Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Answers to yesterday's questions

Yesterday's blogpost churned up more questions than usual, so here's a rundown of the answers.

Colin Smith asked:
Without disagreeing with what you said (I value my limbs), doesn't the agent who dropped poor Opie have a point? After all, if an agent doesn't love your work, it'll be really hard for that agent to sell it. That's what we keep being told--and I believe it. So, while it was a betrayal of an agreement, wasn't the agent simply being consistent with that idea of only representing what s/he loves? I know you love many of the novels your colleagues at New Leaf represent. But do you think you could represent any one of them with the same passion? Just saying, I think it's a tough call on both sides.

There's a difference between taking on a novel from jump, and salvaging a client who's been summarily dumped. It's true that agents leave agencies and clients are left in the lurch. But to just say "tough luck Frank Buck" is bad bad bad business.

I've sold novels I didn't love. I've sold novels I haven't read. I've sold novels I thought needed work. A lot of times that's cause I was selling stuff I hadn't signed.

When an author is told his representation is with an agency, not just the agent, he relies on that for making a decision about representation. It's brutally unfair to the author to renege.

Mark Conrad asked:
A further question I have, and I should have posed it to Janet originally, is: is it typical for editors to not respond to a pitch like that (4 out of 5 didn’t)? It’s expected of agents these days, but also editors?

It's clear this guy was new and didn't have established relationships.
The missing piece of (crucial) info here is how much time went by. 30 days? No one has replied. 180 days? Everyone should have, or the submissions should have been closed out.

BJ Muntain asked:
Janet: A question. Since there were no clients to check for references, would Mark have been within his rights to ask the Head agent what they thought before accepting representation? Or even another agent at the agency? Just curious.
Well, you can do whatever you want in that situation. There's no law against asking anybody anything (ok ok, don't look for exceptions)

BUT, I'd have advised a young agent to run fast in the other direction if a prospective client started phoning around here for references. That speaks of a lack of confidence that is Not A Good Thing at the start of a relationship.

The client relied on what the agent told him. It's unfortunate that he seems to be the only one who did.

Colin Smith dangled this question:
What do you think, Janet? Legal experts?

Yea, not not not commenting on a contract/agreement I haven't actually seen.
That is the way of doom.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

More a response to yesterday, I think:
Years ago a family member promised me a lot of money (loan) in order to open a business. The endeavor was a dream I was well qualified to make a success. The night before I was to sign a lease for the location, they pulled the rug out. I went tumbling. I felt betrayed, humiliated and beyond disappointed in someone I trusted who had given their word.
Well, I opened that business, (they did invest eventually) and it was a success. But, I learned something.
Trust is ethereal. Get it in writing. And if "in writing" seems an affront to a relationship, have backup.
Lots of agents, tons of options and other projects will right your feet during your writing journey.

Colin Smith said...

Thanks for taking on my questions, Janet, even if I couldn't tempt you with the dangler. You're a wiley shark with a discerning taste for bait, that's for sure. :)

If you're looking for more questions to answer, I had a few back here: :D

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

I really respect Janet for her response to this situation. It is brutally unfair to this writer to be dumped like this.

I once had a producer/editor suddenly drop out of a video project because of a nasty divorce. I had to step up and finish the project even though at the time I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn't easy, it was certainly stressful, but I learned how to edit. Did a good job and the client was happy. We never let a client down and we always worked to do more than they expect.

This agency hired an unexperienced agent and should have stepped up to deal with the consequences.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Great to have these other details. I had wondered about the newness of the agent and the lack of response. I didn't think about the timing issue.

But, in developing relationships with editors/publishers, I would think a newbie agent could work under the umbrella of established relationships in place via an agency. Or perhaps savvy newbie agents bring pre-built relationships with them from internship days.

This situation makes me curious about the relationship between editors and agents. It's not necessarily organization to organization? It's also about how a particular agent relates to a specific editor?

Mark Ellis said...

That time Frank Buck got in a corral with a tapir, thinking it was docile, and it really roughed him up, in fact, they barely got Frank out of the corral with his life. One for the youngsters to Google, and not actually far off topic, I think.

BJ Muntain said...

That's interesting. It's not considered a lack of trust if a prospective client contacts an established agent's clients, but it is when a prospective client contacts other agents in the agency if there are no clients to contact?

I was under the impression that it's a good thing to contact an agent's clients? Or is my pre-caffeine brain forgetting something important?

Sorry, Janet. You answered some questions - thank you! - and we're sending you more...

Mark Conard said...


In response to my question about whether it’s typical for editors not to respond to pitches, Janet wrote:

It's clear this guy was new and didn't have established relationships.
The missing piece of (crucial) info here is how much time went by. 30 days? No one has replied. 180 days? Everyone should have, or the submissions should have been closed out.”

