I read through the comments on BookEnds #agentfail last night and wrote a post about it.
One thing I forgot to mention were the two instances where a writer said an agent had shopped a book before they represented it.
I've done that. Sort of.
Hear me out, ok?
What I didn't do was write a pitch letter and go out on a wide submission. That's beyond unethical. I haven't even sent a manuscript out before clients have sent me a signed letter of agreement (but I have been standing by the fax machine to receive it, and then dashed to the phone to pitch, damn right I have!)
What I have done is talk about projects I don't actually represent-yet. I know I shouldn't, I do. Lambast me if you must, but know this: when an agent literally cannot stop talking about how great a book is, you've got something really special.
Take Alysia Sofios. I met her at the Writers Digest Pitch Slam at BEA last year in LA.
She came over to the line of people waiting to talk to me (and I've never adhered to a three minute time limit in my life, so the line was lonnnnng since we were taking five minutes or more.)
She sat down. She pitched her book idea. She's a reporter who'd covered the story of one of the worst mass murders in California history and then the trial of the man who was convicted of those murders: Marcus Wesson.
At this point, I thought it was just another true crime and I'd lifted my pen to write "probably not for me" in my notes.
Then she told me the next part of the story. And the next.
I put down my pen. I said "holy moly."
I was KICKING myself for failing to bring an agency agreement with me. I whipped out my cell phone, called the godsend in New York, asked Alysia for her email address and said "send now!"
Of course, I did suggest she not sign quite that fast. I wanted her to review the agreement, talk to some of my clients, all that usual stuff. I also wanted to take a look at the proposal she'd worked on.
We agreed to meet the next day.
(As a side note: Alysia lives north and east of Los Angeles. She drove home that night to work, then back to LA the next day just to meet with me for maybe 30 minutes. She is one of the most focused and dedicated and hard working people I've ever met and that was clear to me from the second I met her. I value that kind of focus and dedication enormously)
So, there's a period now of maybe six days when I don't represent her, and I shouldn't be talking about her book. I'm also right smack dab in the middle of twelve thousand people involved in publishing. There's no WAY I could not talk about that book I was so jazzed up about it.
I always said "I don't represent her yet so I'm not pitching, but holy moly, isn't this terrific?"
And right down the line, every single person said "holy moly." If they were my boon companion competitors they said it while looking rather pea green with envy which just added to the fun.
I came home, ripped the representation agreement out of the FedEx envelope and called Abby Zidle.
Abby loved it too. A lot.
In case you missed the deal announcement here it is:
Alysia Sofios's WHERE HOPE BEGINS, memoir of the author's investigation of the 2004 Wesson Murders in Fresno, California in which she risked her reporting career and safety to help free the remaining members of the Wesson family from the psychological clutches of their murderous father and husband, to Abby Zidle at Pocket, in a significant deal, for publication in September 2009, by Janet Reid at FinePrint Literary Management (world).
I've done every single one of the things that people complained about at #agentfail, a lot of them more than once. And some of them, I'd do again.