Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Authors Behaving Badly

STATUS: Just finished watching the Walsh-May recent set domination in Women’s Beach volleyball.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? TV is on and will probably be for the next week.

Something must be in the water but I’ve heard three stories just this week of authors behaving badly. Gee whiz.

Obviously it’s time for me to blog about this topic again. If you are an established author looking to change agents (for whatever reason), there is a professional way to do this. There is an etiquette that should be followed or you are in danger of burning some bridges and if there’s anything I’ve learned in this biz, burning bridges, in general, does not help your career.

There is a way of severing a relationship professionally and there are many authors I’m hearing about lately who should have kept this in mind.

1. An established, already agented author should not be shopping for a new agent without formally ending the current representation.

Folks, publishing is a small world and no matter how discreet you think you are being, word often filters back to the agent in one way or another.

2. If an author is planning to leave and has already made that decision but has not told the current agent, he/she should not be career planning with the agent he/she is planning to leave nor should that author be availing him/herself of the current agent’s hospitality by attending agency functions at RWA or Worldcon. That’s just bad behavior.

3. If an author is planning to leave his or her agent, expect to be held to the letter of the agency agreement the author originally signed—especially if you behave badly before severing the relationship.

Most agents I know aren’t interested in standing in the way of an author’s career. Most are reasonable and would probably come to some sort of agreement or compromise on certain points (such as projects currently on submission) if the author behaved ethically in the severing of the relationship. If you didn’t, well, what can I say. An agent is not going to be in the mind frame to be conciliatory. Nor do they have to be legally if an agency agreement is in place.

And my last point is just something I want y’all to keep in mind. Whenever an already agented author comes to me looking for new representation, I always ask the question, “Does your current agent know you are looking?” My second question is always “have you had a conversation with your agent about your desire to leave? If you haven’t, you should.”

Now I realize that sometimes an agent/author relationship has gone so far south that any communication isn’t possible and this is not an option. Fine. Then your path is clear to sever that relationship before seeking new representation.

So make that clean break. Make sure your behavior is beyond reproach. At the very least, that gives you the ability to say you held the moral high ground regardless of anybody else’s behavior.

In the end, that strikes me as the most important aspect.