Monday, May 24, 2021

Stay or go?

 I have had an agent for the last five years or so. She’s submitted two novels for me over that time (we had a lot of nice personal responses but no sale). Since the second one going back in the drawer she has become less responsive, which makes sense - I’m going down the priority list. I sent her a new one last April, just as the COVID situation was kicking off. It’s now going on ten months and she’s sent me a couple of apologetic emails but hasn’t read past the prologue, citing being behind in her reading due to COVID. Now I haven’t heard from her in four months. 

My question is, is it reasonable / sane for me to pull the plug on our relationship after ten months? I wrote this book because she liked the pitch and I’m terrified of never being able to get another agent, but I’m losing my mind!


Talk to her.

Don't dither.

Don't ask for opinions from other people.

Talk to her and say "I'm losing my mind."

 The only reason I know you're not talking about me is cause you mentioned where she's located, and I'm not there.

 Every single colleague I've talked with in the last month is STILL behind on reading.

I cut my list in half, stopped daily blogging and I'm still not caught up.

 There are days, sometimes several, where I just can't read critically.

It's a problem, and the only way I know to solve the problem is communication. Your agent hasn't realized this yet, and she's probably mortified to be so behind and so out of touch.

 Get in touch.

Ask what's going on. Ask if she's lost interest.

Don't be afraid to be direct. It's better than losing your mind. 


AJ Blythe said...

I feel for you, OP, as it's a situation all writers dread happening to them. But on the flip side, we've all been there, that point where it seems easier to stick your head in the sand than deal with the to do list which has ballooned out of control.

I hope when you follow our Queen's advice you find your agent has just had her head in the sand and everything is actually ok. Good luck!

E.M. Goldsmith said...

These are unusual times. My guess is no one has escaped the last 14-15 months unscathed, unchanged, and a bit traumatized. Janet has the right of it. Your agent is probably just behind. It might be hard for her to work on "bad" days. I know, for me, on the writing side, there are days I get to my writing desk and freeze. I definitely would give it more time for responses than I might have before.

Talk to your agent. Follow Janet's advice. It's amazing you have kept writing and that you have an agent. Keep going. And good luck, OP. You got this.

Steve Forti said...

"There are days... where I just can't read critically." -Oof, I feel that one. Whether it's staring at the page to write, staring at the page trying to read, or anything really. I find that happening a lot these days. Just not feeling the brain working enough to engage. Then I need to do something mindless and stare off. That said, I feel for OP, as that's no way to live - feels like an entire year of your time wasted.

Amy Johnson said...

A message from the Queen?! Wow, what a wonderful way to start the workweek! Wish I had a "w" word for "start" -- would've sounded better.

OP: That's gotta be tough. I hope everything gets straightened out soon.

Hi, Reef fam!

Timothy Lowe said...

Amy Johnson "welcome the work week."

NOW you're completely alliterative!

Beth Carpenter said...

Good luck, OP. Hope the conversation goes well and eases your mind. Best of luck on the new book.

John Davis Frain said...

I'm confused, OP. Your opening line says "I have had an agent for the last five years or so."

Then you ask: "Is it reasonable / sane for me to pull the plug on our relationship after ten months?"

Maybe you mean because it's been ten months since you submitted your third book, but you'd be pulling the plug on a 5-year relationship, right?

A 10-month relationship is far too new to pull the plug. But five years? I'd give that some serious consideration after your get-in-touch call doesn't solve anything for you.

Amy Johnson said...

Thanks, Timothy Lowe! Works wonderfully. :)

NLiu said...

OP, this sounds so difficult. I really hope you can get some clarity through that conversation with your agent. Sending you virtual cupcakes with chocolate-covered strawberries on top and a small (but feriocious) imp who can glare at your inbox so you don't have to.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Great advice. Same thing happened to me w/my second agent. We amicably parted ways, which was the right thing to do. Still, it's such a long road and thrilling achievement to find an agent that "splitting up" - even amicably - is an emotional ordeal. No matter what, in any and all relationships, communication is the ultimate key. And, as always, Janet, YOU ROCK!!! (Did you miss me? Hah!!!)

Mary said...

My agent and I parted ways also. I was too far down the food chain for her to spend time on. She had my ms for two years and hadn't submitted. She's loved by other authors but wasn't right for me. Two months later I sold my book to a publisher. Would I love another agent? Yes, but I've stopped looking. Good luck!

Jennifer Delozier said...

I second everything NLiu said. Please share the cupcakes (also, I may need to borrow that imp.)

Unknown said...

