Thursday, October 17, 2019

I fired my agent, now what?

Dearest QOTKU,

Today, I'm unfortunately agentless because I ended our relationship last week. Communication has been a serious issue for well over a year (I couldn't get a list of what editors have seen my book after repeated requests) and I finally just decided the situation wasn't going to get better and it was time for me to move on.

But move on to what? Without the list of where the book's been, which I still don't have and now will likely never get, I don't think I can query additional agents (can I?). Two others were interested in discussing representing me back those two years ago, but they wouldn't still be (would they?). I don't know what I need to do, what I should do, and what I even can do.

It's a historical novel and I do think it'd be better off being traditionally published, but is that even an option for it any more? I can self-publish, I've done it before, but not with historical fiction (my others are contemporary women's fiction). Do I look for a small press that might take me without an agent? Wait a few years and hope an agent'll want it then? Crawl into a hole and cry? 

What does a writer do after being agented? I'm researching another historical and partway through the second draft of a contemporary, so I am still working, and I could maybe get an agent for one/both of those at some point, but I hate the idea of letting this book rot on my hard drive. Any thoughts you have would be wonderful.
Here, have some bourbon. Medicinal purposes of course. This is #EpicPain.
And it's #EpicAgentFail

The good news though is an ugly truth: when I see agents who flat out refuse to share ed lists with clients, my first very uncharitable thought is the agent didn't sub anything.

So, you might not be in as bad a shape as you think.

Step One is get in touch with the agents who offered rep two years ago. Your query will vary from the standard format in that you lead with "I was an idiot not to sign with you" "I parted ways with my agent and you were interested in repping this book earlier." Obviously tidy that up a bit.

The big question from the agents will be: has the book been on sub.

Tell them what you've told me: you don't know. You asked for a sub list and couldn't get one.

Sidebar: if the agent you left is part of a larger company, you might ping the owner.  Failure to keep clients informed about submissions is a HUGE breach of AAR ethics.
AAR Canon of Ethics clause 4

Some agents will see that as an interesting challenge.
Some will see it as more work than they care to take on.
But the best course is to query something new, and keep this on the back burner. Once you've secured rep, and a print deal, all the problems with this ms will disappear.
The larger lesson here is that if an agent does not share info with you in a timely manner, be firm. It's your book, your career, and agents don't get to hide behind "I'm busy" for more than a week.
This is one of my weakest areas, and I have to work on it more often than I care to discuss.  I've set some standards for myself about how quickly I have to reply to things, and I'm sorry to say I don't meet them 100% of the time.  More emails than I want to think about start out "sorry for being a slackerpuss."

BUT, I may be slow, but I do get the info to them.
Which is why I think this agent didn't do anything and just can't bear to say so.
No response means no is not an acceptable way for your agent to communicate with you.


Melanie Sue Bowles said...

Well, geez. This sucks. But not as much as getting on a plane. Which me and my epic fear of flying have to do tomorrow. All the way to Oregon.

Good advice from Janet, as always. The best to you, OP. Onward!

Lennon Faris said...

Sorry to hear this, OP. Seems so unfair and unethical. I'm glad the AAR thinks so as well and it's not just an author's rosy lens telling me that. Wishing you the best. As Melanie would say, Onward!

And 'Momma Mel' - I wish I could transfer some of my love of flying to you. The takeoff fills my heart with so much lightness that I'm always grinning like a mad scientist. Sending you good vibes!!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Melanie Sue Bowles spread your wings and fly baby. Flap hard and the angst will float away.

OP I truly believe everything happens for a reason, even the sad, pathetic and shi**y sh** stuff. Believe it or not you are in a much better place.


You have a lot of folks here, including QOTKU routing for you.

Craig F said...

Interesting that there are agents out there that don't know that we are in the internet age. I would send out a call to P&E and see if you can get a footnote on her page "refuses to tell clients their submission list". Then dominate their twitter feed, maybe she'll figure it out.

Melanie Sue good luck and have fun in Oregon.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

What a tough situation OP. You got multiple agent interest. Go and get a better one, one that will tell you what is what. I would hope when I get an agent they are professional enough to tell me what is going on with my book. There are so many better alternatives to silence. For example,

1. Hey, turns out I can't sell this book. Could you maybe write something else?

2. This thing happened in my life so I have to disappear for a while so take this book and go forth to a different agent. Sorry for the inconvenience.

