1.27.2006

Agents should write checks, not books

Dear Miss Snark,

What do you think about agents who also write the same genre they represent? Is there conflict of interest there? Should a writer searching for an agent consider this a red flag, something to be avoided?Thank you! (leaving a pail of gin and some yummies for KY to express gratitude for your fun and informative blog. Sorry, I don't know George's phone number, or I'd offer that.)


Of COURSE there's a conflict of interest, but it's almost impossible to say so without sounding petty. Not that something like that even registers with Miss Snark of course. Agents who write in your genre may in fact be pretty good judges of what sells, but face facts: they're taking a spot on a publisher's list that could be a client's.

I can't imagine having a conversation like:

RING! RING!

MS: Snark Central, you called, you talk

Client: I see you have a new mystery coming out from Ballantine in hardcover "Miss Snark Solves the Case of the Missing Query Letter".

MS: yes, yes, I do, and I'm going to invite you to my book launch party.

Client: was that the same editor who passed on my book "Miss Fox Murders A Hen"?

MS: yes, yes, but ...

Client: passed on it cause the list was FULL???

MS: yes, but really, the two things are not related

Client: expect my termination letter to be delivered via rock through the window. You haven't heard the last of me missy, you and your little dog too.

MS: boy, I hope that advance holds out for a year, I have no clients. KY! KY! Get your harmonica, we're going busking in the subway for kibble.



I think it's icky. I think book reviewers writing novels is worse and New York Times columnists and critics being reviewed in the Times and selected as Notable books is the worst, but it all falls under the icky umbrella.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

What about editors writing books? In their own lists or outside of it, say, a fiction editor writing a nonfiction book (for their own house? another house?) or vice-versa?

If you got a query that said "I am an editor at XYZ House" and (it's not an editor you submit to, of course) what would you do?

I think it happens pretty frequently (from what I read in PW) but I'd like the Snarkalicious take on it.

Anonymous said...

When I was looking for an agent. One rejection came with a note saying the agent was busy trying to sell his novel. Please buy it. There was an ad attached to the rejection. Very tacky.

I did look up the book on Amazon. Very low.

Anonymous said...

"...book reviewers writing novels is worse..."

I so agree with this, especially when the book reviewed is in the same genre as what the reviewer writes. Talk about a clouded perspective.

It would be great if papers/magazines had professional reviewers with no stake in the book's success, no literary axes to grind, no jealousy or disappointment to taint the review, instead of using writers who supplement their incomes by reviewing the works of other writers.

Shawn said...

Client: expect my termination letter to be delivered via rock through the window. You haven't heard the last of me missy, you and your little dog too.

LMAO!

Anonymous said...

I know a number of agents who are now writers and in the genres that they represent. It raises all kinds of red flags to me, but I guess there are some writers who can fool themselves into believing it's not a problem.
I want to know that my agent is focusing on MY work....it's bad enough that there are other clients to be concerned with...but the agent shouldn't be one of those concerns!

Anonymous said...

I guess there are some writers who can fool themselves into believing it's not a problem.

Yes, often the "fooling themselves" comes in the form of signing multiple six figure deals the agent procured for them, hitting the NYT bestseller list, and other delusions.

Not saying that it can never be a problem, but I do not agree that it must be.

Anonymous said...

>>>Yes, often the "fooling themselves" comes in the form of signing multiple six figure deals the agent procured for them, hitting the NYT bestseller list, and other delusions.<<<

Er, I'd have to see some proof of this.