A reader asks:
Is it acceptable to seek out a second agent for representation, of course with the intention of sharing different manuscripts? I have an agent currently, but as of yet, none of my manuscripts given to her have been published. But since I am such a novice, I really wasn’t sure about seeking out representation for my other works while still being represented. Is it something writers do, having two agents or is that a conflict?
Do some people have two agents at two separate agencies? Yes. But this is most common when, say, an author writes both for adults and children – but their primary or first agent/agency only reps one of those two categories.
In any case though, the first thing to look at is your author-agency agreement. If your agency agreement says that your current agency represents all of your literary work, then you couldn’t seek out representation for anything else without a discussion with your first agent.
If you’re hoping to find a new agent for a genre that your current agent doesn’t represent (say you’re repped for picture books but you’d also like to do adult erotica…), then you should have a discussion with that agent and see what they recommend. They may amend the author-agency agreement so that you having a second agent for that other genre is not a conflict. Or they might have a colleague with experience in that genre and they would either officially co-agent or help your agent out with this new genre they’re less familiar with. Or, if that second genre is now your primary career goal, it might be time for you to find a new agent that is more experienced in that new genre.
But if you were hoping to send different projects to different agents in the same genres (e.g. this picture book to one agent and this other picture book to a new one) – then no, that can’t be done. In that case, it sounds to me like what you’d have to consider is ending your current agreement and finding a new agent entirely. (Unless your agent works on a book-by-book agreement, which it doesn’t sound like this one does. Though of course this would also be covered in your agency agreement.)
Since part of an agent’s job is to guide you in your long term career, having somebody else in the picture who might have a different vision, or who would be receiving additional manuscripts while the first agent is also trying to sell your debut, would be a detriment to yourself and your primary agent. Agents aren’t going to collaborate across agencies to sell the same author to the same editors/publishers, or run through their submission plans with another agency to make sure there isn’t too much overlap on these different projects.
Honestly, even in the hypothetical, it sounds like a logistical and emotional nightmare for you too. How would you decide which agent received which project? What happens when one agent feels like the other one is getting the more marketable projects? Who do you listen to when two agents have conflicting opinions about a project or career direction? And if you feel like you’re consistently favoring the advice/editorial feedback/etc. of one agent over another, then why have two?
So, given everything above, the truth is that you really need to have a conversation with your agent. Because you either want to start writing in a genre different from what she usually reps, and you need to figure out how the two of you will make that work. Or because you’re unhappy with the progress that’s been made, and it’s either time to have a serious discussion about what the two of you need to do next for your career, or to end the relationship before searching for new representation.
I hope this helps as you and your agent discuss the best next step for your career!