When An Agent Gives Up on a Project
As you know, agents aren’t able to sell every book we decide to represent. But the decision to stop trying to sell a book is always a tough one. We’ve already put a lot of work into it, we haven’t made a dime, and we may really like the client. When do we know it’s time to quit and move on?
Here are a few reasons we might give up:
1. Out of Options
We’ve exhausted our list of editor contacts and don’t know of any more viable prospects among advance-and-royalty-paying publishers.
2. Poor Response
The general feedback from editors was negative or lackluster, and the project never even made it past the editor’s desk to the editorial meeting or the pub board. (As opposed to situations where editors loved it but couldn’t get it approved.)
3. Market Concerns
The market reality turns out to be different than we expected—last month everyone was buying vampires and this month we can’t give them away. We don’t see the situation changing anytime soon.
4. We Were Wrong
We realize we were probably wrong about the project. We thought it was “saleable” but it’s not selling and in discussing it with editors, we realize they have some good points and maybe this one’s not going to cut it.
There could be other reasons, or combinations of the above, but these are the main ones.
The decision to give up on a project is related to another difficult question: If we’re done with the project…
Are we also done with the client?
Again it depends on a number of factors:
1. Does the client have a saleable body of work?
2. Are the client’s other works any better, or do they suffer from whatever weakness that kept the first one from selling?
3. Does the agent still have enthusiasm for selling this writer and do they believe they can do it?
Whatever the agent decides, this is never an easy crossroads. Being a good businessperson and a good steward of our limited time and resources sometimes requires letting something go. I wish it weren’t that way!
Q4U: Do these seem like legitimate reasons for an agent to drop a project or client? Can you think of other reasons?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent