About a month ago, a literary agent—who represented numerous YA writers—left the business quite abruptly. Indeed, she left so quickly that she didn't alert her clients about her exit. Some of them had to learn about her departure via a status change on Facebook.
As the story unraveled, things got worse. Clients discovered that their books had never gone on submission, despite assurances that they had. One client even had interest from a publisher she had queried on her own, but the agent never sent the manuscript.
After the dust settled, a few of the clients stepped forward to shed further light on the situation. (You can read them here, here, and here.) Turns out, there had been a few red flags that had led to the agent's sudden departure: phone calls left unanswered, emails that received no reply. The agent would disappear for weeks or months at a time, only to call out of the blue.
As I read these clients' stories, my heart ached for them and I noticed a pattern in their posts:
"I had a few concerns about her at first."
"This agent gave me that strange feeling and I ignored it."
"My gut told me to wait, but I didn't."
My heart ached some more. Because I know this feeling very well.
Before my agent offered me representation, I was lucky enough to receive two other offers of rep. For a few days, I went back and forth between Agent #1 and Agent #2, reading over old interviews and replaying our phone calls in my head. I had a few reservations about Agent #2 due to a few things I had seen online, but our conversation went well so I decided to ignore the alarm bells in my gut.
But those alarm bells kept ringing. Agent #2 promised to refer me to a couple of her clients, but the referrals never came. I emailed her a few times, only to be met with silence. I figured she was busy—I know that agents are often swamped with manuscripts and contracts—but my gut kept nagging at me. What if this lack of communication was a sign of things to come?
In the end, I lucked out. Agent Jim offered me representation on the last day of my week-long decision process, and I knew right away that he was the right agent for me. When I finished speaking with him on the phone, both my gut and my heart told me the same thing, "SIGN WITH HIM RIGHT NOW!" My feelings were only cemented when he sent me a follow-up email shortly after our call, referring me to a couple of his clients even though I hadn't asked for a referral. (I was too excited that I had forgot to ask!)
And so, I'm a strong believer of following your gut in this roller-coaster world of writing. Whether you're signing with an agent or choosing a beta reader, don't underestimate what your gut is telling you. If it's nagging at you, then listen to it. Ask yourself why your gut is trying to get your attention. Re-evaluate what's going on. Then, make your decision.
You know, I have no idea what my "gut" really is. Intuition, maybe? A sixth sense? A weird pit in the middle of my stomach? Whatever it is, I'm really grateful for it. It really has been invaluable as I've navigated this thing called publishing.
So what about you? Have you had any gut feelings on your own writing path? How has it helped you as you move toward getting published?