Last summer, after a flurry of kind, flattering emails in which a reputable agent told me repeatedly how much she loved my novel, I signed a contract with her. I was over the moon.
In September I sent her a last revision with the changes she had suggested. I didn't hear back, so a few days later I sent her a "did you get my revision and what's the next step" email.
She responded rather tersely in comparison to the earlier emails, but I figured she's a busy, sought-after agent and now that I've signed on, she's getting down to business. She gave me the first-round list of editors she planned to submit to and said she expected to hear back from them very soon. That was on October 1.
Since then I've waited. In mid-January, I finally sent her a brief, polite followup email asking for an update. No response. A week later, I sent a second polite followup email. It's been about a week, and again, I've heard nothing back from her.
Yesterday, I left a message on her cell phone, and again, no response. I haven't yet worked up my nerve to call the agency directly, although I'm guessing this is what I have to do now.
In the meantime, I'm stuck wondering what happened to her and where does it leave me? Do I have an agent? Is my novel out there being considered? Or did she get terrible responses back from the editors and decide she hates it after all? Does she regret signing me on? Is that why she's gone AWOL on me? Is she seriously ill? Dead? Did she quit her job? If she has dropped me, shouldn't she let me know? And if so, what responsibility does the agency have to me or I to it?
First thing to do is pour yourself a soothing beverage and realize It's NOT You. The agent has clearly gone round the bend for some reason, and I'll bet you a pair of furry shark slippers and a full length manuscript critique that it has nothing to do with you.
Agents lose their minds with increasing frequency. I'm not sure why. I've had a few bouts of The Bends myself wherein I'm sure my clients thought (or hoped) I was dead cause at least then they could find someone to return their calls. Generally I've picked up the pieces, apologized profusely, learned from the situation and tried not to repeat it.
Here's what you do now:
1. Check your contract. Is it with the agent or the agency?
1 A: If is is with the agent, you need to terminate NOW. You've had your career on hold for awhile and it's not doing you any good to wait any longer. No matter how esteemed or reputable your agent is, she's not doing you a lot of good if you can't actually talk to her.
You terminate according the the terms of the contract. You ask for a list of submissions. My guess is there aren't any. When an agent goes around the bend like this, pretty much all work has stopped. She's not submitting stuff and just not telling you about it. People go to radio silence when they HAVEN'T done the stuff they're supposed to, not when they are.
1B: If the contract is with the agency, get in touch with them. Let the head of the agency know there's a problem. Most likely you will be terminating with them anyway. Chances are they're hearing this from more than one client. When agents go round the bend, it's often on all their clients, not just one.
2. When you have terminated, start querying again. You'll need to mention you parted amicablly from your first agent when she got overwhelmed and was unable to submit your work. Don't be afraid to be direct about your situation. All of us on this side of the query letter have seen situations like this. Most of us have seen it more than once.
This is not the time to be afraid you've done something wrong, or to hesitate to act. You're not casting blame or casting aspersions on this agent's character. You're simply acting in a business like way to get your career back on track.
3. This is going to make a good story in the years to come. It doesn't feel like it now, but it will.