10.02.2005

Further on "Firing Your Agent"

A Snarkling reports:



Seven editors is the number my former agent sent my manusript to. All seven rejected it. Six without any real feedback. One with wonderful feedback and an invitation to send her more of my work. It took less than a month to three months to hear back from all seven.

At the end, my former agent wanted a revision or new material. I agreed that it needed to be revised. We disagreed about how. I felt the editor who gave real feedback was right on the mark with her comments. Yes, the writing was sloppy in spots. The hero did appear very unheroish (my word, not the editor's). I disagreed with the editor about her comments calling the plot weak. It wasn't weak, it was worse, contrived. Still, I could fix that. I was pleased when she loved the same unique traits of the story that I added to make the book different from others.

The things that were important to me appeared to be important to her. My former agent was hung up on a different editor; one who stated in the rejection letter that she loved the title, then went on about how everything else was so disappointing. Nothing specific to fix though.

I opted to write new material since we weren't on the same page with the previous one. Six months later, I felt like a hack. I wasn't feeling any of the "love" that I'd felt earlier. In fact, emails went unanswered.

It took years, many manuscripts and way too many agent rejections to get an agent. But as we approached our year anniversary of working together, I didn't care. I was tired of thinking everything I wrote was crap.

We parted company. We were friendly about it, but I don't know which of us was more relieved. I wasn't writing what my former agented wanted to represent. I found it harder and harder to write anything at all.

That was over sixteen months ago. I'm still without an agent. Would I do it again? Yes. It took the next year for me to learn how to trust myself again. Or to learn how to enjoy the process of writing.

Was my former agent a bad agent? No. My former agent was the wrong agent for me.

The bottom line, being able to say "my agent" doesn't mean crap if the agent/author relationship makes either of you feel like a failure.

Know why you're severing the relationship before doing so. Make sure it's in your best interest. When my agent and I parted ways, I tried to fix the problem first.

Also, I knew when we parted company I wouldn't use the previously shopped manuscript when querying new agents. I'd present new material.

I still love that story. I still believe in it. But I want a new agent to have fresh work to shop, not one that's already been around the block. Once my new work has sold, I can pull out the revised old story, give my new agent the history and see what s/he thinks.

We writeres are told over and over and over that a bad agent is worse than no agent.

Sometimes the obvious gets lost: the wrong agent is also worse than no agent. There are plenty of great agents and writers who are wrong for each other.

A Snarkling


Exactly so.

7 comments:

pinch said...

On agent representing an author's work to editors: what do agents do at big book fairs? For example, the Frankfurt Book Fair is this month and I know that many agents from around the world are going. Do they bring specific books they know editors will be interested in? If an agent lets his/her authors know that he/she is going to Frankfurt, can you ask if your book is going also?? And, Miss Snark, will you be going?
Thanks...

Existential Man said...

"wrong"? or just couln't come to agreement with you? would your agent have been "wrong" if he had sold the manuscript?

the issue is more complicated than just getting an agent to
"love" your work...it's a business and the simple truth, like it or not, is if your stuff doesn't sell many agents will lose interest and move on to someone whose work does.

Said it before, say it again: Don't marry your agent, have an affair with her...If it works, great, continue the affair, if not, move on to a new lover (of your work). I have learned that agents will tell you about wanting you "forever" when what they want is a successful affair--and that means they sell your work for enough to keep them interested. Otherwise, you will swiftly be dropped like yesterday's goods.

Don't believe me? Ask agents how often they drop clients for not being able to sell their work--no matter how charming or how cooperative the client may be. And the higher up on the food chain the agent is, the faster he or she will drop you when his/her expectations aren't met. This is how the game is played. Ask the Queen Snark, ask anyone.

Kate R said...

I had a very professional agent--a woman I'd recommend to anyone in a heartbeat--and I parted ways with her. Why? Because the editor I thought I was going to work with the rest of my life didn't like her and because the woman (agent, not editor) was skeery.

I was newly published and had a lot of questions. Sure, I was willing to wait to send all my questions at once rather than bombard the poor woman every day.

But I was sending a question-filled email every couple of weeks. She didn't exactly blow me off, but she didn't seem particularly interested in answering the questions. I got a lot more answers from other writers and from the editor.

That agent and I would be a better fit now that I know more about The Publishing World (hell, I probably don't, but I feel like I do, so I don't have to bug anyone). We left on cordial terms--hey, she's a professional.

In the meantime, however, I found another agent. She laughs at my lame jokes. Not exactly the basis of a work relationship, but it's certainly worth something.

Kate R said...

dang I wish we could edit these posts after we send. I'd de-butt the heck of that thing.

Jody said...

"wrong"? or just couln't come to agreement with you? would your agent have been "wrong" if he had sold the manuscript?

If the manuscript had sold, the only difference it might have made was time. To use your analogy of marriage, my ex-husband was faithful (same as agent selling the manuscript), but the only thing his fidelity did was stall the unavoidable.

The story I related to Miss Snark was nothing more than the Cliff notes.

I also disagree with your comment about top of the food chain agents dumping writers who disappoint them. Some do, but others don't. Yeah, I know people who haven't sold after a few years and their top of the food chain agent still sticks with them. I know other writers who were dumped by basically brand new agents when they didn't sell. Broad brush strokes are great for painting but really stink when trying to generalize the characteristics of any group of humans.

And just like Kate, I do recommend my former agent to others when I honestly believe they'd be a good match.

Existential Man said...

yes, obviously a generalization is made with the understanding that not all cases will fit...my point was not that ALL big agents are ALWAYS doing this without exception but that enough of them are as a regular practice to warrant said generalization.

Why do you think we ALL tend to make generalizations? Because, contrary to your foolish statement that "broad brush strokes are great for painting but really stink when trying to generalize the characteristics of any group of humans," they are actually very useful in helping us understand EXACTLY what you think they can't do!

Go back to school and take a beginning class in deductive logic and another one in social psychology. Then come back and talk to me about the use and power of generalizations.

And while we're at it, here's another juicy one for you: We are ALL (yes, you too!) making gross and subtle generalizations on a daily basis about ourselves and the world we live in! Gee, what a concept!

Jody said...

Nice existential man. I was going to take this off the blog, since I don't have most of my day available for browsing and responding to blogs. But alas, it took more than two clicks and still no email address for you.

You get the last word. I'm working too many hours at McDonalds so I can afford the internet connection.