What To Do When Your Agent Quits Agenting


1) Do not panic. 

It’s pointless. It’s counterproductive. And won’t help the situation.


2) Promise your emotions you’ll deal with them later, if they stay quiet right now.

You have to focus on what’s going to happen next. This is about your career and feelings won’t help you out of this situation. Logic and rational thought are your allies here. You need to understand what is happening. Take notes. It gives you a bit more distance from what’s unfolding.


2) If you’ve got a good agent, she may line up someone to step in and fill her shoes.

I lucked out. When my agent decided to change careers in January, she found a brilliant agent to fill in and make sure things stayed on track with the negotiations with my publisher.


3) If your agent isn’t able to find someone to replace her, ask if she can refer you to any other agents.

She may not be able to, but at least you asked. And she might be able to put a new agent on your radar.


4) Ask for the status of everything you were working on together.

If you were submitting, get an update. Find out when her last day is and follow up with her on anything outstanding before that.


5) Unfortunately, you may need to start querying again.

It’s not your fault. It’s the universe. You are still an awesome writer and you will find a new agent in time. You did it once, you can do it again. And you can mention that you had an agent in your query letter.


6) When you hang up the phone, let yourself feel this moment.

Now is the time to let your emotions loose. Just make sure you do it all offline and privately. It’s a big shake up in your professional life. It’s the loss of an important player in your author career. It’s so much uncertainty again. Fire off emails to your mentors. Call a close friend and freak out. Tell your writing buddies. Sometimes just talking about what’s happening helps you process it.


7) And if all else fails, shoot me an email.

Seriously. It’s scary when something like this happens and you feel like you are the only person in the world who it’s happened to. I get that. And you aren’t alone. So drop me a line and I will commiserate with you over it.


What would you do if your agent quit?


Saturday, April 12th, I will be at Pat’s IGA (816 Wolcott Rd., Wolcott, CT)  from 10 am to 3 pm selling signed copies of my  books and photography. 50% of the event’s profits will go to the American Cancer Society. We will also have a memory board to share your experiences with cancer. Please stop by!


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40 Responses to What To Do When Your Agent Quits Agenting

  1. If my agent quit, I think I would turn in my notice all around, post a message to my readers (“It’s SO OVER!”), then crawl under a rock. I don’t know what I’d do without my agent. She is, in this confusing publishing world, my rock. However. That being said. I’m on my second agent. When I finally acknowledged I had two years of excuses– ranging from marketplace, Southern doesn’t sell, Kindle needs to settle down, publishing isn’t what it used to be, Amazon is taking over the world– such a laundry list of reasons why she wasn’t at least trying to sell my work (when in truth, it was because lightning had struck with a writer she’d signed within weeks of signing me, and she was riding around in an armored car with the money she was making off that writer’s movie deals, foreign rights, Oprah appearances, etc.) I had to make the horrible decision to break up with her. It hurt. One of the darkest days in my writing life, and I was scared to death to walk away. As hard as it was to land my first agent, how in all hell was I going to do it a second time? With four narrative women’s fiction manuscripts back in my lap from my first agency and no agent, I switched gears. My first-person humorous mystery series was born. I landed my current agent, the one I can’t live without, on my fifth query. It’s been a match made in heaven. So again I say, if my agent quit, I’d quit.

    • Wow, Gretchen, I’m sorry to hear about your first agent. That’s a terrible experience, but it’s so inspiring how you ended that relationship and found your “true love” agent. 🙂 I love your humorous mystery series! You have the kind of dream agent relationship I hear about at conferences and on blogs–that’s awesome! I can understand why you would not want to go on without her.

      • Thank you, Kourtney, and thanks for today’s thought-provoking subject. Good, good, good luck to you.

        • When it happened in January, one of my many thoughts was that someday this will make a good blog post. It seems to be pretty rare in the business and I wasn’t finding much online to help me feel better about the situation. Thanks! I was incredibly lucky that the Harlequin contract was nearly finalized when this happened. It’s all signed and now I’m waiting on an editor and publication date. I’m working on a new series and hoping to secure a new agent with it. It’s been a very tumultuous year but all I can do is write. The rest will work itself out in time I hope. 🙂

          • Kourt, I’ve had the rug jerked out from under me so many times on this long, weary road. Girl, you’ll make it. You’ll do great.

          • It’s good to know I’m in such excellent company, Gretchen. 🙂 Thanks. I think as long as I keep trying, eventually I will make it to where I want to be. *Fingers and toes are crossed*

  2. davidprosser says:

    Heavens Kourtney, most of us would kill to have an agent in the first place. They’re a fairly rare breed these days.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

  3. I’m so sorry, Kourtney. I am happy to hear your former agent found a good replacement, that is comforting, I’m sure.
    What would I do? Well, first I would call my close friend and “freak out” and then I’d put the past behind me and move on.
    Wishing you the best!

