Friday, December 30, 2016

Won a contest with an agent I'm leery of

Pitch contests are great, but what happens if an agent requests but you don't want to work with them for either personal/professional reasons? Ignore the request (Another agent told me pocket vetoes are fine, but I'd like a second opinion) /pretend you didn't see it? (This is substantially harder to do on blog contests as opposed to Twitter pitch parties.) Send a polite "thanks, but no thanks, I don't think we're a good fit" email? Send them materials and hope they'll reject? Send them shitty first draft materials that you know they'll reject? The latter 2 seem like Very Bad Ideas, but I have to admit it's kinda tempting to make them reject you instead of risking offending an agent by saying you don't want to work with them.

Was I wrong to enter the contest? There were some participating agents that I really liked, and I never thought the one I didn't like would request. Should I stay away from all contests in the future?

Or am I worrying about something that's absolutely meaningless?

(Also, if you want to send a Duchess of Yowl post to chase me off my hamster wheel, that would be almost as good as advice.)
Under no circumstances do you send work to an agent you don't want to work with, or knowingly send substandard work to any agent ever.
That leaves whether or not to respond. I vote for not responding. It leaves you the most options later. It's also a very nice twist on the horrible "no reply means no" practiced by some agents in their query pile.

Also, it doesn't burn any bridges.

I don't know why you don't want to work with the agent who favorited your pitch, but if you change your mind (or s/he cleans up her act?) you've not closed the door to interactions at a later date.

And a Twitter contest or a #MSWL call is a far different thing than a pitch appointment at a conference. At a conference, I assume you've asked to talk to me and would be willing to work with me. If you are not, then you should meet with another agent and not waste your scarce resource of access to an agent.

But the answer to the bigger question is this: agents are looking for good stuff to sell. They'll overlook a lot to get it. A misstep in a Twitter feed isn't that big a deal. Twenty missteps, we're going to pause. Being rude or disdainful, that we are going to notice.

That means you do NOT say on Twitter "I"m only sending this to agents I want to work with" or "Gee, I'm getting some requests from real tools here, too bad they don't vet the agent list better."

Generally someone as keen not to make an error as you are is going to do just fine.

Let your work do the heavy lifting. Write a terrific book I want to read and I'll come to your house to get it if I have to.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A reverse "no reply means no," love it.

Blame your computer. I do. Especially if the no goes the other way.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Jeesh. The writerly life is full of shoals. So glad I'm in a school to learn from all the particularities here.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh there is a certain elegant justice in not replying. I wish you the best of luck, OP! I know there are some agents on Twitter I followed for a bit, and subsequently unfollowed for varying reasons. No matter how very happy I am when somebody likes my writing, I feel I probably couldn't work with some people based on their comportment.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I wonder how much you can tell about an agent on Twitter? I think people tend to go all Black Mirror on social media, emboldened by the removal of actual glares, tears, and laughter of those they amuse, offend, or hurt. I tend to ignore agent streams apart from cute puppy, kiiten, and shark photos and their writing advice and book recommendations.

Still, there are agents I am wary of and would not send material too- red flags like no info on website, writer beware warnings about agency and such or so far off my literary taste as evidenced by his or her client list and what he or she is looking for that we would never work well together.

Lennon Faris said...

I'd definitely ignore.

EM, I've seen agent twitter feeds that are extremely negative (to beginner writers or just in general). These are the ones that I immediately discount.

CynthiaMc said...

OP - I don't know what your reasons are for disliking this agent, but I would make sure they are fact and not just rumor.

Respond/not respond: As a Southerner, it's not in me to be rude. Mama always said "There are things to respond to and things to let go." No response means no can work for us too. (That's about as rude as I get).

Cinnamon rolls at my house this morning. It's 48 degrees in Florida. I spent a millisecond in the garden and went back inside. The squirrels and cardinals spotted me through the kitchen window and said "We see the car. We know you're in there. At least feed us before we freeze to death." So I am out here in the garden in long pants, real shoes, and a sweater (normal Florida yard attire is shorts and flip flops). I put out peanuts for the squirrels and blue jays and seed for the cardinals and doves. They are happy. I am freezing.

