Thursday, July 26, 2018

#BadAgent (oh man, NOT kidding)

This popped up in my Twitter feed yesterday:

Of course  my blood ran cold.
And I can't imagine how much it terrifies writers.

But after the gasping and the wailing and the rending of garments, the next question is "how the hell would you know she was forging offers?"

The way we heard the story, she told clients she had gotten offers that were "bad" and had turned them down on the author's behalf.

That's a HUGE RED FLAG. Reputable agents don't turn down (or accept!) offers without consulting the writer first. Sure, offers get turned down. When they are, the author and I made that choice together.

But if she's forging the offer, how would you know?
This is so rare, you'll probably never need to know BUT:
If you're suspicious ask to see the original email. If it doesn't have the headers of the publishing company, you know you've got problems.

This agent had sold stuff.
We all knew her, many of us liked her.

It's clear she's slipped off the rails in a very terrible way, destroyed her own career and damaged the writers she was supposed to be helping.  There's no silver lining here; this is an all around disaster of life lesson proportion.

Actually there is a silver lining of sorts: a lot of agents have raised their hand to be resources for the writers affected by this situation.  It's nice to see that kind of instant, here-let-me-help response.


french sojourn said...

Whenever there is bad in the world, take heart and look to the first responders. For it is them,where the beauty of the human race resides.

french sojourn said... is in them.... ~*looks for coffee mug*

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I saw this yesterday on twitter and felt instantly sick for this agent’s clients. From where I stand, wanting so desperately to get an agent, to hear a story like this is gut wrenching.

Writers know how hard, how much work, how many hours, weeks, months, and years go into snagging an agent, trying to get that first book deal. To hear that an agent so abused the writers they were meant to protect and nurture. It is like sheep finding a wolf is their shepherd.

However, I did make note of how many agents sprung in to offer their help, to try to make things right for all those clients who found themselves suddenly without an agent. This situation, I believe, is an oddity.

I believe most agents are decent, book-loving, honest folks who really want to do their best for their clients. Yes, do the research. But it seems until this came to light, if you researched this agent, you’d feel ok about her. She worked at some prestigious agencies before she started her own. She had sales. She had clients. Those poor clients.

I still wonder what the end game was for this bad agent? Why forge offers? Was this to show that she was doing something or some misguided attempt to shield her authors from rejections? It is a very strange situation.

Karen McCoy said...

Hank, I love that quote. This is so unbelievably awful on so many levels. I know one of the authors affected, and someone posted this Rumi poem in her Facebook feed:

By Rumi
Translation by Coleman Barks

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
Meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
Because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Amy Johnson said...

I wonder if some of her clients indeed were suspicious, but in the interest of being professional and pleasant, and of not wanting to come across as a difficult client, kept their concerns to themselves. I'm thinking there are several lessons that could be learned from this story.

Donnaeve said...

This is so perplexing. A big fat BUT WHY? is all I got.

Kudos to other agents stepping up.

Kregger said...

The future is as unknowable as human nature, and that's why we have life insurance, health insurance, and babysitters.

I'm sure this (Ms. Smith) is the exception to the rule as evidenced by the outpouring of help from other agents.

I've never had anything but good rapport with the agents I've contacted.

Take heart writers and grease the hampster wheel.

The Noise In Space said...
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Mister Furkles said...

What is the motive for sending forged offer letters? I get Willy Sutton's motive for robbing banks: "'cause that's where the money is!" But not this.

The Noise In Space said...

Karen, do you read Zen Pencils? It's a really wonderful site that illustrates inspirational quotes, and they did a piece for that poem.

Read it here.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Karen I love that poem. Love it.

Noise In Space I am going to check out this zen pencil thing you speak of. Excellent.

Lennon Faris said...

Either I am confused, or the 'bad' agent is severely confused. I can't think of any profitable reason to do what she did. Just seems nonsensical which makes me think she needs some help? (hopefully getting that now if that's the case).

I feel horribly for the authors affected of course, but this sounds like a sad situation all around.

Hope everyone comes out of this as a fighter!

Theresa said...

I saw this yesterday, too, and felt so bad for all the writers involved. And it was so nice to see all the offers of help.

Colin Smith said...

The thing I noted from this event as I watched the Twitter conversation is how agents talk to one another. That alone brought home to me how relatively intimate the publishing community is--even among people who are, on paper, "rivals." This should be a warning shot to those who try to cheat or play dirty, whether you're a writer, agent, or editor. Industry people talk. A bad thing that happens in one small corner gets talked about in all the other corners. There may be no query police, and industry pros can be very forgiving of our foibles. But don't be an idiot.

That's my take-away.

Bill D said...

Sad situation. Ones hopes that the kind offers of help from other agents will alleviate some of the problems caused by a bad apple.

And on agents and writers in general: Those of us who are so old that we read the newspaper comics might be enjoying "Crankshaft" and its funny running series about the difficulties of an author finding an agent, and vice versa.

Claire Bobrow said...

This one really hurts. I know a crazy-talented illustrator who was one of her clients, and I can't help thinking of the work she could've/would've been doing if things had been on the up-and-up. There are many other people whose work I admire whom she represented. What a train wreck.

I heard this agent speak at a conference several years ago and she seemed amazing. And her clients were amazing. She was on my list of people to query, and I kept hoping she would re-open to submissions. Yikes.

Sending huge hugs and positive vibes to those affected.

Sarah said...

I'm so, so sorry for all the clients involved in this! Writing and selling books can't help but involve heartbreak and disappointment, but it must be devastating to be betrayed by the person who should be your advocate.

And I hurt for the agent, too. Something awful must have been going on...

