So you've been signed up with a literary agent. They've had your manuscript for 18 months. They've sent it to a dozen publishers. But they still can't get you a book deal.
Now they're saying maybe you should write another book. What should you do?
Before you make a decision, set up a meeting or phone call with your agent to discuss the situation. You may be irate, but it's important not to let this show. Record the meeting with a Dictaphone if necessary. It is vital that you hear what they have to say and understand where they are coming from.
Questions you might ask are:
o Why isn't my book selling? o Is there anything I can do to make my book more marketable? o Is it worth rewriting my book? o Can I see publishers' feedback?
Afterward, ask yourself: 'Does what s/he is saying resonate with me?' For example, if your agent says your book is out-of-date, have you had this sneaking suspicion all along? If they say your plot is too weak, do you agree? You can also ask for a second opinion from a publishing professional or a literary consultancy before making a final decision.
After weighing things up, you may agree with what they say. You may decide to write another book and stay put.
On the other hand, you may disagree. You may feel it's too much of a risk to write another book, knowing you could face the exactly same situation in the future. In this case, you may decide to represent yourself.
A lot of writers are understandably reluctant about representing themselves. However, there are hundreds of publishers in the world. These include the small independent presses that most literary agents won't even look at. Just because a dozen publishers have rejected your book doesn't mean they ALL will.
Self-publishing is also a viable option that has made bestsellers of many supposedly 'unpublishable' books. There are so many self-publishing options these days: print-on-demand, ebooks, 'hybrid' publishing.
Finally, believe in yourself. Take heart from the fact that a literary agent took you on in the first place. Agents are busy people. They send your book out at their own expense. They really wouldn't give you the time of day if they didn't think you had talent!