My gift to myself is today off and Monday off for writing, goal tweaking, and reflection. I may make this a tradition. I like the thought of taking a moment to look back over this year, see what worked and what didn't and come into the New Year with fresh eyes and focus. I usually do this in a rush. This year I'm taking my time.

Happy New Year's weekend, everyone!

Theresa said...

Great professionalism/etiquette advice, as usual. And I like the designation of "read tools." There's lots of ways to use that phrase.

My weekend will be a lot like Cynthia's. After a week or so of constant traveling and socializing, the next few days will be quiet time for reading, writing, and reflecting. Well, some Netflixing, too.

Janet Reid said...

yea,that should be reaL tools. You'd think I'd read this more than once, right? Yup. At least four times, and I still missed it. I'm beginning to suspect a conspiracy of some kind. Time goblins getting my stray minutes, letter trolls playing on my keyboard.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I was quite naive when I first started researching agents. I didn't realize just how many there are. 1000's! I've narrowed down my CRWL (Contract to Rep Wish List)in a variety of ways. The obvious ones: they don't rep what I write. But I also just follow some gut reactions when I'm educating myself about their guidelines, reading interviews they've given and/or watching their twitter feed.

There was an agent I was interested in adding to my list after reading a Writer's Digest interview with her. I went to her website. The head shots of her entire client list were slender, white female twenty-something's with long blond hair in sophisticated artsy poses. And my gut immediately said, "Nope." Nothing wrong with slender white females (I used to be one), but there wasn't an ounce of diversity. And I'm a 59 year old horsewoman with a pixie short haircut and hands that handle halters and hay all day long.

Speaking of hay... we received our 30 day delivery yesterday, 21 tons. An enormous amount, and I'm off to get it all stacked in the barn. A monumental job that calls for the beastly new Holland.

CynthiaMc ... Cinnamon rolls, mmmmm.

Julie Weathers said...

There are a few agents I've taken off my list due to things they've said on twitter. It's odd that they often recommend authors be careful of their social feed because agents will check it when deciding whether they want to work with the person or not, but they don't think that might apply to them also. Now, granted, agents are in shorter supply than aspiring writers, but still... One day one of those writers may bang out something they would truly love to represent, but the time you and your agent buddy yucked it up about trailer trash sort of took you out of the running.

I adore agents who keep their professional social venues professional or at the least funny and chatty and leave out the political diatribes. Laura Bradford and her great hamburger quest obsession tickles me. Don't tell her, but I've patterned my MC's love of food after her.

I don't know who NYC Editor is, but if I ever have a chance, I'm sending her cookies, just because she's fun.

When I used to do a lot of pitch contests, I'd get requests from many small and indie publishers. Some were legit and some were just vanity presses. I declined them all and did respond to the legit presses. I thanked them for their interest and said I had the manuscript with some agents. If I had an offer of representation, I would let the agent know of their interest. Some were very nice, others not so much, saying they refused to work with agents who did nothing for writers except take their money. Seriously.

Agents, if it was someone I didn't feel comfortable with, I just didn't respond. They could come to their own conclusion why I didn't. However, I imagine they were so swamped with people who did they didn't even think about me.

Pitch appointments and blue pencils at conferences are precious real estate. I research carefully before I commit. I don't pitch unless I really am truly interested in the agent.

Good manners are never out of style and never forgotten. If you can't be gracious, at least be anonymous and keep your mouth shut.

CynthiaMc said...

Melanie - come on by. You need sustenance for that job!

Colin Smith said...

This is quite a dilemma, and I'm of the camp that would feel bad NOT replying... but if it's the "response" that's least likely to offend, then I would NORMAN the agent, for sure.

Has "NORMAN" become an industry-standard term yet? You know that's one of my goals... ;)

The temps are in the low 40s this morning here in Eastern NC. I'm snug indoors, however, enjoying the fact that our new house uses electricity to heat it, and not LP gas which we paid hundreds for every month and had to constantly check the gauge to make sure we didn't run out. :)

Melanie: Fun times! My goodness do you people have interesting lives. :)

Colin Smith said...

