at will' agreement. I like that an agent cares about the writer.

  20. Sharon A. Lavy on June 15, 2010 at 12:43 PM

    >When I read your posts I form an answer in my mind. Then I read others comments and learn how many ways your words can be taken. So thanks for once again writing a thought provoking post.

  21. Beth on June 15, 2010 at 12:29 PM

    >Hmmm. That's a tough one. I always assumed the agent represented both the author and the work rather than one or the other.

    If the agent represents the author, it seems the author had better be a productive one, or the agent will have a harder time making a living.

    If the agent only represents a work, the author will have a great deal of incentive to keep up quality of all work produced.

  22. February Grace on June 15, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    >Definitely would want someone to feel they were representing me and not just a book. I'm a being, not a barcode (and any agent has the right to such respect from their clients too of course!) To me getting into a relationship with an agent for one book is kind of like getting married after one really good date. Might work for some but not for me.

    At-will would be best for all, I think. It would keep me as a writer focused on offering my very best to the agent so they didn't feel the need to use that clause to get out of our agreement and would also be a comfort to me knowing if I had gotten into the wrong 'marriage' so to speak there would be a way out of it without having to complete a number of projects first.

    Thank you for this series of posts.

  23. T. Anne on June 15, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    >I would for certain want the agent to rep me verses just my novel. For one, I'm prolific. If the agent loves my writing they can be assured there's more to come. Plus, I see this as more of a relationship to span a career rather than a sale. As far as term limits, I would prefer to have an open ended contract. I think there should be a relationship built up outside of contracts, and communication should take place at regular intervals if possible. I guess I sort of envision having one agent for life.

  24. Katherine Hyde on June 15, 2010 at 12:20 PM

    >I like the idea of having one agent represent me for my whole career. I want to develop a relationship with someone I can count on to be in my corner.

    However, I don't think I'm going to be the kind of writer who settles down into one genre and stays there, so I may have to have multiple agents–unless I can find one who wants to rep literary, YA fantasy, historical, and anything else I may come up with!

    I would definitely feel more comfortable with an at-will agreement.

  25. Anonymous on June 15, 2010 at 11:48 AM

    >Of course it depends on the situation. If you find out that you're not a good match, and the agent can't or won't sell your book, then I'd part ways ASAP. You never really know what you're getting until you're stuck–so you need a back-up plan and exit strategy in case things don't work out.

  26. Cheryl on June 15, 2010 at 11:33 AM

    >It would be nice to have an agent who loved everything you wrote, but that often isn't the case. Especially when you write in different styles and different genres.

    If s/he loves one ms and tries to sell it, it's fine if s/he doesn't feel as passionately about the next. But seems to me I'd be better off with someone who could rep it with passion.

  27. Jill on June 15, 2010 at 11:21 AM

    >I want an agent that will represent me, not just one or two works. I see an agent/writer relationship as a long term one.

  28. Tabitha on June 15, 2010 at 11:17 AM

    >I definitely prefer an agent to represent me and not just one book. I like to form some kind of relationship with the people I work with, and I wouldn't be able to do that if I'm constantly changing partners.

    Also, the 'at will' agreement makes the most sense to me, so if someone is unhappy, that person isn't stuck for a certain amount of time. Conversely, if both people are happy, then there's no reason to think about renewing or getting out, and they can better focus on the work.

    I feel very lucky that this is exactly what I got when I signed with my agent. 🙂

  29. Anonymous on June 15, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    >I did have to make this choice and I went with an agent who is interested in my career not just one MS. Good thing too, as my first MS didn't sell. Like you, my agent didn't have me sign anything committing either of us to a hard-and-fast period of time, so I can get out if I want to – but why would I? Right now I have someone with years of editorial and then agent experience who is willing to stand by me as I get my next MS to the “pitch ready” point. Someone who is constantly helping me to be a better writer. If I’d signed with an agent who walked away when that first MS didn’t sell I am convinced I would not be at the same point in my craft that I am today – this sort of professional development takes professional input imo.

  30. Anonymous on June 15, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    >I would want the agent to represent just the work. Like a musician, I may have a hit song, and then put out 15 so-so songs. I can't expect all of them to be hits. I think the agent would want first right of refusal, so to speak, but to expect the agent to try to sell everything I write, even if some of it is no good, doesn't seem realistic.

  31. Julie Gillies on June 15, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    >Excellent post, Rachelle. Having just signed with an agent, I was surprised that the contract stated he represented me and all books written by me. But then I decided it makes sense, because (like you) he doesn't just represent one project. That's reassuring to me. We're in it together for the long haul.

