New Leaf Literary & Media Controversy

The Authors Guild released a statement regarding reports that New Leaf Literary Agency had “dropped one of its agents’ authors by email over the weekend, including some who were in the middle of contract negotiations, without warning or explanation.” The Guild went on to say, “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.”

Shortly after New Leaf’s announcement of staff changes, the agency “parted ways amicably” with agent Jordan Hamessley. According to Publishers Lunch, the Agency’s president, Joanna Volpe said, “of Hamessley’s 45 clients, [New Leaf] offered representation or are trying to find an appropriate agent in house for 18 people. The other 27 clients were told the agency could no longer represent them, and were invited to be in touch with the agency’s leaders for conversation.” Volpe cited a number of reasons for discontinuing representation, including agents being “at capacity” or the work of the authors not being “a fit” for the agents.

Jordan Hamessley posted a statement on Twitter, saying “It was not my choice to leave, and I am heartbroken to learn that the publishing journeys of so many of my clients have been disrupted. I had no intention of ending my relationship with anyone on my list, and I would hope to resume things once I have found a new home. I do not begrudge anyone who seeks new representation elsewhere while I conduct my search. I will always support you as a friend and fan.” She also says, “I would not characterize my departure from New Leaf as amicable.”

New Leaf literary director Patrice Caldwell spoke with Publishers Weekly, saying the goal was to communicate with Hamessley’s clients before word of mouth took over. “There was no way to do this as quickly by calling people, nor did we want people to start sharing publicly about this before we told everyone…. We wanted to send an email to give as much transparency as I can.”Caldwell “explained that the agency not moving forward with representing all of Hamessley’s clients came down to ensuring those authors could be paired with agents who are excited and understood their work, without infringing on an agent’s capacity.” They reported that, according to Caldwell, Hamessley had not updated information regarding some clients, resulting in a perception that they were “inactive,” despite having contracts and submissions in process. Caldwell said New Leaf “apologized to them immediately,” saying, “We are still handling all contracts for all clients.”

PW also quoted Volpe, who said, “It’s not always about the clients themselves. When you’re making these decisions, you try to do it all at once so that no one is finding out through a grapevine, which feels really bad. There was just no way to make room for everybody on everybody else’s list, and I do feel really strongly it’s not fair to anybody to say you are taking these five or six clients whether you are interested in them or not.”

The Authors Guild offered help to some clients, saying “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.”

For more information, see the Authors Guild statement, the Publishers Weekly article, and the Publishers Lunch article.

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