The Break-up: How to Leave Your Agent

I’m a believer in positive thinking and I try to keep things inspiring on my blog, but from time to time we have to get real and talk about tough things. What happens when you want to leave your agent? How should you do it? What’s the order of things?

Every scenario is different and this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, but here are some tips and suggestions to make a healthy and professional break. 

Leave your agent first. It’s always better to leave once you know things aren’t working. And no agent wants an email from an industry colleague saying “your client is querying and aren’t you still representing them?” It’s a bad scenario for everyone. Make a plan, part ways and then get back to your query letter.

Querying again might not be so hard. It’s up to you whether you want to say “previously represented and have amicably parted ways with my old agent” or whether you want to query with a blank slate. But if you got an agent once, you can do it again. Don’t let the slush pile keep you from leaving a partnership that’s not working.

Get your information: sales figures, submission lists etc. As soon as you’re querying again agents will be asking about these things. So as you’re parting ways make sure to ask for all the ammunition you might need. It’s better to get it right away than track down a former agent months later.

Remember it’s a small industry. Bad mouthing anyone or keeping secrets isn’t going to fly. Agents want to work with people they get along with, whether they’ve had another agent before or not. So push the trash talk away, and focus on what didn’t work, why, and how you can prevent your new partnership from falling into that old pattern.

Keep it professional, not personal. When it’s time to say goodbye it’s okay to do it by email. You don’t need to pick up the phone if you don’t want to. Either way, keep it classy.

If you want to, make sure you did everything you could. There’s no point putting your head in the sand the minute things don’t go your way. When you sign with an agent in the first place you should feel a sense of whether you can work with this person when things are great and when things are tough. (However, we all know situations change and people change.) Before you leave make sure you let your agent know when you’re having trouble in case your issues are resolvable and you don’t have to leave after all.


  • Write a blog post about your experiences. Some things you need to keep to yourself.
  • Keep secrets. If you’re not happy speak up before the relationship unravels. Or keep secrets from your new agent.
  • Start your new query letter with the negative. Avoid telling new agents how your old relationship went sour. Save that tidy line “amicably parted ways” for your author bio.

Managing your career is about knowing what’s best for you and your work. Sometimes even the best intentioned partnerships don’t work out in the long term and that’s okay. A well-built writing career is a long one.

Webinar: Successfully Publishing Your First Novel in the 21st Century

webinar3Attention debut writers! I have a Writer’s Digest Webinar coming up on Feb 19 at 1pm.

(Remember: If you can’t attend live you will still get the webinar sent to you. You still get a critique, too.)

Also, a critique is not a query. So if you want to sign up and get a critique and then use the feedback you can still query me after!


I will be teaching Successfully Publishing Your First Novel in the 21st Century. Sign up today! It includes a critique of the first 5 pages of your manuscript. Space is limited.

From Writer’s Digest:


It has never been more difficult to get traditionally published and make your writing stand out than right now. No matter what your writing goals are, a writer needs to get their book noticed to make it in this age of publishing. But with the right tools and industry insider tips you can make it possible.

Being a published author in the 21st century means knowing how to get published, how to do it well, and how to rise above all the other books out there. Instead of accepting that it’s a competitive industry, why not learn what it takes to build a successful writing career?


  • How to begin your book and why you’ve probably been starting in the wrong spot
  • Self-editing tips that will transform your manuscript
  • How to make your query letter stand out (from someone who reads over 800 a month!)
  • Why agents stop reading your manuscript
  • What agents are looking for in writers that are going to help them stand out
  • How agents partner with authors to make them stand out in 21st century publishing

Sign up here! Listen to me for an hour and a half from the comfort of your own desk. And don’t forget: I will be critiquing the first 5 pages of everyone’s manuscript in the weeks following the Webinar.

Celebrating my four year ‘Agent-versary’

I’m celebrating my four year ‘Agent-versary’ this fall! I feel so lucky to have a job (and clients!) I love so much. Who else can say they get to read and travel for a living?

Recently, I was in Avalon, NJ for a writers retreat where I got to spend time with Kathy Temean and her lovely group of writer friends and colleagues. This was our view…

The ocean. Taking a break from the writers retreat for some fresh air.

A photo posted by Carly Watters (@carlywatters) on

What’s not to love about talking publishing at the ocean? I can smell that salty air again just looking at that picture.

Those days at the writers retreat, and long walks on the beach with an agent friend, gave me lots of time to think about my role in the industry. Working from home it’s always refreshing to be out and talking about the business in a new environment.

Agents can get a bad reputation for speaking from our high horses (“don’t send us this,” “don’t write like that”) but all of us truly know that our jobs wouldn’t be possible without writers. They have amazing, innovative, (sometimes wacky! and you know it!) ideas, but we’re so thankful for them putting their work out there every time.