If anyone’s interested, the pitches went out on March 14th. The junior agent (NAG) assured me that he’d worked with the Head Agent on the pitch, and that he was using her contacts at those presses. It was clear that the Head Agent was mentoring NAG, and that he wasn’t just on his own working on my book. So I remain puzzled why those other editors never responded.

Also, fyi, in my response to Head Agent’s curt email cutting me loose, I asked her what would happen, should she receive a positive response to any of those pitches. She told me that she would certainly let me know, and if in the meantime I’ve secured other representation (I haven’t), she would forward the responses to the new agent.

And, thank you, Janet for confirming that the Head Agent's actions were "brutally unfair."


kathy joyce said...

Sounds like a heap 'o issues at this agency. Maybe that's why the young one left.

For all the "getting up there" folks like me - count yourself in if you've ever received unsolicited invites from AARP or offers for free hearing testing - kudos for everytime you've gone out of your way to mentor someone learning the ropes!

Steve Stubbs said...

Let me share an alternate point of view.

I think you have to take life with a stiff upper lip. In business it is important to be scrupulously honest and accept the fact that nobody else intends to follow your example. They consider the honest man to be some sort of weird outlier who never grew up. Grin and like it.

I called a taxi yesterday to get to a VERY important medical appointment. I mean, this was serious. The driver was off somewhere boozing. No call, no show. That is how people operate. I love it.

Sharyn: let me suggest a reframe. Marriage is nasty. Divorce is great. Freedom is great. I gasp with astonishment every time I hear about someone getting married. Divorce lawyers gasp with money grubbing glee. I love divorce. If I had it to do over again I would be a divorce lawyer.

I like swimming with the sharks. Pardon me while I take off my swim suit and jump in.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

Hi Steve,
Married. 42 years. to the same guy.

Arri Frranklin said...

On that tangent, it's the parents' 37th anniversary today. They like to casually throw around things like "I adore you" as statements of fact. It's awesome. I am spoiled for almost anyone due to witnessing this beautiful relationship.

More on topic, Janet, your approach to commenting on something you haven't reviewed with your own two eyes reminds me of the requirements of an engineer in how they treat their stamp. This brought home that reading this blog is not just preparing me for publishing and improving my writing, it's also giving me insight into how to be better at what I do in other areas of my life. Thank you!

Lennon Faris said...

The whole situation makes me wonder if there are bigger problems at the agency. Mark, as much as your situation is the WORST, it might not actually be the worst. You might have dodged a bullet.

BJ - yes, Janet's definitely said to contact a few of the clients before saying yes, but she had some definite do's and don't's (as in, ask the agent for the clients to contact, and don't talk to those clients as though you're dishing dirt because they probably love their agent). I can't remember all details and am hoping they are in Colin's lovely Treasure Chest.

Arri - I love hearing 'real' love stories. I would go on and on about how incredible my accomplice, I mean husband, is, but it would take up too much room here.

Colin Smith said...

Lennon: The very first item on the "Gems from Janet's Archive" in the Treasure Chest. :)

Steve Stubbs said...

All of us have written books that started with ho, went from ho to hum, started to stink, and ended with blah. That is called Learning. If someone dismisses it, no need to get your shorts in a wad. Toss it in the s-can and start again. Be glad the critics never see it. It is not for nothing that reviews are aka "hate mail in print."

Being tough, though, is different from being a masochist. I know people who seemingly write gook just so they can get rejected. They got rejected, woo hoo. Makes no sense to me.

Also, to those kind enough to respond, everybody I know who is not gay is divorced. I've been happily divorced for 23 years and love it love it love it. I met a man years ago who thought I would have a better chance of getting to heaven if I was miserable in this life. He saw marriage as a meams of spiritually beneficial misery. But life has served me enough turd sandwiches that I don't need to stop by Hell's Delicatessen for a double order to go.

I also have no use for the morbidly dysfunctional single world. When I used to do counseling I worked with lots of crazy people, but I did not go out with them. It would be unethical anyway, but I didn't need an ethical code. Staying away from them is common sense.

Craig F said...

I am happily living in sin.

Mark: I am sorry for you, I really am. I still have to consider this an anomaly. Junior agents are supposed to follow the letter of the law, as set down by their senior agent. I think this guy did not do that. He went rogue and the agency cut its losses in the least expensive way they could. Hopefully you are strong enough to shrug it off.

I still like the idea of being a big fish in a small pond. Everyone has fond memories of their first and I would like for an agent to think that way of me. I would still proposition a junior agent for a reputable firm. It is better than having to fight for time against some big name in your particular genre.