Friday, March 21, 2014

Query Question:

I am with my second agent now and I feel like her interest is waning because my book hasn't sold yet. I have a feeling she might drop me soon. I've been a busy writer in the meantime though, and I have written two more books. If she were to drop me and I were to query the other books (which have not been subbed), should I mention that I have had two agents in the past? Also, my agent has had my second book for over a month now. How long should I wait before sending her a nudge about it?

A month?
Wow, what a slacker.

First, you're projecting all your anxieties on to your agent (she's going to drop me, she's lost interest) and I'm going to guess that if she's anything like the rest of us, she's just damn busy right now.

Second, you also don't mention how much time your book has been on submission. Publishing is glacial most of the time. I've sold books that have been on submission for YEARS.

Third, if you've had two agents already, you're a terrible risk for anyone else absent some grievous form of Bad Agent Behavior (losing interest doesn't even register here) and most likely seen as a difficult and troublesome client.

Talk to your agent. Ask her for a reasonable idea of when she'll read your work and understand that things can get in the way of meeting that deadline.

As long as she's still taking your calls and answering your emails you need to suck it up and keep writing. 


Unknown said...

Without knowing all the facts regarding your previous agent and/or your current agent, I feel a client/agent relationship is very much like a romantic one.

So with that, let me put my impression into prospective.

If I meet a new love interest (say mid 30's - mid 40's) and they have been married before, I'm OK with that.

However, if that same person is already going through a second failed marriage, I'd be questioning why? and if its them an not their past partners...

As for an agent having a FULL for a month, OMG, give the poor 80-hour-per-week, over-worked, Agent a chance!

Joyce Tremel said...

Take Janet's advice! I had a book on submission for awhile, but it was the NEXT one that sold. Just because you don't hear from your agent doesn't mean she's not doing her job, or that she's lost interest. Quite the opposite!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Janet, did you know that the origin of the term "suck it up" comes from pilots who, for whatever reasons, puked into their oxygen masks,and had to "suck up the grossness", or the air tubes would become clogged with the yucky stuff and they'd suffocate.

Seeing as it is barely nine o'clock in the AM right now, I'm sure a few coffee drinkers and doughnut eaters are enjoying their breakfast while being enlightened, regarding the term, "suck it up".

About the questioners dilemma...I'm planning on including my agent, if I had one, in my retirement plan and eventual will. I'll wait as long as it takes.

Anonymous said...

If a writer didn't have patience when beginning this process, they will certainly have adjusted their expectations and learned what it really means to sit back, cool the jets, and wait.

While my first book was on submission, I wrote the second. Then I started on a third, b/c by my way of thinking, "they" will want a prolific writer. "They" will want to know I can write books faster than they can say no.

Much to my surprise, the freelance editor I use said, "this is much too fast. They just saw your first book a year ago, and if you come with a second submission in a year, it better be under a pseudonym because they don't want to see another book from Donna Everhart so soon."

I was stunned. A whole year? Was too soon? For my next attempt?

It's now been two years since my first book was out there. And I didn't go on submission with the second. I decided not to, and instead, focused on writing the third book. At the rate I'm going, it won't be ready for a few more months.

I don't often hear from my agent. That was the other thing I had to learn was WAY different than the work environment I had come from. I was used to corporate communications. Daily. Hourly. Minute by minute discussions of this, that and the other. I might hear from my agent every three to four months - usually when I reach out. Do I feel neglected? Not at all. It's just the way it works. It didn't take me long to learn that no news is - no news.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My understanding is that a month is nearly no time in "publishing years". Publishing is kind of like geologic time. Faster, though similarly filled with sedimentary strata.

Carolynn, I'm both disgusted and delighted to have learned the origin of "suck it up" this morning. I've been researching pilot vernacular, and hadn't come across that yet.

LynnRodz said...

I think too many novices are looking at those few exceptional cases that everyone hears about. You know, where the person sends his/her manuscript to their dream agent and within days they sign a contract. Then two weeks later there's, not one, not two, but several publishers fighting over this literary wonder! Of course an auction has to be held and a mid/high six figure deal is signed with a flourish. Oh yeah, and then Hollywood comes knocking on the door to turn that manuscript, that hasn't even been published yet, into a blockbuster!!! Come on, get real! One month in "agent time" is a minute.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

I ran into this as a lawyer all the time. I'm sorry, I can't make the judge move any faster. If another lawyer has promised you that they can make the judge move faster, well, then obviously you need to go with that lawyer.

[In criminal law, the rule is, "never miss a chance to get rid of a client."]