    Our contract is also an at-will agreement, which I personally prefer.

  32. Joan on June 15, 2010 at 10:26 AM

    >Your question hints at a much deeper question: Are books a commodity, or a relationship between author and reader? For me, books have always been a relationship, and I would want an agent to be an extension of that.

    Unfortunately, the commodity aspect of the publishing business is generating a lot of buzz right now, with e-readers and iPads and supply chains, oh my. But I hope we don't trample relationships in the process.

  33. Nazarea on June 15, 2010 at 10:03 AM

    >I want an agent to rep me–I want a relationship with an agent, not just ONE book deal and then we move on–I've done that. I'm not interested in doing it again.
    At the same time, I understand the out clause and I'm fine with that–it's important to have that for all parties.

  34. J.M.Cornwell on June 15, 2010 at 9:47 AM

    >It seems counter productive to represent one book and not the author, both for the author and the agent. If, as many do, a writer works in several different genres, wouldn't it be common sense to represent the person and not each book? That would result in a different agent for each book and who wins there? I want an agent who relates to me and to all facets of my work and not just to a small item in a larger inventory.

    At will is scary, but not a deal breaker. I'd rather be able to part ways amicably than to have to go to court to get out of a binding contract that could result in bad feelings on both sides and damage to both parties' reputations. In a sense, at will is a handshake agreement.

  35. Arabella on June 15, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    >I definitely would choose an agent to rep me, and at will. I want to build a career–that's why. If things aren't working for either the agent or myself, I want to be able to bow out gracefully and find somebody that will be a good match. And I think it would be beneficial for both that they believe in me as a writer and not just in one work. I would hate to feel that I would have to go through the harrowing query process every time I wrote a new book.

  36. Noelle Pierce on June 15, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    >I'd like the agent to represent me, but I'm one of those authors that doesn't really stray from my preferred genre when I write (unless it's short stories, and those are more for me anyway). I can see how it might be useful for both parties to have an at-will contract if the author writes something that the agent doesn't care for or if either want to move in a different direction.

  37. A. Townsend on June 15, 2010 at 9:28 AM

    >I agree with Dr. Mabry's response. I would rather an agent rep "me" and relate to me as an individual, not as a product. "At will" is scary (okay, terrifying) but I recognize the practicality of it for both agent and author. I am a prolific writer of Christian novels. However, I don't write exclusively in one genre. Family saga trilogy today. Supernatural thriller series tomorrow.
    Thanks, Rachelle.
    ~ Angela

  38. Erika Marks on June 15, 2010 at 9:21 AM

    >Good morning, all.

    I have been very fortunate to have the experience of both sides. I first had an agent who repped one of my projects and now I have an agent who is representing me and my long-term writing goals.

    For as long as I had been seeking representation, I had always understood that some agents rep by project and some rep YOU, and I certainly hoped for the latter, as I assume most of us do.

    With my first agent, it was clear from the get-go that it was an agreement based on the manuscript and not on me, which was fine. I was just so thrilled to have the agent's support and expertise and it was a valuable experience in terms of understanding the ins and outs of the process, even though the manuscript ultimately didn't sell.

    When I first spoke to my current agent and she said that she wanted to help me build my career, I was ecstatic. I am so grateful and thrilled now to have an agent who wants to rep me as a writer long-term. Having someone help me see "the big picture" of my writing goals makes a huge difference.

    Often times when it is a per-project agreement, I think it makes it hard to focus on that current book–it's easy to be distracted by worries of: "Not only if I don't sell this book, I'll have to shop another book AND look for an agent again!" Daunting, to say the least.

  39. Rachel Pudelek on June 15, 2010 at 9:15 AM

    >I'd prefer the agent represent me. I can't imagine having to change agents numerous times depending on the books I write.


  40. Johnnie on June 15, 2010 at 8:55 AM

    >As a yet-unpublished writer "of a certain age," I don't have time to make too many mistakes! So I'm thankful to have an agent who is interested in guiding me, not just for the initial project, but also long-term.

  41. Steven Till on June 15, 2010 at 8:30 AM

    >I'd prefer the agent to represent me, not necessarily the work. As you mentioned — and coming from a writer's perspective — it feels like the agent would have my best interests and goals in mind.

    Regarding term agreements, I'd prefer an at-will agreement. If the relationship isn't working after one book or ten books, it's better for both parties to go their separate ways. It's like when you're working for a company, and you hate coming to work every day. What is the point in staying in that job? It would be better personally for you if you left and found something you enjoyed doing, and it'd be better for the company b/c they could hire someone for your position who better fits their corporate culture.

