1.18.2006

Yes, a Lazy agent is worse than no agent. Here's proof.

Dear Miss Snark,
A question, or three, from the far reaches of the Learning Curve.
First, do agents call up editors to pitch their manuscript before sending it, or do they just send the manu out? (A)

I received an email from my agent, saying "what do you want to do with this?" He was forwarding an email he received from an editor of a highly regarded publishing house re: my novel. Among the comments: "blisteringly good read", and "if changes are made to my satisfaction I'll go with it." I sent an email to the editor, via my agent, essentially to the effect that I'd love to work with him. I also explained my thinking behind some of the scenes he wanted changed--just to be sure he understood what I was trying to do. (B)
No word for a month. I emailed my agent to see if this was normal, and if not, would it be worth it to check with the editor to be sure he got my email? He said, "I'm not going to push him." (C)
After another month I received an email from the assistant to the editor, via my agent, that the editor was passing on my book.
Several months later, my agent emailed me that he'd decided to end our relationship. He'd sent the novel to five editors. Two had passed, and three had never gotten back to him at all.
I'm glad to be rid of him. But I have some questions.

1. Will other literary agents refuse to have anything to do with my novel because it's been "exposed"?

2. I think I know the answer to this, but...I'm haunted by the thought that maybe I should have emailed th editor myself to find out what happened. Would this have been unforgivably bad form?


oh boy. (A) I always call ahead but that's not always a reliable indicator. Some editors say "sure send it" cause they just don't like saying no. I hate that. Those are the ones who never get back to you. I don't work with them for very long.

(B) You didn't make the changes did you? You just sent an explanation of why the scenes were right? Your agent fell down on the job if he 1. didn't tell you to rewrite the email; 2. sent it; 3. is surprised the editor passed. When editors say they want changes you have two choices-a. describe the benefits of kite-flying; or b. do it. Explanations of why they are wrong and you are right are filed under a for aerodynamics.

(C), I'm troubled by the idea that your agent said "I'm not going to push him". Frankly, that's our job. Being pushy (in a very nice way of course) and prodding those lazy ass good for nothing ...err...wait... I MEAN to say over worked and under appreciated editors. Anyway, my job is to yap at their heels till they say yes or no.

However, on to your questions:
Yes, you'll have a harder time shopping this novel around if it's been seen already. That's just a fact of life.

No, you should not have emailed the editor directly. You should have done the revisions or said no. The fact that your agent didn't explain that to you is indicative that s/he wasn't doing her job.

And, I don't let my authors talk to editors till after a deal memo is done. Authors have been known to say things like "i'm so glad you're interested I can't believe you're paying me for this can I come over and wash your car instead of getting royalties what do you mean Miss Snark said we'd walk if you didn't pay us fifty thousand dollars I'm sure she meant we'd pay you" kind of things.

From your description, you had a lazy ass agent. Find a better one.
How to tell? Sales.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Miss Snark, Thank you for your reply to my questions. How very astute of you to see right through my carefully worded explanation and point out that I really didn't agree with the editor's recommendations. My bad.
I have learned from this. I bow before the razor sharp intelligence of those stiletto heels.

Nora McCrea said...

Miss Snark, I have a question on this one...I hear you saying you should always make the changes. Personally, that would be my response. Yet on mediabistro, I've read several interviews with editors from biggish houses (can't think of names right now but could look up if important) who said they would not walk away from a project if the writer stuck to their guns on a particular change. Is that because the project was already sold? I'm a little confused.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this question could have come from me--except that my agent and I have not yet parted ways.

Anyway, I'd like to know what Miss Snark thinks the original poster (and perhaps I) should do when one's MSS has been, shall we say, befouled by poor representation? Is it possible that the work must be shelved because it's been "out there" and therefore another agent won't get involved? Does it ever happen that another agent can recognize the mishap and sign on? Or is it truly one strike and you're out?

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, recently a nonfiction agent told a member of another board that "most" book contracts are going to royalties of 10% on wholesale price. I was surprised to hear this; I can't imagine either agents or authors going along with it. In your experience, is this the new trend?

mysterygirl said...

Dear Miss Snark,

What is considered a solid sales record for an agent? Any general guidelines you can offer?

I keep hearing stories from fellow writers who've signed with legit, AAR agents, thinking they're in good hands. But then somewhere along the way, the agents fall down on the job. Five months go by, and the ms is still sitting on their desk. They don't follow up with editors. They stop submitting after five rejections. They don't respond to emails or phone calls. WTF? Aside from contacting some of the agent's clients before signing, and asking a ton of questions, what else can writers do to make sure they don't get stuck with a lousy agent? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I wish I had intelligent stilettos.

Amie Stuart said...

>>Or is it truly one strike and you're out?

I'd be interested in knowing the answer to this too......