Monday, May 6, 2013

Do You Need Multiple Agents if You Write in Different Genres? (Guest Post by Chuck Sambuchino)

(This column excerpted from GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS, from Writer’s Digest Books.)

During an agent panel I moderated at a previous writers conference, the four literary agents got a lot of intelligent questions from the crowd. One of the questions, which I hear frequently at events, was a complicated one: “Do you need multiple literary agents if you write in different genres or categories?” This is a tricky subject, but one that I want to address, since I myself have multiple agents.

Photo by welcometoalville
Some writers get into writing with a clear focus in mind—i.e., penning young adult fantasy novels. Other writers want to compose books in different areas. Sometimes it’s not a far stretch to jump—from young adult to middle grade, say. Other times it’s a whole new world—like making a jump from paranormal romance novels to writing nonfiction books about gardening.


Here are the three likely ways this will happen if you have a literary agent and want to branch out into new worlds.

1. You will have an agent that represents everything you write. In fact, if you want to write in different areas, it would be to your advantage to, if possible, specifically target agents who rep all of your areas when you first query.
2. Your agent will make an exception to rep all your works. I’ve seen this before. Writers have agents who represent only adult fiction, but will make an exception for you and handle your kids works just to keep it all in the family.
3. Your agent will wish you well finding a second rep. If your agent neither reps your new area(s) nor cares to handle it/them as a favor, the only option is for you to find a second rep. This makes things a little for complicated for the writer (having two agents now, not just one), but it’s a necessary step to move forward.


The major downside to addressing this question is a big issue behind it. The more you spread yourself across different areas, you more you dilute your brand and have to start over again. If you’re only spending, say, half of your time writing books about parenting (as opposed to all your time), then that’s less effort to develop a platform and network. If you can only write one thriller every 3 years instead of every 2 years because you’re spread thin, that’s less of a brand and readership, most likely.

If you’ve developed an author brand as a suspense writer, that platform and hard-earned readership will not translate to picture books, for example. In that case, a pseudonym is common—but the downside is that you’re starting over again with building your writer brand identity.

(Hi, everyone. Chuck here chiming in for a second. I wanted to say I am now taking clients as a freelance editor. So if your query or synopsis needs some love, please check out my editing services. Thanks!)


An important aspect in all this is to simply explain upfront to your agent what you’re considering. When I sat down to sign the author-agent agreement with my rep, she asked me if I wanted to write anything besides adult nonfiction. I said yes—screenplays and perhaps kids books. She said she didn’t rep those areas and had no desire to start, so I had her blessing to go elsewhere. I ended up finding a manager to handle my screenplays, and none of what I’ve been doing concerning scriptwriting has affected my work with my original books agent.

If your agent has an issue with you writing across categories, this is her time to bring it up and be honest as to why. I’ve spoken with an agent recently who said she does not represent clients unless she can be their sole agent. Others may be concerned you’re not writing enough projects that they can sell and they can be most productive parting ways. Most, I believe, will be A-OK with your decision—as long as it does not negatively impact them (and it is not likely to).

Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers Conferences:
Early 2020: Writing Retreat of Maui (Maui, HI)
March 6, 2020: Alabama Writing Workshop (Birmingham, AL)
March 7, 2020: Minnesota Writing Workshop (St. Paul, MN)
March 28, 2020: Pittsburgh Writing Workshop (Pittsburgh, PA)
March 28, 2020: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, KS)
April 18, 2020: North Carolina Writing Workshop (Charlotte, NC)
April 25, 2020: Seattle Writing Workshop (Seattle, WA)
May 2, 2020: Writing Conference of Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
May 9: 2020: San Diego Writing Workshop (San Diego, CA)
May 16, 2020: Cincinnati Writing Workshop (Cincinnati, OH)
May 16, 2020: Florida Writing Workshop (Tampa, FL)
June 13, 2020: Tennessee Writing Workshop (Nashville, TN)
June 27, 2020: Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
July 11, 2020: Cleveland Writing Workshop (Cleveland, OH)
August 8, 2020: Toronto Writing Workshop (Toronto, Canada)

Other columns by Chuck Sambuchino 
- What to Write in the “Bio” Section of Your Query Letter
- How to Write a Screenplay: 7 Starting Tips for Adapting Your Own Novel
- Why “Keep Moving Forward” is My Best Advice For Writers Everywhere
- How to Write a Novel Synopsis: 5 Tips
- Building Your Writer Platform—How Much is Enough?
- Getting Specific: What Literary Agents Want to Get RIGHT NOW
- 15 Questions to Ask a Literary Agent Before You Sign
- Crafting a Novel’s Pitch: 7 Tips
- 25 Debut Authors Share Advice for Getting Published

Chuck Sambuchino of Writer's Digest Books edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S and ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing.
    His 2010 humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, was optioned by Sony Pictures. Chuck has also written the writing guides FORMATTING and SUBMITTING YOUR MANUSCRIPT and CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM.
    Besides that, he is a freelance book and query editor, husband, sleep-deprived new father, and owner of a flabby-yet-lovable dog named Graham. Find Chuck on Twitter and on Facebook

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