How to Survive a Breakup with Your Agent

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It happened one summer day.

The breakup with my agent.

I met her at a conference.  One of my manuscripts had caught her eye.  We talked.  She asked for a proposal.  I delivered early.  The next several months became a time of improving my writing in a huge way.  After some minor revisions to my proposal, she shopped it around.  All of this happened without a contract between us.

We had a near miss.

We kept hoping for a publisher to take a closer look at it.  Meanwhile, I submitted to her a synopsis for my second novel.

Then it happened.  My agent had decided she wasn’t the best fiction agent and would be dropping all of her fiction clients.

That included me.

The news threw me off kilter.  Devastated might be too strong of a word to describe my emotions as I stared at the e-mail.  Highly discouraged is more accurate.  I wanted to quit so badly at that point.

I didn’t.

Instead, I learned from the experience.

If you’re a writer, you will encounter the same thing with an agent, a publisher, or editor.  How do you push through and not let this tear you down?  Here are four tips I learned.

  1. Let yourself sulk, but only for a day. This is crucial. It’s okay to feel hurt, to feel sad, even to feel discouraged and angry. Let yourself feel those emotions. The key is to not let it fester for more than a day. Don’t do anything foolish either, like get trashed or burn your writing. When I got the news, I immediately called my husband to have lunch with me. We talked. Then that night, I had a rum and Coke—and stopped at one.
  2. Be gracious. Write your agent, publisher, or editor a note thanking them for supporting you during your tenure together. It may feel like lying because of the hurt, but it’s important to show how much you appreciated their working with you since it was a choice and not mandatory. That’s what I did. The next day, I wrote a note to my agent and thanked her for teaching me a lot, which she did. Without her and her mentoring, my writing wouldn’t be where it is today.
  3. Press on. Keep writing. A novelist only becomes better when he keeps putting words on the page and learning the craft. This is huge. When a breakup happens, it’s easy to put away the laptop and say you’re done. I beg you to continue, to press on. Much of the publishing process is truly out of your control, but not the writing aspect. As for me, I’ve kept putting words down as I’ve continued working on other novels.
  4. Assess other publishing options. Many other agents and publishers are out there who may be interested in your work. That is most certainly an option. Another one would be to do self-publishing, otherwise known as indie publishing. With the different tools available, the market is wide open. The key is to produce a book that is as professionally done as if a publisher did it. How to do that is a topic for a later post.

When the breakup with my agent occurred, I felt like it was the end of my writing life.

It wasn’t.

Why do I say that?  I chose to press on, to explore my options for the title that got rejected.  That’s when Hunter Hunted came fully to life.

Question:  Maybe you’ve suffered a breakup as a writer or a professional with an agent, a publisher, or a client.  How did you move past it?

I have not received any compensation for writing this post.  The work mentioned in this post is of my own writing.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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