Who be doobee do

My agent refuses to tell her clients which editors she's submitting to. She will give a list of houses (RH, S&S, etc.), and in some cases, imprints, but will not share editor names. She sometimes goes so far as to chop off a signature when forwarding rejections via email.

I feel this is a disservice to me, because I'm kept from learning more about particular editors' wants and needs and taste--something that could come in handy down the road, when I'm submitting something new. I've talked to her about it, but she refuses to budge on this issue.

What's your take on this? Is this normal? Should it be acceptable?

Has this agent sold any of your work? If the answer is no, I advise you to think carefully about whether you want to continue because your idea of the information you want and hers are pretty much on opposite sides of the river, and baby, I don't see a bridge coming any time soon.

As an agent, if you told me you needed or wanted this information so you could know a particular editor's tastes and needs, or for "down the road when I'm submitting something new" you'd be out the door in five seconds flat cause it sounds like you're getting ready to either open your own agency or dump me and follow up on your own.

I too do not routinely give out editors' names. I don't slice them off rejection letters but when I send reports it's "your work is at a five way auction with Publishers ABCD and Q" or "publishers B F and D have passed, those fools".

I had a client not too long ago who was increasingly unhappy that her work hadn't sold. She asked me where it was. I told her, in the ABCD and Q terms. Unbeknownst to me, she turned around and called every one of those publishers, asked for the editor in chief, asked where her manuscript was, and when they couldn't tell her (BIG surprise) she called ME up, accused me of lying, fired me by fax and flounced off to self publishing land.

I was utterly humiliated of course. It took me about a week to crawl back to my desk, fire up the phone and call the editors. They just howled. Seems this kind of thing happens often enough that they've seen it several times before, were reassuring that they didn't blame me for this crazy lady calling them, and let's all drown our sorrows with drinkies real soon.

The bottom line is this: your agent isn't going to change. You either live with it or switch agents. To me this is not the huge red flag that you might think it would be but you're the one that has to live with it.


Anonymous said...

O Snarky One: Why not share editor names with your clients? When shopping my novel around, my agent told me which editors at which houses, without me asking. I wouldn't have been bothered if she'd left that detail out--just seems like a different style--but I'm wondering what the reason is for not routinely disclosing that info.

You'll never catch my cat giving up Burberry for pink Chanel. Just last year, she singled out my Burberry scarf from its cheaper brethren and ate half of it. Now that's taste.

Anonymous said...

I definitely want to know the names of editors my agent sends my work to. The voodoo dolls work much better if they more closely resemble the real person.

Anonymous said...

I understand why you don't typically give this information to your clients, and I don't disagree with that practice. But what if a client is going to be at the same conference one of the editors will be attending? Assume, for the purposes of argument, that your client isn't the type to make a total idiot/pest of herself around the editor while at the conference. Would there be a good reason to tell your client that the editor will be there, in case the editor approaches your client to talk to her?

Deran Ludd said...

Well, maybe if your agent has been your agent for 20 years, then they can trust that you arent prone to flipping out and making what are essentially crank calls to editors the agent would feel comfortable telling who they are sending it to. If you have and in and know your editors personally, you won't need to worry about this problem. Hopefully your editor will give you their opinion of direction if you are writring for a top 40 audience and you write to please the "what's popular audience". If you don't write at the whim of the top 40, then you write as best you can, and if you can find that groove, and you can find an agent that digs that groove, and thinks it can sell, then your job is to write and the agents job is to sell it to editors. Yes, No?

Anonymous said...

When my first book was being shopped, I knew several relevant book editors and had been approached directly by some of them about writing specific books, although the proposed books were not very similar to what I was shopping.

If my agent and I had not had a conversation about who was getting the manuscript before it went out, there could have been some awkward submissions and we could have missed sending it to the editor who bought it. Of course, it probably helped that my agent knew I wasn't crazy and wouldn't go over his head and try to contact editors directly about the state of my manuscript, but sometimes there are practical reasons for needing to know.

kim reid said...

My agent not only tells me all the submission info, but also asked if I wanted to suggest names of editors I hoped to work with. This is an info-sharing level that I want, and love my agent for, but I have friends who don't want to know anything but "we have an offer."

I agree with Miss Snark that you have to find an agent who provides the level of feedback you need - and that applies to submission updates, editorial input, career-building advice, etc.

lmharmon said...

Thank you so much for posting this. It seems so basic--like buying a home through realtor--you don't call and harass the buyer if you are the seller, and vice-versa. Perhaps people need to look up the word "agent" in a dictionary.

I truly enjoy your blog. You and your advice are priceless. Thank you. I hope you are going to write your own book.

Sonarbabe said...

Holy smokes! You know, if the publishing Gods are kind to me and I'm accepted by an agent, you can bet your bottom dollar I wouldn't be so foolish as to go over my agent's head! Wow. That was just asinine--and to go self-publishing afterwards? Oy. Been there, done that, wouldn't ever do it again. If Miss Snark were to ever represent lil ol' me and she told me Cha-ching Publishers had my ms and was giving it consideration, that's all I would need to know!