How One of the Biggest Literary Agencies in Publishing Lost Almost All Credibility Overnight
New Leaf Literary Agency has some explaining to do.
The entertainment industry is going through a reckoning. The WGA has writers banding together to advocate for themselves and their work, which has given us a peek behind the curtain of the frankly appalling treatment writers have had to put up with from studios.
But that’s not the only struggle writers have been dealing with.
In the past week, dozens of authors have reported that a major literary agency, New Leaf Literary Agency, has dropped them from representation. Some of these authors were in the middle of contract negotiations with publishers and will now be left without agents representing them. Some authors were notified of this loss in representation via a 10PM email on Friday evening.
Reports indicate that this was a result of New Leaf letting one of its agents go, and rather than finding new representation for this agent’s clients, the agency dropped all the clients entirely. New Leaf tried to claim that the split between agent and agency was “amicable” but a statement from the agent in question, Jordan Hamessley, says it absolutely wasn’t.
This is apparently not the first time that New Leaf Literary Agency has pulled this kind of underhanded stunt, though it was not previously at this scale.
Author Sara Patel shared her trials and tribulations with her New Leaf agent, which included sending her to expensive editors to get the book edited, only for the agent to drop her representation altogether.
Some authors have also cited a pattern of behavior with New Leaf prioritizing their well-known clients over their new or breakout authors.
Many of these authors note that not every agent works great with every author. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but just because an agent or agency represents a famous author does not mean they are a good fit for you and your work.
However, that does not mean that those popular authors should be blamed and bullied for the behavior of their agency, nor does it excuse New Leaf’s callous and unprofessional behavior. If an attorney or law firm suddenly dropped dozens of clients, they would (hopefully) be investigated. However, publishing is a very small and tight-knit group so it’s hard to say how or even if New Leaf will receive any consequences for these actions. As these authors were not working for the agency, they can’t sue for wrongful termination.
On the plus side, the Author’s Guild released the following statement in support of the dropped authors:
The Authors Guild is extremely concerned by reports that the New Leaf Literary agency dropped one of its agents’ authors by email over the weekend, including some who were in the middle of contract negotiations. While unforeseen events do occur, New Leaf should have assigned the writers to other agents instead of simply dropping them. The Authors Guild strongly believes that every agent needs to have a succession plan for their authors in case of disabling ill health or death, and we instruct authors to inquire about such a contingency plan. We have seen far too many authors left in the lurch over the years.
We urge New Leaf’s leadership to reach out to all of the authors who were dropped and offer to accommodate them through other agents on staff, and, especially, to assign agents to complete negotiations for any pending deals. New Leaf authors who were impacted by this sudden shakeup can reach out to us, though we can only represent Authors Guild members in legal matters. Authors who are members of the Authors Guild should send in their agency agreements to our legal staff so we can advise them on their rights.
Still, it’s hard to say if New Leaf will receive any fallout apart from negative public backlash.
While it sucks for authors, knowing that they have yet another thing to worry about on the road to publishing, it’s also best to stay vigilant to who does and doesn’t have you and your work’s best interests at heart.
On the plus side, many authors who were dropped are now banding together and sharing their socials. (Hamessley also said in her statement that she hopes to resume working with all those authors once she lands somewhere new.)
While it’s certainly a step backward in the process for these writers, it’s hopefully given them a community (and writing material) that will actually support them and their works.
(featured image: Tom Hermans on Unsplash)
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sara Patel’s agent asked her to hire an editor before she signed with the agent.
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