    • It was a huge help since we were just finishing the contract negotiation. That’s a smart move to make–freaking out in private and then pulling it together and moving on. 🙂 Hugs!

  4. Carrie Rubin says:

    I’ll have to get an agent before I can answer that question… But great advice for those facing something similar. 🙂

  5. Ally Bean says:

    Never thought of this happening to a writer, but I can see that it’d be as much of a business problem as a huge emotional mess. Sounds like you handled it all with aplomb. Good idea to write it down here so other writers can benefit from your experience.

    • Ally, it is pretty rare from how little I could find online about it. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, I’ve always been the exception to the rule. 😉 It’s a major career problem, and at the same time quite an emotional blow. It’s the equivalent of spending 7 years applying for a job only to finally land it and then get laid off a year later. You know how hard it was to get and you know how much harder it will be to get it again. I had to wait until I’d processed it all and was in a good place again. I hope it helps anyone else who lands in the same situation.

  6. I’m glad your agent found a replacement for you so you didn’t have to stress out even worse than you did. Sheesh! This is great advice you shared here for others who might have to deal with this someday. 🙁

    • Thanks Lynne. I’m in the peculiar situation of having an agency for my first traditionally book but not for my next book. The agent who is helping me did offer to take a look–and I’d be over the moon if she loved it. But given my luck, I’ll probably be back to querying this summer. It’s funny I’ve spent so many years querying this would have been the first calendar year in 8 years that I wasn’t. Ah well, just another part of the cycle of the author life.

  7. I had no idea your agent quit the profession! As my kids would say, that sucks. Especially after everything you’ve done to seek representation. I’m glad to know you got lucky. If I ever get there someday, I will definitely call or email to commiserate!

    • When it happened, I needed a bit of time. Then I made a brief announcement on the blog–http://kourtneyheintz.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/talking-six-train-with-the-fabulous-sheila-hurst/
      Yup definitely sucked. 🙂 It was quite a blow. It took me a while to realize what we’d accomplished together in a year–we negotiated the contract and I signed off on it. That was a major step forward. She found an agent to step in and help me with the book as an interim player. I’m much further along than I was a year ago. So yay for that. Please do! I want to be there to cheer you up. But hopefully yours will be a long and fruitful partnership and you’ll never have to email about something like this!

  8. jmmcdowell says:

    I’d like to think that most agents would be as professional as yours was—helping line up someone to complete the process for your novel. If it happened to me, I might think the universe was trying to tell me something….

  9. EllaDee says:

    Not wonderful how you gained the wisdom but it that you are in a position to share it, and did is a gift that flows two ways 🙂

  10. 4amWriter says:

    That would be a terrible surprise, especially since it is so difficult to find an agent in the first place. You definitely lucked out. I think anyone (in any field) who is responsible for handling someone’s career should take the steps to ensure her client is taken care of. It’s the right thing to do.

  11. Aquileana says:

    Hi Kourt..

    I am sorry to know that it has happened to you. It must be tough to loose someone who is there to support your book and to promote you. But I guess it is not so uncommon, is it?
    I found your tips very witty and I think can also can also apply to other kind of bond if we are not published writers…
    Thaks for sharing your experiences, best wishes, Aquileana 🙂

    • Thanks Aquileana. It’s very hard to lose them in the middle of my first time too. I was supposed to go on my traditional publishing journey with her and we only ended up taking a few miles together. They do switch agencies often but leaving the business is much less common. Thanks. I’m sure they can work in many relationship actually. I tried to tailor them specifically to this situation just because I found so little on it when I googled it. 🙂

  12. After all the difficulty getting an agent in the first place, it must be devastating to then lose them through no fault of your own.

    • It was like someone flipped my world upside down, shook it, and then demanded I walk a straight line. 🙂 I tend to process stuff offline–though my meltdowns are legendary among my dearest friends. We still laugh about the things that fly from my mouth in those moments of blind panic and utter frustration. I was really lucky that the contract was nearly finalized. My biggest fear was that I would lose the publisher. But Harlequin stayed with me and we are moving forward. Phew! It’s hard losing a companion on the journey–I really appreciate all she did to help get me here.

  13. Mayumi-H says:

    Ugh! So sorry to hear this happened to you, Kourtney. At least your agent was pro enough to take the conscientious steps of providing you with an interim rep.

    Your determination and courage is shining through with each and every new experience, and I know you’ll come out of this unfortunate setback even better than before. 🙂

    • Thanks Mayumi. It took me a few months to wrap my head around this new reality. I am very lucky she found me someone to see me through. Aw, thanks. I am so excited to be moving forward with Harlequin. 🙂

  14. Pete Denton says:

    Great advice. If I ever get to a stage when I have an agent in the first place I’m sure I would think the world was against me if they changed careers!

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