  42. B.K. Jackson on June 15, 2010 at 8:24 AM

    >Instinctively, I'd want an agent repping me, not a particular book. It's just like grocery shopping–I like to go to the exact same store every time. But I can see how there could be an occasion where some project might not be best suited to the same agent. Each has their strengths and weaknesses, just as the authors do.

  43. Jacqueline on June 15, 2010 at 8:23 AM

    >I would say, overall, I would want an agent to work together with me on my career. I would appreciate the guidance s/he might provide and I would prefer to have that sense of ease with someone you get after you've worked with them for a while. A partnership of sorts, built out of mutual understanding and respect.

    The exception comes when the writer ventures into a genre the agent isn't experienced or perhaps comfortable with. I think in those instances, you could have a discussion and decide, mutually, what would be best. The author might take on a different agent for that project/genre, while remaining with the first agent for the rest. Or they might venture ahead together. Or perhaps part ways.

  44. Ane Mulligan on June 15, 2010 at 8:11 AM

    >I treat it like chewing gum, as one wise sage in ACFW told me. I chew on it, extract what I need but never swallow it.

  45. Teenage Bride on June 15, 2010 at 8:06 AM

    >Great post. I would rather have an at-will agreement, that way nothing feels forced and both parties have an out if something is not working as it should.

  46. Mesmerix on June 15, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    >I'm looking for an agent for me and an at-will agreement. Obviously, I want my work to be in the genre that the agent is familiar and comfortable with, so that they can properly rep the books as well. I strongly feel that an agent should be an author's partner in the business, and that's what I'd look for, not someone who sees my book without me, though I can see how the other point of view works for some.

  47. Jane Steen on June 15, 2010 at 8:03 AM

    >Like most (all?) of the other commenters, I'd prefer an agent to rep me as a writer. And I'd prefer an at-will arrangement, because it seems reasonable that either the agent or the writer may at some point in their career go in a new direction that may not suit both parties. Up to that point, if the relationship's working, it should continue.

  48. kathy taylor on June 15, 2010 at 7:57 AM

    >Elucidating post, Rachelle. I'd want someone to represent me. That's where my writing comes from.

  49. sharonbially on June 15, 2010 at 7:49 AM

    >More often than not, I've heard agents say, "It's all about the manuscript." Especially the first one: it's gotta sell. After all – Q4U Rachelle – what do you do if you see a writer with loads of promise, talent and great ideas whose manuscript might be good, but you just don't think you can sell it?

  50. Wendy Paine Miller on June 15, 2010 at 7:44 AM


    ~ Wendy

  51. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell on June 15, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    >What a thought provoking post! I would want to start with an agent who represents my work because then I feel that my writing has done its job…After that, I would want it to evolve to being about me and my career path as a writer. Writing is hard because we put SO MUCH of ourselves into it but I often ask myself, is it about me or is it about what I want my words to give to others. And on the other point, I think at-will would be the best for me, because it would keep me motivated to keep producing quality stuff.

  52. Shelby on June 15, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    >It would depend on the agent – and his or her success compared with my goals.

    Yes, I want an agent who is trustworthy — but the bottom line is 'does the agent have what it takes to get my work where it needs to be'.

    I don't need to be repped as much as I want my work to be repped.

  53. Kelly Freestone on June 15, 2010 at 7:40 AM

    >I would rather an agent represent me as an author.

    I think if I were represented by an agent wich which we understood, respected and trusted each other, our work would flourish.

    I can't stand the thought of selling a book, then being out in the cold again…that's really scary.

    It's almost like starting over, except one more thing to put your under your "experience"

  54. Tamara Hart Heiner on June 15, 2010 at 7:30 AM

    >I like the idea of an agent representing ME. Through it all.

  55. A. Grey on June 15, 2010 at 7:14 AM

    >I am emphatic about finding an agent that will rep ME, even if that means it takes forever to secure one. This is my life I'm setting up, writing is my career, and I want it to become my job too, so for me I need an agent who's willing to focus on the long term.

    If I had my druthers I'd have an 'at will' contract because if the agent is all about reping 'me' then I want to also be all about our relationship, and I never want either one of us to feel crammed into doing/reping something we don't believe in.

  56. Richard L. Mabry, MD on June 15, 2010 at 7:13 AM

    >Thanks for addressing this question. Many new writers are so anxious to gain representation that they forget to consider details such as this one.

