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.