I’m thankful for:

  • My clients who amaze and surprise me nearly every day! (All of you.)
  • My taste and selling some great debut novels this year! You know who you are. (Rebecca Phillips, Andrea Dunlop and Karen Katchur!)
  • Some of my client books earning out and having them get royalty checks. (Authors making a living, much to celebrate there.)
  • Taryn Fagerness, our foreign rights agent, who is doing great work for my writers in translation. Especially for Taylor Jenkins Reid who is in a whopping 10 territories now!
  • My team at P.S. Literary Agency. They rock.

Cheers to my four year Agent-versary and all the hard working writers out there! Cheers to my clients for keeping me a happy agent. Cheers to so many more years to come.

Webinar: How To Get An Agent. Includes query critique!

I’m doing another webinar! Sign up here.

I will give a presentation AND critique your query!

How to Get an Agent
By Carly Watters
Format: Live Webinar

Live Webinar Date: Thursday, October 16, 2014

Start Time: 1:00 p.m. EDT

Length: 90 minutes

Price: $89.99

Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for one year. You do not have to attend the live event to get a recording of the presentation. In all WD webinars, no question goes unanswered. Attendees have the ability to chat with the instructor during the live event and ask questions. You will receive a copy of the webinar presentation in an e-mail that goes out one week after the live event. The answers to questions not covered in the live presentation will be included in this e-mail as well.


You are invited to submit your 1 page query (max. 250 words). All submitted pages are guaranteed a written critique by Literary Agent Carly Watters. Carly reserves the right to request more writing from attendees by e-mail following the event if she deems the writing excellent.

Please Note: Even if you can’t attend the live webinar, registering for this live version will enable you to receive the On Demand webinar and a personal critique of your material. Purchasing the On Demand version after the live event will not include a critique.


Many writers think getting a literary agent is the hardest thing they’ll have to do as a writer. They think agents are looking to turn away writers, when actually many agents are actively looking to sign new talent. How do you find these agents that have open doors?

Literary Agent Carly Watters works with many debut writers she’s signed from the slush pile who have become successful multi-published authors. She’ll share the industry expectations of debut writers, how to find agents that are actively looking for new writers, and what questions to ask to make sure you find the right agent for you.

Learn what agents are being told by the industry and how that shapes the debut projects they sign, why you need an agent, and where to find agents that represent what you write. Do you want know how to hook an agent? Carly will make sure you’re fishing in the right pond.


What an author/agent relationship looks like
How to find an agent that’s right for you
How to show agents you’re a ‘career author’
How to stand out among other querying writers
What the state of the industry looks like for new authors
How agents approach the slush pile and writers conferences
The important steps to writing a successful query letter
Why you must query an agent with what they ask for


Carly Watters is a VP and senior literary agent with the P.S. Literary Agency. She is a hands-on agent who develops proposals and manuscripts with attention to detail and the relevant markets. PSLA’s mission is to manage authors’ literary brands for their entire career.

Never without a book on hand, she reads across categories-which is reflected in the genres she represents-and is actively seeking new authors in women’s fiction, commercial fiction, literary thrillers, upmarket nonfiction, and select YA. Carly is drawn to emotional, well-paced narratives with a great voice and characters that readers can get invested in.

Clients include Globe and Mail bestseller Jay Onrait, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Karen Katchur, Rebecca Phillips, Colin Mochrie, Julianna Scott, Danny Appleby, Paulette Lambert and more. Carly’s blog has been named one of 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest magazine. You can find Carly online at and on Twitter @carlywatters.


Writers who are crafting their first book
Writers who have completed their first book
Published writers who do not have an agent yet
Writers who want to learn more about the author/agent relationship looks like
Writers who want to learn an agent’s role in the industry


You are invited to submit your 1 page query (max. 250 words). All submitted pages are guaranteed a written critique by Literary Agent Carly Watters. Carly reserves the right to request more writing from attendees by e-mail following the event if she deems the writing excellent. Instructions on how to submit your work are sent after you have purchased the webinar and officially register in Go-to-Webinar. When you have registered in GTW, you will receive a confirmation email from, which contains the information you need to access the live webinar AND the Critique Submission Instructions.


The webinar is broadcasted via the internet with live audio delivered through your computer speakers or over your telephone. The live webinar’s visual presentation is displayed directly from the Presenter’s computer to your computer screen. The Q&A is managed through a chat-style submission system with questions being read and answered by the Presenter for the entire class to hear. In the event some questions are not answered during the live session, an e-mail with questions and answers will be sent to all webinar attendees. By attending the live webinar and/or asking questions, your full name may be stated during the live event and captured in the recording.