Tuesday, March 03, 2020

My agent is ghosting me

At first it starts off with an old, familiar story. My agent signed me in October of 2018. He raved about my book, said he loved it. My last email from him was in April 2019, where he gave me a list of publishers and editors where he had subbed it. One had already rejected. The other seven thanked him and said they'd get to it as soon as they could. But that's the last I've heard from him. I email him every couple of months--no answer. I've called him twice and left voice mails, but he doesn't respond.

I know, I know, you've covered this thing over and over. I should send him a registered letter telling him that unless he contacts me, I want out.

But here is where the story gets different (well, at least in my mind).

This man has already done so much for me. After my initial query he responded with a revise and resubmit, plus about 1500 words of detailed criticisms and suggestions. I read them, and without a doubt they were brilliant, spot-on. They showed he really put a lot of (uncompensated) time into my manuscript and grasped the essence of what it needed. It took me ten months to revise, but the more I rewrote, the more excited I got, because it just kept getting better and better. And he must have agreed, because after rereading it he made me an enthusiastic offer of representation.

And then we get to April of last year and the looooong silence.

Yes, I'm angry and frustrated, but in my mind I owe him a whole lot more than he owes me. He's kind, he's smart, he knows books and I want to keep him. It occurs to me that he's ghosting me because these seven editors are not responding to him and it distresses him to have to tell me that. 

Entirely possible.
I spent a large part of yesterday following up on submissions and it's very frustrating when editors don't respond.

But you're focused on the wrong thing here.
Your career is stalled.

Let's look at that sentence again:

Your career is stalled.

How long are you willing to have that go on?

If editors aren't responding, he should be talking to you about Plan B.
Plan B can be a lot of things.

Gratitude and respect are wonderful, but neither of those are helping you right now.

This is your call. The only person who can decide what to do is you.


Are you planning to live to be 200 so you have all this time to squander?

You do NOT owe him anything more than what you've done: stay in touch, ask for updates.
If he's not replying, that's on him NO MATTER WHAT.

Most of us know editors can be bottomless pits. It does NOT excuse ghosting a client.

Misplaced loyalty has kept more  people in bad relationships than rent controlled apartments in NYC.

You've done everything you should.
Being grateful doesn't come at this steep a price.


E.M. Goldsmith said...

I do always wonder what is going on when an agent ghosts a client. I would be worried they had become deathly ill or something.

If they can't sell your book because the market is the way the market be, why is it so hard just to shoot off a quick email and say that seems to be the deal. Let's try something new.

If the editors are ghosting the agent, send a quick email, book is still on sub but have heard nothing. Hope you are doing well. The agent should take that five minutes to do something. Anything.

Also, I would be writing another book for sure. Can you send your agent a new book before the first one has sold? Anyhow, this seems an awful situation, OP. I hope it works out in the end.

nightsmusic said...

I agree with EM that you should be busy writing. That said, maybe send a registered/certified/whatever-they-call-it letter to him, not telling him you want out, but telling him you haven't heard and would really like some information as to what's going on. He hasn't answered your emails so that would be the next logical choice. If he still doesn't answer, no matter the gratitude factor, you send yet another letter telling him it's time to dissolve the contract. Time marches on and with it, your career if something doesn't change here.

Kate said...

Argh stories like these make me so mad.

I've been on the receiving end of the: 'the market doesn't want this book' conversation, and tough as that is, it's better than not knowing, and it allowed me to pivot onto the next thing.

When my agent left the industry and I went back to the query trenches (the agency doesn't shuffle clients between them), that sucked, but it was better than stalling for a year wondering whether I still had rep.

No matter how kind they were, or how much effort they went to helping you pull your book into shape, nothing excuses ghosting a client for almost a YEAR. Nothing. And for me, personally, nothing short of: I was abducted by aliens/stranded on a desert Island without internet/phone for 11 months would fix that relationship. Because if they could do it to you once, what's the stop them doing it again? Then you've got two book that are semi-shopped and potentially unattractive to future agents.

The basic courtesy of returning an email/call is THE VERY LEAST an agent can do for their clients - even if it's just to say: this is not working, lets move on.

Lennon Faris said...

Whoa! OP, you do know that your agent is still alive, right? and working (and at that agency)? Is he tweeting, selling books, etc?

Wish you all the best, OP.

NLiu said...

Reading this made me feel like I was developing a stomach ulcer. OP, if you still have fingernails left, you are incredible. Really hope it works out for you. :(

Claire Bobrow said...