    Personally, I prefer that an agent represent me and, by extension, all the books I produce, rather than just one product. And the "at will" representation may seem a bit scary when a writer thinks "what if he/she drops me?" but if the relationship is good, I think it's the best way to handle things.

  57. Terri Tiffany on June 15, 2010 at 7:12 AM

    >I would want someone to represent me because they see that I have potential for not only that one book but for more and because they believe in what and how I write. I'm not sure if that is asking too much or is even realistic.

  58. patriciazell on June 15, 2010 at 7:12 AM

    >I'm going to be different. I want an agent to represent my book and any ancillary products originating from the book. I believe the message I am sharing is much bigger than me, so I want the focus to be on that message. And, as far as a contract is concerned, I would choose the at-will one.

  59. Lisa Jordan on June 15, 2010 at 7:05 AM

    >I wanted an agent who would be willing to represent me…and found her. 🙂 For me, that helps with long-term career planning.

    I'm still learning about the business side of writing, but my knowledge has increased so much since reading this blog.

  60. scarlettprose on June 15, 2010 at 6:48 AM

    >I intentionally look for an agent who's in it for the long haul. I want someone–need someone–who will help me develop my career. I want someone who liked that first novel because they like how I write, and would be interested in repping my future projects. That said, I still think an "at will" agreement would suit all parties best.

  61. June Anderson on June 15, 2010 at 6:45 AM

    >As a fairly new author without an agent yet (my second book is about to be released,) I found your post refreshing and encouraging. I want my vision to be promoted, not just my work. From the very first word I typed on my first book, my goal has never been fame and fortune but rather what I believe God called me to…getting His message into as many hearts as possible. As far as an agreement, I was delighted to read that you believe in the at-will aspect. I believe that is the way I would want to operate. It would mean that we would both be free to move with the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your encouragement and hope.

  62. Jason on June 15, 2010 at 6:44 AM

    >I would also imagine there's at least a little truth to what Timothy said, cynical as it sounds…

  63. lynnrush on June 15, 2010 at 6:43 AM

    >I want them to represent me. When I signed with my agent, that's what was so appealing to me. She was interested in ME as a writer–long term, not just the ONE book she liked and signed for.

    I prefer long-term because I'm in it for long term. To find someone with that same commitment is encouraging!

    Great post, Rachelle!!

  64. Jason on June 15, 2010 at 6:42 AM

    >I'd like to hear more from the other POV, but on THIS side of being a published author, the idea that I only need to find one agent, then I'm done certainly seems attractive.

  65. Krista Phillips on June 15, 2010 at 6:30 AM

    >I'd like them to represent me, with an at-will agreement, pretty much for all the reasons you outlined here. I can think of nothing worse than having an agent who only cares about the current project and doesn't look beyond that.

    As far as the at-will, I'd hate to think an agent felt "stuck" with me and were keeping me on just because of a contract. Conversly, I'd hate to be stuck with an agent for a period of time if they were a bad apple (of course, you are NOT one of those;-))

  66. Carole on June 15, 2010 at 6:27 AM

    >Right now I would sign up with Atilla the Hun if he were an agent. I wouldn't care if he was representing my book or my big toe. *Sigh* It seems incredibly difficult to get agented.

    The 'at will' contract seems it would fit both parties better, although if an agent really works on your behalf and an author writes well and often I don't see why either would want to dissolve a partnership.

  67. Timothy Fish on June 15, 2010 at 6:26 AM

    >It seems like semantics to me. An agent may claim to represent the author and yet if the author creates junk after that first book the agent may bury it behind her other work so the publishers don’t know she’s supposed to be pushing it. An agent may claim to represent the work and yet she’ll be calling her successful clients asking for an opportunity to represent their next works.

  68. Sue Harrison on June 15, 2010 at 6:18 AM

    >Definitely career and at-will. Those choices are much better for me as a writer. I hope they are better for the agent, too.

  69. mbeougher on June 15, 2010 at 6:03 AM

    >I'm not yet at the agent search stage. I'm still in the midst of the second draft of my first novel, but this is a new perspective for me. I figured my biggest decision would be if I needed to get an agent or not since the in genre I am currently writing in (fantasy), several of the publishers take unagented submissions.

    If I decide I would like an agent, I think I would like to have them represent me , as long as it was with the understanding that everything I write may not be within the same genre (or sub genre). The "at will" concept sounds like one I definitely will keep in mind. Thanks for this. It's something I hadn't thought about yet.

