Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Even if your agent is dead

Dear Janet--
First of all, thank you for the slap upside the head (blog post of Tuesday, March 3rd).  I think I needed to generate some anger, and you helped me do that.  I will make one more good-faith effort to contact my agent; if I fail, I'll consult my contract and write that letter.  Because you're right--this is my life, my writing life, and it's just dribbling away from me.

But I do have one last question, and it's a good one: as far as I know, my book is still out there with seven publishing houses. How do I find out what happened to it?  I do have a list of all the editors.  May I email|call to find out where the manuscript stands with them?  (And suppose, just suppose, that one of them actually likes it and wants to . . . pursue it further.  Would that pull the agent back into the picture for negotiations and a 15% commission?  Unlikely, this last, I know, but I like to be prepared for all possible outcomes.  If Martians land on the roof, I'm ready.)

Since you've got the sub list you email the editors to let them know that you've changed representation. Of course, you send this AFTER you've terminated. 

You don't need to explain why.
You do NOT ask the status of the submission.
This is just info only.

Should your agent rise from the dead to let you know s/he got the termination letter, s/he will probably say s/he'll withdraw the submission. That's normal.

The question is now if this flurry of activity coughs up an offer.

If it does, you're in a bit of a pickle because the agent is still entitled to the full commission. It doesn't seem fair now, I know, but you're honor and duty bound to pay it for a certain amount of time after you've parted ways. Your author agency agreement should specify how long. If it doesn't, six months is reasonable.

And you'll want someone else negotiating the contract. Which means you're going to pay for a contract review specialist or a second commission to  a second agent.

BUT the good bad news is that if your agent isn't keeping you informed, chances are the submission is languishing too. Editors are increasingly unlikely to respond until you've pestered them to the point you're starting to feel sorry for them. "There's that Janet Reid on the phone again. Doesn't she have a blog post to write??"


Kitty said...

I don’t write to get published; I write because I like to write. But I gotta tell’ya after reading the problems writers face – problems which have nothing to do with what they’ve actually written – I’m glad I’m not pursuing publication.

Craig F said...

I am still rather flummoxed by this. There has to be some reason xe agent would put so much effort into something and just seem to drop it.

I am obnoxious enough to want to get to the bottom of it. I hope you are too.

I also hope you have written something else and are willing to climb back down into the query trenches. Ending you contract with xe agent should be done, but I think a new work would be better for you to try to enter the world of publishing.

I have other resources so I would be willing to go that route.

Beth Carpenter said...

If the agent really were dead, would the author still owe a commission to the estate? I can see that under the contract, the agent submitted the manuscript to the publisher, so I would think so. On the other hand, the agent isn't there to review the contract, etc., so only half the job is done. Hopefully, this seldom comes up.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I am starting to rethink traditional publishing. Wow. But this is how it is.

Oh, and I learned something new. Do not query the Monday after Daylight Savings Time. Rejections will ensue before the query has properly landed in the agent's inbox. Sleep deprivation on both ends I am thinking.

Have to go rewrite my query and try to get Liverpool through this Champions League round before we all die of the plague. Another glorious day in paradise.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

In a way, publishing is like the girl who had a curl in the middle of her forehead
when it is good, it is very very good
and when it is bad it is horrid

which isn't to say it can't also be "pretty okay" or "entirely neutral" or "not too bad" as well. Like everything, I guess!

BJ Muntain said...

There are problems in any profession. Sometimes it's systemic, sometimes - as in this case - it's a single person. And yes, we hear of similar stories, but really, these are the outliers. We only hear about things when they go bad.

If people decide against a job or business because they might run into trouble, then other jobs they're not ready for are teaching, government work, social work, natural resources (including oilfield and mining), and so on. And where would we be without all these professions?

Somehow, that description doesn't seem to fit anyone here. You're all too brave to let a possible trouble keep you from going after your dreams.