OP: what a frustrating situation. You say your agent is "kind," but I dunno....this behavior does not strike me as kind. Or professional. I think I'd consider sending that registered letter and moving on to more responsive pastures. It sounds like you have a strong manuscript, so maybe it's time to find a better advocate for it?

Whatever you choose, I wish you the best of luck. Please keep us posted!

Heather Wardell said...

I'm so very sorry, OP. My story is nearly exactly yours and it's so hard. I did end up firing the agent, and while I don't yet have another and I don't know what will happen to the book, this way is still far better than being ghosted by someone who should be on my side. I hope you find a good resolution for yourself soon!

Megan V said...

OP—at this point, he’s not your agent, he’s your jailer and your gratitude and fear are the ball and chain keeping you in his cadre.

What your agent did for you in terms of revisions is not above and beyond. Many editorial agents revise with their clients. Plenty of agents give out r&r’s and they don’t expect a lifetime of ingratiation.

This is not acceptable.

You wouldn’t be okay with your doctor not telling you about Important test results for a year- even if that doc previously saved your life.

You wouldn’t be okay with your lawyer not talking to you about an important case for a year (not when it could your job) even if that lawyer previously won a case for you.

And I would hope you wouldn’t accept this behavior from a publisher just because they decided to publish you and let you work with an editor.
Yes— it’s amazing and it’s okay to be grateful, but this is business, not indentured servitude.

In short, your agent is supposed to be your business partner and he’s failing in his duty to you. Time for you to take control of the situation.

The Sleepy One said...

I had the same reaction as Lennon--are you sure your agent is still alive? I'd make sure your agent is still active on social media and/or on his agency site. You could potentially try contacting someone else in the agency. And if your agent is still active on social media, it's ridiculous that he hasn't responded to you.

I heard a now NYT-best selling author talk a few years ago. He signed with an agent. A few months later he went to a conference and met an editor at a big house who liked his work and asked who is agent was. . . and the editor ended up telling the writer his agent had died three weeks before. This was before social media was really a thing and the agency hadn't sent any notices to clients.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Well, OP, I wish your agent well and I'm glad you have a great novel to continue querying agents with! Maybe another novel at this point (you did keep writing, right?) This is heartbreaking and frustrating and heartbreakingly frustrating, but at least you do have that list of editors. A lot of people who write here seem to have a hard time getting that!

in my querying news, I have a full request. I also have a small press editor who asked about one of my short stories. So we'll see how those go! :D (yes I'm still querying, I didn't just stop in the hopes that my first batch of 5 or so did it)

Craig F said...

Well, if you are worried about your agent you can always call the president of the company and ask if they are still alive.

If that seems a bit of a stretch you could find another writer the agent represents and ask them about it.

The search for an agent that loves my stuff if fucking the fun out of me. I couldn't imagine finding one and having all go south in a hand-basket.

The real problem is the agent actually did seem to be doing all of the things a good agent should. Throwing out a few feelers might give you clue that the crickets can't.

MA Hudson said...

Craig - Just trying to figure out if that's a typo! Might not be, but I think it probably is? LOL.

Megan - I wouldn't have thought of the agent as acting like a jailer but now you've pointed it out, it sounds spot-on!

Good luck OP. I hope you're busy writing new books so you can move forward, any which way.

Katja said...

Me, too, first thought while still reading the post was "Is he still alive?"

I've never heard of this kind of case. It must be a terrible rollercoaster to be on - first the tears of joy that he signed you, then that he doesn't respond any more.

Having recently cried lots of writer-tears.. OP, I really, really feel for you.

All the best for you, and it would be lovely if you could keep us posted on how you're getting on!
Fingers crossed!!

Katja said...

"Misplaced loyalty has kept more people in bad relationships than rent controlled apartments in NYC."

To be honest, this is my takeaway from this post, really. I'm sure this is meant for life in general?! It just has to be!

The Noise In Space said...

I second what Claire said. Kindness isn't really kindness if it only occurs when he's pursuing you, and disappears soon after (yes, another dating analogy, but it really does fit).

John Davis Frain said...

Only you can answer this question, of course, OP.

I feel 100% confident you're already working on something new. Hence, if you were to ask my opinion (because, surprise, I have one!), I'd say this: Finish the shiny new thing. Submit that to him. Get his reaction to that. If he's still silent, then you have to move on, assuming you're not under contract to stay with him. You'll have to withdraw that ms, of course, but you already know that.

Good luck. More important, good editing.

Laura Stegman said...

I have one question for OP, aside from "is he dead or very ill?" and that is, what does it say in your contract about terminating the relationship? I would also be interested, if Janet is willing to tell us, what her contract -- or even a "typical" agent contract -- says about termination by either party, and what circumstances allow for termination.