I recently read a blog where the writer talked about her friend who had an agent that was unresponsive. Her point was that it was time for her friend to "divorce" her agent and find someone new.
I get it. In the past, I've had unresponsive agents myself. The waiting to hear back is excruciating. First you query agents and wait forever to get a response, which is tough enough. But then to actually sign with one who won't communicate with you is sheer torture.
The key word here is communication. The blog I read stated the agented writer had lost confidence in her own writing, thought the agent no longer believed in her, and was even thinking about ending her writing career. My first thought was that there are two sides to every story and this post didn't share the agent's side. There's no point wallowing in a pit of despair if you don't talk to the person responsible for pushing you into that pit in the first place.
I'm not excusing the agent for ignoring her client, but I do feel the writer/agent relationship is a two-way street. Neither can possibly know what's going on with the other without asking. I think it was C.J. Box who regaled us all with a story during his farewell luncheon speech at a Colorado Gold Conference several years ago. His first agent had ignored him for an entire year and he was pretty upset about it. Finally, he called the agent to fire him and found out his agent was dead. The fault here is with the agency for not dealing with all the dead agent's clients, but C.J. acknowledged that if he'd called sooner, he wouldn't have had to go through months of agonizing silence.
The problem with a lot of writers (not C.J.) is that after months of pursuing the attention of an agent and then finally landing one, we're reluctant to rock the boat. We hang onto that agent for dear life because if we lose him or her, we'll never get another one. Obviously, that's not true. However, it can be like staying in a bad marriage (I've been there, too) because you think you have no choice. You do have a choice. Depending on the circumstances, at some point you have to fish or cut bait. If you're not happy with a situation, get out.
So how do you know whether or not to stay or go? Just be sure to get in touch with your agent. Initial contact might have to be through his or her assistant, but ask for a "come to Jesus" meeting by phone so that you can hash things out. No emails or text messages, but a good old fashion verbal discussion. Chances are the silence is legitimate, and if so, make sure your agent is aware of how it's affecting you. It might be time to switch to another agent within the agency. Or it might be time to leave altogether. Or it simply might require more patience on your part.
My point is that in order to make an informed decision about whether or not to fire your agent, you need to have all the answers. Talk it out before letting the silence do you in.
Karen Duvall is an award-winning author with 4 published novels and 2 novellas. Harlequin Luna published her Knight’s Curse series last year, and her post apocalyptic novella, Sun Storm, was released in Luna’s ‘Til The World Ends anthology in January 2013.
Karen lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and four incredibly spoiled pets. She is currently working on a new contemporary fantasy romance series.