A group of authors and illustrators represented by New Leaf Literary & Media agent Jordan Hamessley were left reeling on May 12, after the agency informed them that Hamessley had "amicably parted ways" with the company and that they would no longer receive representation as a result. In a statement posted to her Twitter account on May 16, Hamessley countered that she "would not characterize my departure from New Leaf as amicable." The controversy unfolded shortly after New Leaf announced a series of changes to its staff structure.
According to the agency, Hamessley managed a roster of 45 clients. Of that roster, 19 clients were offered continued representation under other New Leaf literary agents, with one refusing to move forward under another agent. The agency said it released 11 clients who were considered "inactive," with no projects under contract or in process, according to agency records. Another 15 clients were informed that they would continue to have agency representation through current contract negotiations and submissions, but that the agency was "discussing options" on the "right fit" to move forward with representation on their future work.
With some multi-selling authors released, and others kept on, affected clients took to Twitter to express feelings of rejection from the agency and frustration over the handling of the transition. With industry writers, editors, agents and former New Leaf authors weighing in on the situation, "New Leaf" began trending on the social media platform as a dialogue about the merits of the author-agent relationship was discussed.
"I definitely was surprised at the sheer number of clients who were dropped," said a New Leaf author on Hamessley's roster who wished to comment anonymously. "There were some authors who really seemed to be finding success, and I never would have imagined wouldn't be taken on by another agent."
According to the author, "I was told in the email that I received as notice of Jordan's departure that no one would currently be able to take me on. However, they would still handle any ongoing contracts," they explained. "Ultimately, since no one was currently able/willing to take on my work, I chose to look for representation elsewhere as I have a lot going on in my publishing career and wasn't comfortable with the time it could have taken to 'discuss options.' "
An email from Hamessley sent Friday afternoon at 3:28 p.m., which New Leaf said was pre-scheduled,announced her summer hours and reiterated her support and passion for her clients. Seven hours later, Hamessley's clients were informed that she had left the agency, leading many to believe her exit was abrupt and unplanned from the conflicting communications.
One of my former agent sibs wanted me to point this out. On Friday at 3:28pm ET I received the bottom email about my agent planning ahead for summer.— Taylor Tracy 🌊✨🍝 (@tayberryjelly) May 14, 2023
The top email came in at 10:16pm. <7 hours doesn’t feel amicable. pic.twitter.com/WWUgxttoVD
About Hamessley's departure, "I don’t have enough information to publicly speculate the agency’s reasoning, but I have so many questions and why is a great starting point," said an affected author who also wished to remain anonymous. They added, "Why did New Leaf suddenly part ways with an agent and let us know at 10:16 p.m. on the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend? When many of us had plans with family or were traveling, and we heard from their literary director and not from Jordan herself, when she wrote us earlier that day indicating plans through at least summer at New Leaf?"
New Leaf literary director Patrice Caldwell told PW that the agency aimed to inform Hamessley's clients of her departure immediately and all at once, before word could spread individually among clients. "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," Caldwell explained. "We wanted to send an email to give as much transparency as I can."
Due to information not being updated on Hamessley's end, some clients thought to be "inactive" were indeed active with contracts and submissions in process, Caldwell explained. The agency "apologized to them immediately and assured them we would take care of things and offered them options on how to move forward," she said. “We are still handling all contracts for all clients.”
Caldwell said that the team worked in shifts to ensure that any inquiries about next steps were answered in a timely manner over the weekend, and that all affected authors had the agency's support to move forward.
"We completely understand why Jordan’s clients who weren’t offered a continued space here are upset, and we respect their decision to process this change how it feels best to them," said Caldwell. She 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.
Hi, I’m one of the New Leaf creators unexpectedly back to querying…— Tara Hannon ⭐️ (@tarajhannon) May 15, 2023
I’m an #authorIllustrator w/ a GN series pubbing in ‘24 (& more unannounced)
I create PBs, GNs, & CBs. I ❤️ anything w/ heart & humor.
Any recs for good fits would be appreciated ❤️https://t.co/zN3KLtEjsl pic.twitter.com/yD8QUUnM3O
Speaking on background, a longtime literary agent confirmed that what New Leaf did was "unusual" and not standard practice, while another said that clients released by the agency would be better served finding new representation than being represented by agents who aren't passionate about their work.
About an expectation that the agency should continue representing all of Hamessley's clients after her departure, Caldwell said, "this is unfortunately the industry expectation, and I believe that leads to a bad experience for the client and the agent/associate." New Leaf founder and president Joanna Volpe added that the decision to offer representation to some and release others was made as a team effort based on interest in a client's work from New Leaf's team.
"That was a really difficult to decision to have to make," said Volpe. "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."
Hamessley's statement on Twitter ran counter to those provided earlier by New Lead. "I was not asked any questions about the current status of my clients' submissions upon my exit," Hamessley wrote. Refuting New Leaf's assertions that that information about her clients was not updated, she added, "my contract and deal negotiation files were up to date." Hamessley added that she had "no intention" of ending her relationship with any client on her list: "I would hope to resume things once I have found a new home," she said. "I do not begrudge anyone who seeks new representation elsewhere while I conduct my search."
My statement on my departure from New Leaf Literary & Media.— Jordan Hamessley (@thejordache) May 16, 2023
Full text follows in the thread below. pic.twitter.com/W3utAsmggl
In an official statement on the matter, the Authors Guild expressed concern that Hamessley's clients continue to be supported through the transition. "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."
The statement continued: "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."
New Leaf told PW that it has been actively reaching out to Authors Guild representatives to clarify the situation.
In a statement to PW, author Stephanie Lucianovic said: "Undoubtedly, you'll find out a lot about our reactions to these unceremoniously abrupt, late, Friday-night agency oustings on our socials, but our primary concern for the last 48+ hours has been about gathering our shocked and distraught agent-mate community and taking care of one another as best we can."
This story has been updated to include Hamessley's statement.