Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Do you prioritze your client communication by dollars and cents?

Do agents spend more time/attention with clients who are moneymakers?

What should a lower echelon earner expect? I don’t make my agent much money and I understand that effort may be commensurate with earning. This agent sold a book of mine and I do appreciate that but I think it didn’t bring in as much money as was expected.

Now with my second ms I feel ghosted. It’s been two years and no updates of where it has been sent and the response, although I have nudged every six months or so. Is this typical behavior? I really don’t want to go back out into the cruel agent seeking world, but I’m wondering if it is time to do so. But is it like this everywhere?

I’m feeling discouraged. Technically my contract was only for book one, so I could get free if I wanted. I now have a third ms but I’m not getting any younger and don’t want to wait years on this one too.

You actually have two separate questions here.
One is how agents prioritize their time.

The other (which you didn't ask) is what the HELL is going on with your submission.

Let's address the second one first.

If you've got a book on submission, your agent must update you. It may take longer than it should (try as I might, I'm always behind on these updates). But waiting six months between nudges is letting her/him off the hook. Don't do that.

Send a firm email with a deadline.

It reads like this:
Dear Agent Slackerpuss,

Please send me a list of where my manuscript has been submitted and to whom, with any replies received.

Please send this to me by close of business on (date).

If s/he doesn't respond, call her.

This is your work.

You wouldn't let your dog sitter keep your dog with no updates for a week! Your manuscript deserves at least the same care and feeding.

Also, YOU MUST HAVE THIS INFO if you're going to seek new representation. While I can take on books that have been subbed, the key piece of info determining if I will is where the book has been. If you can't tell me that, it's game set match.

As to the question of how agents prioritize: it's not by earning, it's by the urgency of the problem. A client who's on submission and thus hasn't earned anything still gets immediate attention if one of the publishers where the book is subbed makes a read and revise request.

A client whose book is out of print and hasn't earned in years finds her work plagiarized---that's a top priority.

Of course, you can see how this works most of the time: the clients who are selling (and thus earning) often have many more problems than clients who are on submission, or tucked away in the archives researching the price of rice in Shanghai in 1282.

Thus, submission updates tend to come lower on the priority list. Sub lists aren't a problem; updates aren't a problem. Yes, they need to be done, but no one will suffer (other than anxiety) if you get it Sunday instead of Thursday. That said, I'm not keen on causing my writers anxiety, so I do try to be prompt. (I fail a lot)

Lower on the priority list does NOT mean six months of silence. Even when I've been Agent Slackerpuss, a client emailing with HEY, SHARKFORBRAINS!!! gets pretty prompt attention.


Aphra Pell said...

If the agent contract was only for book 1, does that mean there isn't an author / agent contract covering book 2?

That might sound like a silly question (because who the heck would take on selling a book without a contract?), but in my recent dives into researching agents prior to querying, I've seen a couple of mentions of agents (or possibly "agents") taking a book on spec without a contract and then just dropping communication if it doesn't sell.

So that bit of the letter made me wonder.

Claire Bobrow said...

OP - good luck. I hope you get some answers from your agent. "It's been two years and no updates" sounds unconscionably long. I guess if there were no guarantees after book one, maybe that explains it, but still.

Similar to Aphra, I know at least one person who works with an agent on a book-by-book basis, but is not technically that agent's client. I don't quite get it. This person has sold numerous books that are out in the world, doing well in their particular category as far as I know. Is the book-by-book agreement a common thing?

Amy Johnson said...

OP, I'm glad you asked Janet about this, and I hope you get information from your agent soon. Way to go having a third manuscript. Wishing you much success!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"You wouldn't let your dog sitter keep your dog with no updates for a week!"

First of all, my dog sitter, if I had one, would contact me within 24 hours regarding little Hitches stay. He's a love, for us anyway, but because he's loud, active, and will eat you out of anything resembling food, or the container it came in, the update would be, come and pick him up he doesn't fit in.

OP, maybe it's time to go get your pup. Sounds like he's at the wrong sitter. Doesn't mean he's a bad-dog. Like Hitch, maybe all he needs is someone to see what a good-dog he really is.

Claire Bobrow said...

With apologies to the DOY, I'm enjoying the dog sitting analogies.

OP, I also wanted to echo what Amy J said. Congrats on having 3 manuscripts. That is an awesome accomplishment and we are all rooting for your success!

Gabby said...

This would be the same for picture books as well? Asking for a friend *coughs*.

This post is timely because my agents are very lovely, when I can get hold of them. However I very often need to prod for responses and they have never, ever got back to me about how any of the books I've sent them are doing. I don't think it's malice, just them being too busy (they are always busy, and as a less successful member of their stable, I suspect I get shuffled backwards in the queue more frequently than is comfortable).

I'm going to have to Talk to them aren't I. I hate Talks. Thank you for the spine self-insertion prompt, though.

Good luck with your agent, OP.

Dena Pawling said...

>>Now with my second ms I feel ghosted. It’s been two years and no updates of where it has been sent and the response, although I have nudged every six months or so.
>>Technically my contract was only for book one

These two statements make me think that your second ms is NOT out on submission, which is why the agent is ignoring you. I definitely think you should go with Janet's suggested email, because you need to know this information.

Congrats on ms#3 and we are all sending you good thoughts moving forward.

Lennon Faris said...

I'm trying to imagine why an agent wouldn't be answering for two years. Maybe they aren't getting your emails.

Nothing else makes me think that two years is OK. Even if they've died, someone should have let you know. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I can stand up for myself and still be polite and reasonable.

OP, good luck! you know we are all rooting for you.

Bearly awake said...

I was actually thinking of sending in a similar question. It's "only" a year that I've been waiting for updates... I got detailed notes on the first round of submissions but now can't get the agent to even answer my email. I don't harass him, I send one a month or so, but nothing. And I don't have his phone number!

Writing this, it sounds ridiculous - why did I let it go so long? But time just creeps up on you somehow.

I did email him again last week. Maybe it's time to send another, much more "are you still my agent?", one this week. I most definitely feel like I'm being ignored because my book hasn't yet sold.

And I ASKED about communication, when I talked to his clients pre-signing. They said it was never more than a day or two. I thought I'd done sufficient due diligence. I guess there's no way to know if you can trust an agent. :(

Adele said...

If you have a contract for just one book, does your agency agreement just die after that one book? Is it possible that Opie doesn't have an agent and doesn't know it? Wondering

Craig F said...

I have to join Adele's camp here. I thought the definition of a one and done agent was that they represented the book, not the author.

If I was in this position I would packing up the old kit bag and heading back into the trenches of Querydom. The agent might even think he/she/it was doing you a huge favor.

Sorry, but that is how I see it.

Megan V said...

I was under the same impression as several of the commenters that an agent who represents the book and not the author is kind of a one and done deal. Now I'm wondering, do agents ever contract to represent a writer on book one and the rest of their books on a first-look basis? I.e. Agent Friendly agrees to represent book 1, then gets first look at book 2 and tells the writer "you can seek rep for that elsewhere, but I still get first look at book 3." If so, how does that play out?

In any case, it seems to me that OP should be assertive about getting some kind of clarification/response from their agent as to whether they're even representing book 2.

Typo sidenote: QOTKU, just want to let you know that it looks like prioritize is missing an i in the post's title.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Two years is too long, OP. Time to have a discussion with your agent. But good on you for writing book three. That can only help.

Mary said...

Thank you for posting this.