It was heartening to see so many agents (even those closed to queries) reach out on Twitter yesterday! I hope all the creatives find new homes soon.

Megan V said...

I watched this firestorm on Twitter yesterday and it was something to behold. I am aware of several of agent-went-wrong's clients. I won't go into who those individuals are, they deserve privacy and time to regroup and to tell their own stories.

The only motivation I could think of here is that she burned out from the work and so decided to take a shortcut. Why pitch to editors when you can pretend to pitch and still make your clients think you're working for them, all while truly resting on your laurels? Bad decision. Hurtful decision. And now a lot of writers, illustrators and a newly come agent have been affected.

It's a sad state of affairs. And not that this is any comfort but while QOTKU suggestion re: emails is a great one, it's super easy to forge an email or a letter with the headers of the publishing company, particularly if you already have some of those headers in your possession.


DeadSpiderEye said...

Sorry this is only tangentially related but I had a look at her catalogue and couldn't help notice a certain continuity in the style of the illustrations, that being a naïve expression of line and colour. Quite literally I have bumped into hundreds of knock your socks off illustrators over the last few years, who will leave your toes tingling in the breeze with the brilliance of their work and yet they can only get work in Electronic media, computer games or film production. Does anyone have a clue why the publishing trade persists with a style that looks as though it comes straight out of Tony Hancock's The Rebel and is so out of step with the rest of the main stream visual media?

John Davis Frain said...

I read this and wonder about the backstory. The front story is sad enough, but there appears to be even more aching behind the scenes.

Morgan Hazelwood said...

I just point out to my writing friends who are becoming more and more disenchanted with the idea of agents that:

a - We don't know how often she did this
b - She was immediately fired and her reputation is forever tarnished
c - No one made excuses for her and many offered to help out her clients

Clearly, the industry has no tolerance for this sort of behavior. It's a scandal BECAUSE it's so unusual.

Karen McCoy said...

The Noise in Space This Zen Pencils thing is everything. Thank you for sharing!

EM Me too! And yes, it is a very strange situation. I only hope that all these authors and illustrators will find good homes for their work soon.

Claire Bobrow said...

Ouch, DeadSpiderEye. I don't want to steer off topic, but I'm not sure I agree. I feel like there's an enormous variety of illustration styles in play at the moment (at least in kidlit, which is what I'm most familiar with). Check out Julie Danielson's blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Hi Claire Bobrow

Thanks I will take a gander at those.

Incidentally I feel I should state, that I'm a big fan of Alistair Grant's work for The Rebel.

Sherry Howard said...

One of my favorite kidlit illustrators was a client! He's been very gracious about it. As in all things life, due diligence only takes one so far, and then trust has to step in. Sadly, sometimes our human foibles interfere. It's a sad situation all the way around.

Hannah said...

This is awful, but it’s good to see people stepping up to help the authors affected.

My theory is that the agent in question wasn’t getting offers for her client’s materials, most likely because she wasn’t sending the books out. Then, when her clients asked about forward momentum, lying seemed easier than talking about/ dealing with whatever else was going on.

Anonymous said...

The Noise in Space, thank you so much for telling me about Zen Pencils!! It's amazing. Edgar Poe's quote about procrastination is.... well, I feel like writing something RIGHT NOW!

The Noise In Space said...

@ EM, Karen, and Alina - always happy to share good art! That site is one of my all-time favorites--I've got the latest Zen Pencils book as well and I love it.

Craig F said...

I would enjoy Zen Pencils more if their site map was easier to navigate.

Back in the real world, I would blame the office she worked for. If you have employees working for you, you have to keep an eye on them.

Finding blame does not, however, do anything for the artists damaged by this. What rights do they have at this point? Are their contracts automatically voided so they can move past this, or must they spend the next year or two in court to get their rights restored?

AJ Blythe said...

It would seem she had a history of sales so I wonder what's happened for her to feel the need to shortcut to maintain the illusion she was making progress with her clients' work?

I hope for her sake she has a support system because while what she did is mind boggling wrong, something must have been the trigger.

It's so uplifting, though, to see the agents who have opened their inboxes to those affected (including agents who are otherwise closed to queries), to see how wonderful the writing community is at banding together and supporting their peers and how professional those writers/illustrators affected have been on social media. Kudos to all of them.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I won't apologize for saying this, but now I understand why so many authors - truly talented writers, not hacks - are turning to SELF PUBLISHING. The untrustworthy agent saga playing out currently is just one more reason to jump the query ship and venture out on one's own, make up your own rules, forge your own path (see also Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Picasso, da Vinci, Beatrix Potter, any one of the truly great and successful), and finally TAKE CHARGE of your own destiny.

I don't think I have ever NOT trusted myself to do right by me. Others in the industry, such as editors, agents, publishers? Not so much.

Thanks Danielle Smith (and others who have not been caught - yet!) but you just solidified my decision to do it myself.

Panda in Chief said...

From what I could gather from all the Twitter posts about this yesterday, Lupine Grove was her own agency. Out of (morbid) curiosity, I just searched for their website, only to find that it was shut down.

I feel so many feels for the authors and illustrators affected. Who knows what was going on in her mind? Mental illness? Emotional instability? What she did was so wrong but hopefully will have a positive outcome as her clients find new homes, and try to trust the process and their new agents. I'm not quite willing to condemn her as a person. I don't know what hole she dug herself into that she couldn't find her way out of. I just hope all of her clients come out okay from this, and she gets whatever help she needs. I know what it feels like to feel overwhelmed and not able to cope with all the "must do things" on my desk. I can see how she got to that point even if it had a terrible outcome.