Two days ago, I sent a middle-ish draft of my sociopathic mom book (now entitled Hugs and Kisses: A Novel) to my agent. Since this is a novel for a general audience, and he doesn’t generally rep novels for a general audience, I didn’t even run the idea for the book past him before I started writing it. And my email to him was the first time I’d given him any specifics about it.
This is the second time I’ve been in this position. He signed me after reading This Beautiful Fever. But at that point I’d already written the first draft of Enter Title Here. So a few months after I’d signed with him (once I’d finished doing my edits on This Beautiful Fever), I polished up ETH and mailed it off to him. Again, the only thing he knew about the book was some vague stuff I’d said to him in our phone call. And it’s also a completely different book from TBF.
I have no idea what happens if your agent doesn’t like your novel. I think it’s pretty bad. I mean, you can try to revise it to please him or her, and maybe you’ll succeed. But eventually you’ll come to the point where you’ve done all you can do. At that point, does your agent actually go out and try to sell a book that they don’t believe in?
I guess it depends on your relationship with him or her. I’d imagine that for most early-career authors, they’re not going to market a book that they don’t like or believe in. For later-career authors, they might send it out, I guess. But still, it’s no good.
It’s a very strange relationship. I mean, think about it. I really like Jonathan Lethem’s work, for instance. But I still didn’t really like Chronic City. And this is from an author who’s written four other books that I’ve really enjoyed.*
Your agent is more closely bound to you than a regular fan. If fandom is measured in terms of commitment to your career and work, then your agent has put a lot more into you than any fan ever will or could. And I imagine that, because of that, they’re more likely to look at your work in a fairly charitable light. But still…they’re probably not going to click with everything you do.
So there’s a definite risk when you send them another book. And what can you do about it?
I mean, write a good book, I suppose. But on a broader level? Nothing.
*Fortress of Solitude, Motherless Brooklyn, Gun With Occasional Music, and You Don’t Love Me Yet.