Friday, August 6, 2010

Wrapping up the agent side of things...

Today is my last formal day at FinePrint and my last day as a literary agent. As I mentioned before, I'm leaving to take a position at Penguin Books.

I've been crazy busy the past two weeks trying to wrap up loose ends. And wow, is there ever a lot involved in leaving an agency. You can't just quit and walk out, hoping they'll hire another agent to come in and take over. (Well, I suppose you COULD, but that wouldn't be a very nice thing to do to your clients or your agency.) What I've been doing the past two weeks:
  • Telling my clients I'm leaving
  • Telling my clients' editors I'm leaving
  • Trying to reassign my clients to fellow FinePrint agents so they aren't orphaned
  • Sitting down with all of my colleagues who will be taking over clients for me and familiarizing them with their new clients' open projects and open contractual obligations
  • Chasing down outstanding contracts
  • Chasing down outstanding client checks
  • Organizing all my files and putting them onto a flash drive so that I can turn them all over to the agency
  • Cleaning out my half of the office (I've shared an office with our sub-rights director Jacqueline Murphy for the past eight months - she is a wonderful office mate!)
  • Making electronic introductions between clients and their new FinePrint agents
  • Making introductions between my clients' editors and their new point of contact at FinePrint for ongoing projects
  • Following up on outstanding submissions
  • Going through the last of my requested fulls (and reading them!) to decide which are worth turning over to another FinePrint agent for evaluation and which will simply be rejected
  • Cleaning out my email in-box (two and a half years' worth of agency emails archived!) and forwarding the important correspondence to my colleagues at FinePrint.
You'd think that two weeks would be enough time for all this, BUT YOU WOULD BE WRONG! I was at the office for 13 hours yesterday and I'll probably be here very late tonight as well. (Thank God there's a Starbucks every five feet on this block!) And yet I'll probably walk out of here tonight feeling like I left something undone.

So what does my leaving mean for my clients?

As of now, all but one of my clients has been reassigned to another FinePrint agent and the one client who wasn't reassigned decided to leave the agency instead. And sometimes that's the best option if a writer feels that none of the remaining agents is a good fit for his or her work. (In this case, the writer was probably right, although with a debut novel coming out next year and a contracted sequel as well, the writer should be in great shape to be able to find another agent in the near future, and I'll probably be providing some introductions as well.)

But let's not lose sight of the fact that losing an agent mid-contract or mid-project is still disruptive as hell; for that, I can only apologize and say that I did my best to try to make their transition to a new agent as smooth as possible.

I think that the agents to whom I reassigned my clients are a good match, but ultimately that will be up to both the agent and the client. And I didn't reassign clients willy-nilly. I tried to give careful consideration to the personalities involved, the kind of writing, the communication styles that both the agents and clients favor, and made the best decision I could based on that. And some of my former clients are already chatting back and forth with their new agents, so I'm feeling pretty good about my colleague choices for reassignment.

There have been a couple of personal disappointments for me with my decision to leave. For example, I have a book deal that I haven't been able to announce yet, and probably won't be able to announce until we get a fully executed contract in hand. (Some publishers really prefer that we don't announce until we get the final contract so we try to honor that request.) Since I'll be gone by the time that happens, the announcement won't go out under my name. The sale was to a very prestigious publishing house, however, and it was a sale that both the author and I were really proud of, so it's a little sad that I won't be able to attach my name to the project publicly. (Curse you, gods of propriety!)

I'm also in the middle of pitching several projects that I LOVE, all projects whose final sale (or not-sale!) I won't be around to experience.

Another disappointment: because I've been an agent for less than three years, most of the books I've sold on behalf of my clients haven't actually been published yet! Most of them won't hit bookstore shelves until 2011 and 2012. It feels odd to leave my job as an agent without seeing these books through to publication, being able to hold physical copies in my hands and sharing the excitement with my clients when they finally get to hold a physical copy as well. It feels, well, unfinished, ya know?

More immediately, there's the sadness at leaving behind a great group of colleagues, people who have become friends and family to me. I am especially grateful to FinePrint co-founders Peter Rubie and Stephany Evans for having taken a chance on a wet-behind-the-ears book publicist back in February of 2008. They have been exceptional mentors and good friends. I'm also extraordinarily grateful to have gotten to know Nancy Coffey, who runs her own agency and who shares a suite of offices with FinePrint. Nancy has been a source of invaluable wisdom about the publishing industry as well as the one person at 240 W. 35th Street guaranteed to be able to make me belly-laugh at least once a day, which is a very good thing when you're working at any job!

