Thursday, August 10, 2017

Yeesh, is this bad agent week?

I pitched a novice agent on a non-fiction project and he signed me--with much apparent enthusiasm--after receiving and reading the proposal. The agent claimed that one of the big five was specifically interested, but just after submitting to them he advised that he would be returning to a full time position in the non-agent civilian world but wanted to continue representing the project. There had been some issues with getting timely replies on the rare occasions I reached out to him, but there was a documented relationship between this agent and the publisher so I decided to ride it out.

There was no sketchy requests for paid editing services, etc. The agency has a history of decent deals, and no negative publicity that I could find.

One of the last messages received said that a specific editor was reading the proposal, loved it, and we should hear something soon.

Communication has gone all but dark, there's been no follow up on the status of the proposal, and I'm ready to start searching for a new agent. What I'm wondering is, is there a professional way to determine if the proposal was ever actually submitted at all?






Yes, but that's the second thing you'll need to do.
The first is you need to decide what to do about your "agent."
I've yammered on the topic of "I'm quitting but still want to rep you"


Your agent could have gone back to civilian life and agented on the side without saying a word. A lot of agents have side gigs, particularly when they are new.  That he told you he was leaving agenting is a signal that he's not here for the long term.


Once you decide what to do, if you've elected to find a new agent, you can query on THIS PROJECT because it looks like only one editor has seen it.


When you sign with a new agent, s/he can call the editor who has it now.
This is not something you do yourself. For starters, an editor will most likely not return your phone call.


I've had to check on projects a couple times, and it's something you do pretty carefully. In other words, leave it to someone who knows how to do it.


You're better off than someone whose project got shopped widely if you're looking for silver linings.


And just for the record: this is bad bad bad agenting.

26 comments:

Donnaeve said...

Geez, I got all excited about being first commenter in a long time, and now forgot what I wanted to say.

Well. Maybe it will come to me.

Mornin' y'all...

Donnaeve said...

Oh yeah, I remember.

The first thought I had was really a question - based on what I read here, how long did this new agent hang around as an agent? It doesn't sound like a long time - at all. Like maybe months? Why would someone say, "I'm going to be an agent!" And then bail out so quick? Methinks the agenting job was viewed through rosy eyes, with dreams of selling bestsellers instantaneously. It sounds like it went as quick as badda boom, badda bing!

kathy joyce said...

Mornin'! I'm having the same confusion as yesterday. What is the agency's responsibility in situations like this? I presume contracts are with the agency, and that the agency bears ultimate responsibility to the author. No?

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

What if young inexperienced drop-out agent decides, you signed with me you're stuck with me no matter what? How do you get out?
This would scare the bejeebies out of me and I don't even know what a bejeeby is or how to spell it.

Theresa said...

I'm kind of afraid to see what tomorrow's question will be. Sheeesh, indeed!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Bad agent week indeed. Do they have a club? Could they possibly wear signs to warn is little woodland creatures that they will dangle our dreams in front of us and crush them like a bull in a China shop? Is that too much to ask?

Sherry Howard said...

Bad agent week is frightful! I request that next week we have some unicorns and rainbows scattered in somewhere.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Wouldn't the owner/senior agent be the one to reach out to in a situation such as this? If I had signed with a noobie at, say, Andrea Brown Literary, and noobie went awol, I would think contacting Ms. Andrea Brown herself would be in order.

Craig F said...

The thing I have noticed is that bad agenting week has a common thread. That thread is pitched. That leads me to all of this coming down to spur of the moment things.

Even though it seem out of line to run a background search on anyone asking for a date, I think it is applicable here. If you can't refrain from pitching, instead of querying, at least commit lightly enough to check things out properly as soon as possible.

You have to do your due diligence when choosing an agent. Yes, a writer has as much right to choose an agent as vice versa. Look before you leap and make sure you are not landing in the mouth of a shark.

Craig F said...

And my OH YEAH of the day. I finally have what might be a viable query. I am going to put on the track next week and see how my little pumpkin rolls.

John Davis Frain said...

"You're better off than someone whose project got shopped widely if you're looking for silver linings."

Also, OP, I just wrote a short story about an agent (not literary) who murdered their client, so in the silver-linings world ... you're alive and your manuscript is alive.

I have a good feeling about how this is gonna end for you.

Susan said...

Slightly off-topic but seems to fall in line with the theme from this week...

Yesterday I received an email in reply to a query for The Last Letter from two years ago, informing me that the agent had left the agency and welcoming me to resubmit. I politely replied with a thank you, let them know the book was now published, and told them I'd be happy to consider them if I go the traditional route in the future.