The key piece of advice is to talk to your agent. She may be able to assuage your fears with a phone call or email. She may have some cool news cooking on the back burner that she didn't want to tell you about until it was firmed up. Or, you may get a better idea of management style and whether the business relationship will work.

You may be very social and require a lot of interaction. Your agent may not have time for that. Both sides need to know that.

I used to set aside Monday afternoon/evenings for client calls. Call me then and I will answer and talk about your case and your fears within reason. Call me outside that time, unless it is scheduled or an emergency, you'll probably get voicemail.

The old rule is you have one agent, your agent has many clients. I hope a phone call or two sets the boundaries and reassures you or gives you what you need to know to make other decisions.


Eileen said...

The curse of being a writer (and also the benefit) is that we have REALLY active imaginations. We can whip the fact that an agent is taking awhile to read to mean everything from:

- They are likely busy

- They hate this book and are trying to figure out how to tell me they don't want to rep me anymore

- They hate me and they are getting together at fancy book parties in NYC and mocking me by reading sections aloud to other agents.

The secret is to ask upfront. How long do you think you'll need to read this? Then mark it in your calendar and check back if you haven't heard from them by that date. Sometimes things happen. Get an update and then go on from there. Your agent is your business partner.

DLM said...

Not to dash cold water in the wrong direction, but the etymology above is false. Overly complicated "story" etymologies almost always are, and military references seem frequently to be like this.

Sucking it up refers to the way we take a deep breath before doing something daunting. It's simply the physical act human bodies engage before a challenge.

So, fortunately ... grinning and bearing the month(s) is a lot easier than that.

Diana Kimpton said...

I'm worried by the idea of comparing the author-agent relationship with a marriage. It's not - it's a business relationship You employ the agent, not the other way around, so if your agent doesn't like to be contacted, you need to decided if this is the right person to handly your career and your money.

Traditional publishing works slowly but that doesn't mean that you can't contact your agent if you are worried that she has not read your book in a month. She may just be busy, but there's no reason why she can't tell you that and it may be that something has gone wrong - the book may not have arrived or her reply may have gone astray.

And the publishing world is changing rapidly. Although publishers may not want more than one book a year from an author, the experience of many self-published authors show that readers are happy to have more books than that from their favourite authors.

Ella Quinn - Romance Novelist said...

I have a great agent. I signed with her at the beginning of February, she started subbing my books in June. I got the three book offer in December. It takes time.

Libbie Grant said...

You should self-publish. Stop wasting your time waiting on agents.

Helen DeWitt said...

I don't think I would be worried by a month's silence at this time of year. The London Book Fair is coming up, and the agent may be gearing up for foreign rights sales of many, many clients. The fact that your first book hasn't sold isn't necessarily a problem - but there are all the books that got deals AFTER Frankfurt, books that upon publication got a great reception making them suddenly more appealing to foreign publishers... The agent might need to brief the foreign rights manager on a lot of books, so (to me, at least) it doesn't sound like a good reading time.

The thing that strikes me, though, is that you now have three finished books over and above the one that has been sent to publishers - and the agent only has one of them. I'm a bit doubtful about this, since Janet hasn't suggested it, but I wonder if you should write mentioning the other books. One of the three might be the killer book; seems as though there's a 1 in 3 chance that it is the one the agent has in hand. Seems as though the agent a) is best placed to make the call and b) has the right to make the call.

As I've said, I don't think this is a good reading time; if it's bad for one book, it's obviously worse for three. But as things stand your agent has 33.33333% of possible information. What if the breakthrough book falls in the 66.66666% that the agent hasn't seen?

One breakthrough book changes the odds for every other book. Teju Cole's first book, Every Day is for the Thief, was a terrific book that sank without a trace. Open City won critical acclaim, prizes, the whole shebang, and now the first book is being rereleased...

If your agent reads everything you've written and thinks Meh, that's a bad fit. But it seems like a bad idea to call it quits when the agent hasn't seen all finished work.

MNye said...

All of this is a godsend. Writing is on another planet altogether.

GuestHouse Storytellers said...

I have a similar problem with my agent. She was very enthusiastic about my novel when we started out together but it has been a long time in the works, with lots of rewrites and hiatuses. Finally I feel it works but she seems to have lost interest. She's had the book over a year now and has sent it to four publishers so far - three in the last batch. That was over six months ago and none of them have got back to her. She admits this isn't promising but seems reluctant to chase them up or approach anyone new. I feel she (quite understandably) may be either bored with the book - she says she can no longer see it clearly - or may feel I am not a good investment because of my age and slowness in getting this book done, but whenever I enquire she says everything is fine. I am wondering whether to cut my losses and try for another agent, or whether to go to smaller presses or the self-publishing route.