Why beg a literary agent to accept you as a client and
then have her beg a publisher to print your book?
That system is so
yesterday, when literary
agents were on self designed pedestals.
Today, the way to go is to self=publish
and avoid the middle women.
You don't need to bother with queries
and can stop kissing asses. Stop being terrified,
stop losing your mind, and get empowered!
I doubt whether this agent will even post my
comment, but she will read it and get the message.

Janet Reid said...

You don't have to agree with me to be heard here.

theblondepi said...

Dear "unknown":

Agents work for free most of the time, and I’m sure it feels like a thankless job the rest of the time. Publishers front tens of thousands of dollars in the hopes they will get a return on a book, and they rarely do. They are not the enemy. They are looking for good books, because they can’t make money without them. Not everyone can write a good book, but a disproportionate number of people *think* they can — so, like you, they are outraged when an agent doesn’t jump to offer representation of their “masterpiece.” If I opened a store and no one bought my items, I wouldn’t blame the customers for being “gatekeepers” and for having poor taste, I’d fix my products to make them more marketable. Janet is doing this blog out of the goodness of her heart to HELP people find agents. She may not mind your comment, but I don’t appreciate your unkind words when she has helped so many, including me, to get published.

Colin Smith said...

Yes, as with a lot of things in life, communication is key.

And to Unknown, one of the great things about this moment in time in which we live is that you have so many options if you want to be published. It used to be that traditional publishing was the only way to go. Now you can publish digitally, independently, through one of many small publishers, etc. The question isn't "Which is better?" but "Which aligns best with my goals?" There are pros and cons to each. Since you decided to rail against agents and traditional publishing, here are some pros of that approach:

* You are more likely to be published by a major publisher and have access to the resources and distribution network of that publisher if you go through an agent

* Your book will go through a thorough editing process both with your agent and then with the publisher, where it will be spell/grammar checked and receive suggestions from seasoned professionals at no extra cost to you.

* Your book's cover will be designed by a professional art department at no extra cost to you.

* Your agent is your advocate and will fight for you and make sure you get the best deals possible with the best publishers. Many agents will even help you self-publish if you are agreed that's the best course of action for your book. Remember, agents don't get paid until you get paid, so it's in their interest to help you make as much money as you can! :)

I'm sure others can add to this list, but there's some food for thought. No one here, including Janet, discounts self-publishing. However, you are short-sighted (and doing yourself a disservice) if you think there's only room for one game in this town.

K. White said...

Unknown: I dislike the almost militaristic, self-righteousness that so many self-publishing people display. They act as if self-pub is the ONLY right course when it's not. There are several routes to being published and each author must find the one that's best for her/him.

If you're new to this blog,then maybe you do not realize the invaluable service Janet performs. She helps everyone - traditional and self-pub - navigate an extremely complicated industry.

She certainly doesn't deserve the vitriol you've spewed. No agent or editor does.

Katja said...

I agree that Janet doesn't deserve the vitriol (I don't know what exactly this word means but I get enough from the context - sorry for my second language English skills).

I'm not sure (depending on how strong 'vitriol' is) that no agent or editor does, though. I do understand Unknown's frustration when they talk of kissing asses.

I have met one agent who was just SO arrogant and even told the group how important he was because there are so few agents compared with people who write. I don't want to be told that I must tell him why I query HIM and not another agent and that otherwise he would not read my query if I don't kiss his ass with my first sentence of the query letter.

When the power of this business becomes that imbalanced and the agent doesn't get that he needs us, too, then I'm not interested.

I have seen (in videos) how agents only pay attention to writers if they are referred to them. Hmmm...
Also, who refers them? Another agent who spent THEIR time on the writer to start with?

I do not like the arrogance of certain agents and what they demand.

However, Janet and many other agents are not like that!

I have self-published my first book. I did it because, guess what, I didn't get an agent, plus I knew I wouldn't accept major changes (because the book really means a lot to me as it stands - autobiographical novel).

But it was EXPENSIVE! I hired an editor, a separate proof reader, a cover designer and a type setter (YES, the interior design is separate and unless you are able to do it yourself, you need a designer if you don't want it to look like an amateur's effort).

If you want your product to be good, be prepared to spend money. I spent about £1,500. And marketing isn't included. Nor is the storage fee that I'm currently forced to fork out every month for my book to have 'access' to WHSmith.

I am grateful that I was able to self-published it. But another thing that is annoying is that there is so much... hmm... what? roughage around on the self-pub platform.

I will definitely query my second book again. And only self-published it if I have to.