Yes, this is filled with whisky

Yes, this is filled with whisky

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

How to find out if your agent is an idiot-part deux

I was chatting with one of my editor pals yesterday and in the course of the conversation, Editor Amazing mentioned a book with an AWFUL premise, one that left both of us ewwwwing till our respective assistants glared at us.

Today, Editor Amazing calls me back. Update on the AWFUL:

It turned into the house joke yesterday afternoon. I bragged to a few other colleagues about my "awesome submission" and it turns out at least three of them also got the same submission the same day - apparently said agent does mass e-mail query submissions, at least with individually addressed emails. Said "agent" has now been added to the editorial spam filter.

So, what does that mean for you? Well, if you're a client with this agent, your work is in the spam filter. Nice start to your career.

If your agent is pitching your project ASK to see the list of editors.

And before the comment column lights up: YES you can ask. And if your agent won't tell you, or makes you feel like a loser for asking, that tells you something.

I had a phone call with a client this morning who asked where his work was going.  I said "I know but I can't tell you yet cause I haven't put together a list. When I get ready to pitch this, I'll send you the list."

So, timing is important.  An agent may not know five weeks ahead of time, but s/he will know the day it goes out. Ask to see it then.  If there are seven editors all listed as the same publisher, you've got a problem.

This is your career. Manage it well.


Josin L. McQuein said...

This sounds like the sort of thing that happens when someone's mom decides to be their agent and does crazy things with the best of intentions.

I feel sorry for that writer :-(

Eileen said...

Always a good reminder that one should not have a boob as a business partner.

I am so lucky to be with the divine Rachel Vater at Folio and so thankful she is as clever as she is sweet. Plus she has some great sharky tendencies.

Daisy said...

Do you suppose there's any correlation between the heinousness of the book and the cluelessness of the agent?

ryan field said...

This lends new meaning to the old phrase, "never assume anything."

stacia-kane said...

Not that I can possibly say it better or with more authority than the awesome Ms. Reid, but my agent regards me as very strange indeed for specifically telling him I *don't* want to know where he's sending my work. It's usually information he gives--and expects to give--his clients pretty much as a matter of course; he'll double- and triple-check with me to make sure I really don't want to know. All of my friends with whom I've discussed it get lists from their agents when submissions start, too. There's often an agent/writer conversation about it.

So yeah, this is totally information agents expect to give their clients, at least afaik.

(Yes, I trust him and know he's an incredible agent.)

(I know myself too well, ha. If I knew who had it I would spend all my time internet stalking them, any of their authors, googling them and reading whatever I could find over and over again. Seriously. Better I not know; I can put it out of my mind then. But that's just me.)

Melissa said...

Wow -- I knew that multiple editors at the same house shouldn't be shopped (much like multiple agents at the same firm), but it never occurred to me that I needed to make sure my agent wasn't committing that kind of mistake.


June G said...

God bless you for your candor...and thanks.

Shakespeare said...


I actually had a friend writer who had found an agent about six months earlier, an agent who was sending out his manuscript. He shared his manuscript with me, and the first page alone contained nine grammatical errors.

I immediately checked P & E and found his "agent's" firm on the bad list...

Desperation makes writers trust too much, even when their misgivings are entirely valid.

Trisha said...

I feel bad for that writer, but the agent needs a bitch slap! ;)

AKATerrie said...

Thank you! Thank you! Fantastic insight that is honest and to the point!

brandimziegler said...

Wow, thanks for the tip! I wouldn't think to ask that kind of information. I tend to ask too many questions as it is...