3. Funny thing happened, my demon-possessed kitty destroyed the laptop where I had your book. And all my secret documents. Embarrassing but could you send it again to this super-secret server?

4. I sent your book to these x number of editors. Here is a list, and none of them answered. I don't think it's my fault they all went into witness protection. I mean I am not the kind you meet and think there are bodies in the basement. I don't even have a basement. I am mortified. Would you like to continue?

Something. And the agent that communicates with me with Number 4, I keep forever. Anything has to be better than dead silence.

You expect the dead silence in the query trenches, but once you have an agent...

Good luck, OP. We are all rooting for you.

Heather Wardell said...

Outing myself as OP. The agent in question is a solo practitioner, and much as I'd love to take Craig's suggestion and blast her everywhere I think it'd just make me look bad. I do think other authors will fall into this with her and I'm sorry for that, but I don't think I can do anything about it without damaging myself. (If that's wrong and Janet sees this I'd love to be corrected!)

E.M. Goldsmith, if she had said any of those (especially the fourth!) we'd still be working together. I even asked if there was a problem and she needed a break and she said she was fine but then continued to ignore me after that. I truly don't understand it, but I'm thinking maybe Janet is right and she really didn't send it out much if at all. That would be a relief, weird as that sounds.

I'm not sure I have it in me to go after more agents right now - after having self-published nineteen books (at the time, now twenty) deciding to work with an agent was a big scary thing and having it all fall apart is making me question whether I should have done it at all. BUT Janet's saying I can try re-approaching the other interested agents is a light in my darkness, and maybe in a few days I'll be able to gather the courage for it so I appreciate that. As well as the bourbon, of course. :)

And Melanie, while I'm not sure I agree that two years of having my career held up sucks less than a flight, I hope your trip goes well!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Heather I think Janet's advice is good. Go back to those two agents and then prepare to face the query trenches wiser than before. And you are right to keep things professional.

All authors achieve by lashing out against agents on social media is a bad reputation. Yes, this is such an awful situation for a writing career, but things have a way of getting sorted without griping in public.

If this agent doesn't sell anything, and silence will not sell a book, the agent will mess up their own career. No need to lash out publically. Embrace the whiskey and persist. It will work out.

nightsmusic said...

Heather I agree with E.M. here. So, go to your writing program, I'm a Word user myself, and write a scathing review of this agent. Include any and all things that bothered you, upset you, drove you mad...everything! Rant, rave, ravage her verbally, until it's out of your system. Let it sit for a day. Then delete it. You'll be surprised at how cathartic that is and how much better you'll feel.

Good luck and novel on!

Ms Melanie I'm not a huge fan of flying, so I understand though I deal with it.

Fearless Reider said...

Ugh, I’m sorry that happened to you, Heather. It truly sucketh the almighty lemon, to purloin a beloved phrase from Her Majesty. I’m not normally the litigious type, but is there any chance a tersely worded letter from an attorney might shake loose that sub list? Failure to cough it up seems like not only a breach of ethics but possibly a breach of contract, depending on your original agreement. Meanwhile, I’m in favor of nightsmusic’s advice. Big fan of screaming silently into the void vs. potentially sabotaging future relationships in a smallish industry.

Sending good luck and calming vibes, Melanie Sue Bowles! I, too, wish I could donate some of my enthusiasm for flight. I hope there’s something extra worthwhile awaiting you in Oregon.

MA Hudson said...

Wow. That's a rough ride. So disappointing after all the excitement of securing representation.

What I truly don't understand is the agent's motivation - why take on a book and then do nothing about submitting it to publishers? Weird. And if she did submit but doesn't want to share that info with her author, then isn't she just sabotaging her own reputation? Because, even without screaming on the internet, word will still slowly leak out.

Mary said...

I had this very thing happen to me with an agent. Now I am looking for another one and I've got to say, it is not fun. I am going to ask a lot more questions next time.

Jen said...

I was where you were two years ago, OP. I feel your pain. And while I'd love to say I now have a wonderful new agent and a fresh debut on the shelves, what I *can* say is that the experience was for the best. I'm now writing in a different genre and no longer worried all the time about what was happening behind the scenes, biting my nails for weeks at a time as I endured the silence.

Hang in there, OP. It really does get better!