  70. Adventures in Children's Publishing on June 15, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    >Rachelle, in the broad view, I would like to have a good relationship with an agent. But I have to dissent from many of the people who have commented thus far. I believe agents should read a manuscript that they hopefully love and want to market because that project caught their attention. I hate to be so practical, but this is a business and it is ultimately about selling the book right down the line. Think of it this way: would you want to be agented because of your writing or who you are in general, and potentially never get published? Or would you rather have a focused project that someone can get behind and potentially sell? In the ideal situation, someone loves your writing overall, as well as your specific project. I have to say, though, I'd rather have a project make its way to publication based on belief in that book.


  71. Kimberly Kincaid on June 15, 2010 at 5:54 AM

    >This is incredibly insightful- thank you so much!

    I would prefer than an agent represent me, as my work is my craft, but they go hand in hand so closely that I almost can't separate the two. On the other hand, an author-agent relationship exists to ultimately sell the work, so I'd want her to represent the manuscript rather than me in that light. So I'd want both, I suppose, since I really can't extricate one from the other.

    That said, I think it's an author's responsibility to represent herself too. As a writer, it's my job to hone my craft, and there's a lot that goes with that- not just the writing. I have to learn how the industry works in order to make myself a better writer. I need to network with other people in the business to hopefully do the same. And that's all up to me, not my agent, to figure out.

    If I'm the expert on me and my book, and the agent is the expert on representing work that she believes in (and it follows that she believes in my work, otherwise she wouldn't be my agent), then we should be able to represent the work together.

    So, in a roundabout, haven't-quite-had-my-coffee-yet kind of way, both!

  72. Katie Ganshert on June 15, 2010 at 5:43 AM

    >I definitely like your philosophy, which is good, right? 🙂 I'm much more comfortable with an agent who sees me as a person and is looking out for my career, as opposed to just one of the books I'll write during that career.

  73. Ellen Brickley on June 15, 2010 at 4:23 AM

    >On the one hand, I want an agent to represent *meee*, and to love me, and be my publishing mammy or daddy 🙂 Or, joking aside, to put it more sensibly, I want to work with someone who can advise me on developing a career long-term, which is what will benefit us both the most.

    That being said, I also want an agreement that allows the agent to say 'This particular project is outside of my area of expertise, you may want to look elsewhere because I'm not the right person to represent your move into this genre.' So I think a balance of both is the best solution – I'd like to be represented as a writer, not a book, but I feel both parties should be able to get out.

  74. tessaquin on June 15, 2010 at 3:25 AM

    >Thanks for that. As a new writer, I didn't realize that there were different routes. I always thought the agency would take you on and represent you (and not only the book).

    I like the at will agreement.

    I suppose that as a new author I'll probably take whatever I can get, and if the agency then drops me after the book series is done, I'll have an easier job of getting a new agent because I have published work.

  75. Amie McCracken on June 15, 2010 at 2:53 AM

    >I'd like an agent to rep me, for the same reasons you do. I don't want to feel like a product, I want to be taken into account.

  76. girlgeum on June 15, 2010 at 2:12 AM

    >What's more important, the person writing the book or the book itself?

  77. Nic on June 15, 2010 at 2:07 AM

    >I'm not sure. I would prefer an agent to rep me but then again i would like the possibility that if a future project is not right for my agent that i can go to another agent for that book or series of books, if another agents feels more passionate about that book.

    So i think the "at-will" approach is best.

  78. Dawn Embers on June 15, 2010 at 1:46 AM

    >Very intriguing. I'm not at the agent search stage, but I learn more and more each day about everything. I don't know which I would prefer because each side has its merit. The first one to appeal to my interest is for the agent to represent me, the author.

    However, as I think about how very different my novels are to each other, I can see where that might not work out. Mystery, romance/erotica and different types of fantasy may not all work out with a single agent, if I ever become that successful.

    Good question and again I have something new to consider.

  79. tinkerbell the bipolar faerie on June 15, 2010 at 1:42 AM

    >Well, I would like to think that I am not just a project, but a person, a writer, as well. That's just my opinion.

  80. Ted Cross on June 15, 2010 at 1:17 AM

    >I prefer them to rep me. I always wonder, though, why such agents will pass on work by first-time authors that is talented but needs a bit of elbow grease. If it is the writer that counts, I would think recognizing the talent would be more important than whether the MS is perfect yet. I've done my best to polish my work to a shine, but being a first-time writer means that naturally there will be some flaws that I cannot recognize on my own.