Batter up

Miss Snark,

I am an MFA student. Several agents visited our program last year; I signed with Agent A.

Agent A seemed very excited about working with me. He told me he liked to edit new writers‚ work and to submit their stories to magazines. But I'm afraid that he is no longer excited by, or interested in, my work. He's had two stories of mine since late summer. He's told me they need revision before he can send them out, and that we need to talk (he's perfectly right about the stories needing work). Four times he's e-mailed that he'll be in touch in a few days or a week. Unfortunately, he doesn't follow up, though I've e-mailed back, expressing my eagerness and availability for a conversation.

What should I do, if anything? Should I wait for his call and thank my stars that I have an agent? If Agent A didn't want to work with me anymore, would he just tell me, or should I somehow give him a way to exit gracefully from the relationship? I like him, I like the work of the writers he represents, and I really like the editing he did last spring, but I do have other options. Other agents have expressed an interest in representing me (I didn't go fishing while signed with Agent A -they offered to represent me when they visited the program, or they wrote after seeing my work in print). What's more, I'd like to get these stories right and then submit them.

Also, will other agents still want to represent me if I've already been represented by Agent A, even though Agent A hasn't sold (or tried to sell) anything for me yet? One agent wrote that she was very interested but wouldn't represent me if I'd been "previously represented."

I'd appreciate your guidance.

You don't have an agent. You have someone holding your stories hostage who won't return your phone calls or emails, and isn't sending your work out for submission. Unless you regularly sojourn at the North Pole far from the reach of cell phones, it's not all that hard for an agent to call you. The fact that he doesn't is significant. He's not doing squat for you, and he knows it.

You don't need an agent to send material to magazines. Only the very biggest and poshest lit mags are more accessible via an agent. As an MFA student you just need to get your work out there so people can see it. Sure, being in the New Yorker is nice but you're competing against the world there. Smaller mags, regularly read by agents, are easier to get into and work just as well.

Get off your duff , terminate this agent who hasn't done a damn thing for you, submit your work on your own and start building your rejection pile. "Having an agent" only means something if you actually have an agent who's doing work for you. You're better off on your own than with someone who doesn't send your work out.

As for the agent who said she wouldn't represent you if you'd had a previous agent, I have no clue what she's thinking unless she has a fetish for inexperience. I have several "previously represented" clients and ALL of them are with me cause they prefer how I work and they have a benchmark to measure it against. I REALLY like that. The ones who've never had other agents sometimes don't fully appreciate all my wonderfullness.

This whole thing sounds weirdly like the baseball draft where they try and sign you up mostly to keep the other team from having access to you. You need to get off the bench and into the game.


Unknown said...

In my opinion, if this agent has not sent out anything of yours - then you have not been previously represented. And 'new' agent is free to send anything you have written anywhere since he/she will know no one has already read when she is sending out.

David Isaak said...

Ms. Snark mentions smaller lit magazines that are read regularly by agents...

Would you care to share a list of which of the magazines you think are most often perused?