I know there are stories of authors receiving rejections years later, but it frankly still surprises me--how many other queries must have been in that agent's inbox, and why didn't they send a blanket email in reply to say they were leaving the agency/agenting? Without knowing the circumstances, of course, that seems like it would be the professional thing to do, especially since many authors are essentially fighting for their dreams when they query and/or are offered representation.

I understand that career changes are made--I've made a few myself over the years--but I always made sure my clients and colleagues were made aware and taken care of for a smooth transition. Doesn't make sense to me.

I haven't been around much this week, so I just want to say a blanket good luck to all the authors who found themselves in tough positions through no fault of their own. I wish you strength in these obstacles and continued success.

Colin Smith said...

I'm with kathy joyce in wondering what the agency's responsibility is in caring for Opie. Also, it seems to me Opie would be better off cutting ties with this agent. Janet rightly says that many new agents have side-gigs... but I haven't heard of many people taking up agenting as a side gig. Knowing as much as we do about Janet's work load, I can't see how someone with a full-time job could care for a client list on the side. Especially since they would have to be making calls to editors and publishers during work hours. My advice would be to formally sever the relationship in writing by certified mail. Then, as Janet says, shop the project around.

This sucks, Opie. All the best with the next agent! :)

Colin Smith said...

Major-time Off-Topic, but... let's call it "Family Business": Today, FirstBorn, Sarah the Cake-Maker, leaves the nest. We'll be leaving shortly to drive her to the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where we will help her move in to her student digs. Exciting and sad, as I'm sure many of you understand. And just to make sure we'll miss her, she baked us a chocolate cake last night. :)

Mark Ellis said...

Colin,

If your first born leaving the nest for school experience is anything like mine, expect a few tears coming from the smiley faces.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin Hugs. I remember dropping Kate off at UGA. I felt like I'd abandoned a baby in the jungle. But she was home a lot. It sounds like your Sarah is not too far away. And cakes will still come your way from time to time. It is a big transition, but it is super amazing to watch your child sprout wings and fly on their own. Also super scary.

Kate has broken into film industry in New York and may never be living close by again. She is on her final two weeks of bar tending and then she's full time in film production - long hours, crap wages but amazing prospects. Sarah will soon be conquering worlds of her own. But boy, do you miss them when they go. Sarah is very lucky. She has a great dad to encourage her along the way :).

BJ Muntain said...

One risk when choosing a new agent is they haven't yet committed to agenting. Maybe the job - or lack of money at first - isn't right for them. But all agents are risks: an older agent might retire or otherwise be unable to continue. A successful agent may not have much time for you.

So, what is right for YOU? Are you willing to risk your agent leaving agenting in exchange for youthful enthusiasm, energy and time? Or losing your agent mid-career to get their vast experience? Or neglect, but benefiting from their success?

OP: You'll find a better, more committed agent. Persevere!

Stacy said...

Oh, jeez. I'm sorry this happened to you, OP. Seems publishing is fraught with landmines.

kathy joyce said...

Colin, a couple years ago I asked my brother how it went dropping his first-born daughter off at college. His response: "I remember mom saying, 'As a parent, you can only be as happy as your unhappiest child.'"

My niece loves it now, and is very happy. It's a process.

Dena Pawling said...


This type of behavior is bad enough, but it also tarnishes all the other new agents who are working hard to build their list and provide good representation for their clients. New authors will be less likely to take a chance on them. Ugh.

Colin I remember when the recruiter came by to pick up my #1 son and drive him to MEPS to go to boot camp. I was sniffly that morning and I was in court! I survived and so did my son (he gets out this January). And so will you and Sarah. But yep, it's hard.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Colin, rejoice, she's doing what she'ssupposed to do but you already knew that. The first paves the way, in so many ways. Love to you and your family. Enjoy the cake. Sweet memories for sure.

Joseph Snoe said...

Several commentators assume new authors have a wide choice of agents. We choose which ones we send queries to, of course, but after that our choices are limited to those who offer representation within a relatively short time frame. It may be one agent or two, not a dozen agents. There will be risks no matter who we choose. Those risks can be avoided only by not settling on any agent, which defeats the purpose.

Lucy Crowe said...

Wow, bad agent week is scary indeed! On a side note - Susan, I too received a letter stating that the agent I had queried had left her agency. My query, too, was nearly two years old! Startling, since she had specified that no answer at all is a "no". I had written them off! And probably won't be resubmitting since that particular project has morphed into something else entirely

nightsmusic said...

I have nothing to add except that I haven't commented all week long so just thought I'd stop in and say, HI! :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hi back Nightmusic.

Tech Earth said...

Nice