You Waited Ages for This Agent....Now What by Patty Blount

 For many authors, finally getting an agent is like reaching the summit of Everest...or at least a base camp! 

 You write thousands of words, polish them until they shimmer, send out dozens of queries and finally, you get an offer of representation. 

Great? What next? 

Well, your relationship with your agent is a professional one so it must be treated professionally. Your agent isn't your buddy so don't spam their Inboxes with cute memes. You're not their only client, so respect their time. Your communications should be carefully worded and if you're meeting online or via phone call, have questions written out or even an agenda to make sure you both get the information you need. 

What happens when you disagree with your agent? 

They're human; not infallible so this could happen and often does. The good news is -- it's not the end of the world. If your agent is an editorial agent who likes to do story revisions before sending your work out to editors, you're more likely to experience times when you disagree on story direction or a character's GMC (Goals, Motivation, Conflict). 

How do you handle it? 

Personally, I like to be straightforward. In a current romantic suspense project, my protagonist blogs about her remodeling project and my agent thought that sub-plot was extraneous. I disagreed. That sub-plot was the impetus to a later book I'd planned for the which the blog gets Hollywood's attention and an offer for a cable home project program. Once I explained that, my agent said, "Great! As long as you have a purpose for it, that's fine." 

On another project, my editor and I disagreed on language. Since I write Young Adult fiction, I frequently ignore the rules of grammar because few teens speak that perfectly in real life. My editor had flagged various passages of dialogue and made corrections. In one such instance, she'd changed a freak-out moment when my protagonist said, "Julie and I had sex!" to "Julie and I had had sex." 

While I understand the rules for past perfect tense usage, I didn't think any teenage guy would phrase the sentence in this way and most especially not during what was essentially a panic attack. 

I told the editor this and refused to change the dialogue. She relented. 

Now, it's important to note that in both of these examples, the points of disagreement were relatively minor. What happens when they're major? 

Good question. 

Many years ago, another author in my writer's group wanted to write a romance in which the heroine dies at the end and becomes another ghost inhabiting the haunted house they were investigating. We all cautioned this author against this course of action because of the way romance is defined: 

Romance novels need to end with a happily ever after or happy for now. 

The death of a main character does not meet this expectation. We counseled this author and explained that she'd no longer be writing romance if she continued down this path. She refused our advice and soon later, after enough agents and editors echoed our position, had to rewrite the novel. 

Rewrites are fairly typical. I'm rewriting a teen Christmas novel now based on my agent's feedback. Ultimately, the decision to take an agent's recommendations about the direction of your novel rests with you...this is, after all, why you hire an agent. Agents know the market, know the industry far better than we can or do. But we know the story. If you feel you can reach a compromise or agreement, than I urge you to try asking for it before you blindly start changing story elements.