Julie: I wasn't following Laura Bradford on Twitter until now. Thanks for the tip. I agree with you--I wish some agents would have the same professional standards on social media that they expect of aspiring authors. I know there are many in publishing who share their political/social views... but not everyone does. And when you're constantly talking into the echo chamber, you sometimes forget to be sensitive to those outside.

BJ Muntain said...

I once pitched an agent at a conference who, in his bio, said he was looking for science fiction. When I pitched him, he said he didn't really want science fiction, but he'd look at my work if I wanted to send it. He didn't seem at all enthusiastic. It's hard to make a judgement over whether you want to work with an agent if even their bio is misleading. I just didn't send him the partial - I doubt he even noticed.

Another year, I had another pitch session with another agent who seemed like a great fit, according to her bio and website. It became clear in the pitch session, though, that we just didn't click. Sometimes, you don't know you don't want to work with an agent until you've met them. (Which is one of the reasons for 'the Call (TM)')

There are plenty of reasons for not wanting to work with a specific agent. You might think their practices are suspect. You might not like them as people (perhaps because of something they've said on Twitter or in a blog article). Maybe they've worked with someone you know, and made some mistakes. You want an agent who will be a good fit, who will be able to work with you, sell your book, and negotiate a fair contract. You want an agent you can trust.

All this to say, sometimes you need to reject agents. Do it as politely as possible. Sometimes simply not responding is the politest way possible. I'm sure that's not completely unheard of in those circumstances. If the agent reaches out to you again, though, you may need to respond. Perhaps now is a good time to figure out what you'd want to say if that happens. Be honest, but tactful. Unfortunately, that's easier to say than it is to do.

It's actually rather balmy here today, at -6C (21F). We're supposed to be getting dumped on again today and tomorrow, though, with up to 6 inches of snow. Fun!

Claire Bobrow said...

If anyone wants me, I'll be at Cynthia's house. Standing in the yard with the squirrels if I have to.

Cinnamon buns...

Is it impolite to discuss agents with your mouth full?

CynthiaMc said...

Claire (and anyone else who wants to make the trek) - come on by! (picture on Twitter)

John Davis Frain said...

I had this exact scenario and I chose not to respond. From an agent's point of view, there could be several reasons, chief among them that I'm revising said ms.

At any rate, I never got a follow-up from the agent, nor do I expect one. I've moved Twitter pitch contests down a notch, but that's based on little information so I could be swayed.

Also, based on this from Janet: "Write a terrific book I want to read and I'll come to your house to get it if I have to." ... I'm leaving my door unlocked. No cinnamon rolls, though, sorry.

Karen McCoy said...

Great post. Though I have an extra hamster wheel for you. What if Opie is interested in another agent at that agency? Would the ignore be remembered by the other agent?

Lucy Crowe said...

Naive?? I skipped the whole editor and agent thing the first time around - went straight to the first publisher who showed an interest. And although I haven't been (too terribly) sorry, I will say that were I able to do it over again, I might choose a different path.
I too have found a few agents on twitter who I felt I couldn't work with. For me, the red flag goes up when it seems they "favorite" nearly every pitch - also when you find their website and see that it hasn't been updated in eons.
Ditto on what Colin said - Laura Bradford is a good twitter find!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

"Read tools, real tools", hahaha Janet made a vomment.

Ardenwolfe said...

If it's the agent I'm thinking, then yes . . . don't respond.

Panda in Chief said...

Definitely in the "no response" camp for the agent you don't want to work with. I also think they won't even notice. Don't know what you would do about if there was another agent at the same agency you wanted to query. Probably after enough time, agent 1 wouldn't remember you. Being a bit of a wuss, I would probably choose not to query the other agent.

Cynthia, I don't know what state you live in, but I am going to go outside and start sniffing the breeze for the aroma of cinnamon rolls. And I love following folks, be they agents or others, who talk about food, sharing great restaurant/food tips on Twitter. I think I discovered Molly Yeh on Twitter. Her blog is a hoot, with great photos, wonderful recipes, and engaging stories. It definitely got me to buy her new cookbook, Molly on the Range. If you're looking fr a fun blog to follow, mynameisyeh is a fun one. Don't blame me if your pants no longer button.

Happy new year everyone!
Panda on!