I'm sure some of you are wondering about all my requested manuscripts, too! No, I didn't forget about you, but client needs had to take priority this week. Therefore, I've got an estimated timeline for when you should be hearing back from me on your request fulls. Although I'm officially leaving FinePrint today, I'll be sorting through the rest of my fulls through the end of August, forwarding on to Suzie Townsend those that I think have merit, and form rejecting the rest. If I've decided to pass your manuscript along to Suzie, I'll let you know via email by August 29th at the very latest. (And if I do pass along your manuscript to Suzie, I would ask that you give her at least two months before following up with her directly. She'll get back to you; she always does.)

Lastly, a lot of you asked about whether I'd continue to blog and post on Twitter. Yep! Absolutely! And I'll probably be blogging more often. I was blogging long before I became an agent, and now that I don't feel constrained to just writing about being an agent, I'll probably blog more about the book industry in general.

I think that the Twitter #askagent chat will continue, but under another name. It has become clear that #askagent has evolved into more of an overall publishing industry chat anyway and many of the industry professionals who join in the #askagent chat to answer questions aren't even agents, so I think it's time for a new name.

I also know that a lot of you who visit this blog have happened upon it because someone referred you to a couple of my older posts on word counts and query letters. I'm so happy you find those posts helpful! In the near future, I'll be reformatting those posts and giving them their own page here on the blog so that you can continue to use them as a reference source. When I move them to a new spot, I'll give you warning so that you can change your links.

I think that's everything. If you have any other questions about my leaving FinePrint that I didn't cover here, please drop me a note in the comments field.

And now I'm off to do more wrapping up of loose ends! See ya later!


Ari Marmell said...

I know I've said it before, but you'll be missed. I'm sorry you're going, though of course I understand why.

Best of luck at Penguin. :-)

jasouders said...

And this post, is EXACTLY while you'll be missed, but will do perfectly as an editor. Good luck! Can't wait to hear more about your new position.

Lisa Jane Persky said...


I've really enjoyed (and will continue) following you on twitter. I just came to your wonderful blog as you're about to embark on this new chapter of your own life/book. Happy to make it here in time to wish you much good luck and great satisfaction! Looking forward to reading about it.

clindsay said...

jasouders -

I'm actually not going to be an editor at Penguin. I'll be working on an online project. I can't discuss it right now, but as soon as I can post details, I certainly will.


Ari -

Aw, man! You get me all verklempt every time. I'll miss working with you very much. Such a story-master!



June G said...

Can't wait to hear about the details of your new position. I know you have spoken of the need for another job for awhile. Sounds like you found something really good. Congrats. It sounds exciting. I'll miss seeing you at the conferences, Backspace in particular. You always keep it real...

Laura Pauling said...

Best of wishes at Penguin!

Brad Jaeger said...

Best of luck in all of your endeavors :)

Joya said...

Can't wait to hear what you'll be doing at Penguin! And I'll definitely still be following this blog (if you keep updating!) and your twitter because agent or not, your insights on ALL things are valuable and interesting to me. :)

Also, just another quick thanks for reading my full back when you requested it last year. I've moved on to another project, but your notes have really helped me with how I handle Book #2. :)

Anne R. Allen said...

Whew! I'm exhausted just reading all that. I hope Penguin will bring you wonderful things! (Like a better apartment.)

Angela Korra'ti said...

Good luck to you on your new position! I didn't get a chance to re-query a novel of mine you'd initially turned down, but I'm still eying your FinePrint colleagues as potential places to send the revised version. :)

Texanne said...

Just met you a moment ago. Your post--oh, your post makes me wish that my predecessor at a very hard job had bothered to put things in such good order for me. Your successor and your clients probably love you to death.
Best wishes with your new project.

Matthew Rush said...

I didn't know of you for all that long but I would still like to say thanks for all you've done for us writers. Best of luck in all you do from here on out Colleen!

Marilyn Peake said...

I wish you all the best in your new job at Penguin! I've enjoyed reading your Blog.

Amanda E. Coffin said...

Congratulations on the new direction of your career. Thank you for all the help you have offered to writers like me with hopes of a future in publication. Specifically, your advice and direction provided at the Backspace conference has been so valuable. I look forward to hearing about your professional adventures at Penguin. Good luck!

Marina said...

Good luck in your new position and with your new project. I'm glad you'll still be Tweeting and blogging cuz ya would have been missed!

Elizabeth Moon said...

I hope you leave The Swivet up until the end of August--I had turned in a list of links to the college where I'm doing a couple of short workshops (Aug 28) and this was among them--several of your posts were so spot on what I was covering.

And congratulations on your new job.