Miss Snark Suggests a Stunner

Esteemed Miss Snark, Once an agent agrees to represent a client and requests revisions to a first chapter, what is a reasonable expectation of response time? (48 hours upon receipt) This agent did not acknowledge receipt of the revisions. After three weeks a request for response elicited this in part: I should not have to remind you, and I won't ever again, that I am also working with nearly a dozen other authors on their work, reviewing submissions daily, researching publications for the best matches for my authors, building connections within the industry, and creating submission packages for my authors, not counting the basic paperwork side of the job such as standing in line to purchase stamps, mailing off rejection letters and keeping files organized. My reaction was, "But that's your job!" Am I missing something?

Yes, a small stun gun, suitable for your reticule carried to your next meeting with this doofus.

This from any agent, let alone your own, is unacceptable. It's rude. It's more than rude, it's downright hostile.

Miss Snark has a long rant on why an agent is not "employed" by a client but one does not need to be in an employee/employer relationship to demonstrate common courtesy.

That aside, a couple things puzzle me. S/he says she can't email you cause s/he's standing in line for stamps? Working with a dozen authors? Researching and building connections?

I've had two clients bite my ass this morning cause they wanted some handholding. The reason I'm behind is that I've been doing follow up on sales, sorting out royalty problems, and negotiating a deal. The five minutes in to and out of the Grand Central Station post office to buy stamps at the dispensing machine doesn't even register on the radar.

This guy is full of crap. Please tell me he's made sales and lots of them, or you'll have to stand in the nitwit corner holding a sign that says "I could be writing but I have to fire my agent".


Anonymous said...

This is what scares me about signing with an agent. He/she seems enthusiastic about you and your work, but once you sign, will you be treated like dryer lint?

To the poster, did you talk with the agent about his/her communication preference before signing?

Anonymous said...

Forget the bedside manner, this is what would worry me: "Researching publications for the best matches for my authors, building connections within the industry."

I like that my agent already has that. For that I put up with her own brand of snarkiness.

Anonymous said...

Ah, sharp eye, anonymous!

"Building connections within the industry." I'd expect an experienced agent to already have connections.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

That stuck out at me, too, other than s/he seems like a royal jerk. If s/he's this rude to you, think what the impression must be on the publishers' end.

Anonymous said...

Damn. Is there just one big agent-monster that we all share? This could have come straight from my own. . .*shiver*

Nitwit No More said...

Yes, we did talk about expectations on both sides, and communication is top of my list. Obviously, the reality isn't matching up. Thanks to all of you and the inimitable Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

Mine, too. Except I'm the big nitwit, because I knew going in that I was an experiment for an agent in a new genre. Very nice sales in the other genres, so I figured I was safe.

Until I asked for guidance and clarification on that guidance and got, "Well, you probably know better than I do what sells in this genre."

Not good.

Anonymous said...

Doofus hahahahaha

McKoala said...

He just sounds mean. How good is that going to be for your relationship? He's making it difficult for you to approach him again.

For example, when you write to him to say 'you're doing such a great job I'd like to give you another five per cent', he'd probably write back and say 'I would think that you would know by now that I am far too busy standing in line in the post office with my head up my @## to go to the bank and pay in this extra income'.

I'm sorry that he has been so unpleasant. We all have high hopes of our agents (or potential agents!) and he has fallen far short of that.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

:: Flipping hair from side to side and chanting: rude, rude, rude, rude. ::

I don’t understand the business manners of people such as this. There is a strange thought process at work in people who abuse their clients or potential clients.

When I started submitting I had an "ideal agent" in mind. My experience with her was unfortunate. I was tempted to shrug it off as culture clash and misunderstanding. At first I thought it all my fault. But, rude is rude. I'd never re-query her. She lost her status as my "ideal agent." How can you trust an agent who would ridicule, misrepresent, or even make public your inexperience? If they would do it to someone else, they will do it to you too.

(I’m not talking about a situation like Miss Snark’s blog, where we expose our inexperience for education. Snarkie engenders trust, even if she points out our “aliens” in strange places and our nitwitiness.)

It is easy to abuse an unpublished and uninformed writer. But that unpublished and uninformed writer may just be the next umm {insert favorite author here.} We have feelings too, you know. Agents remember the jerks? So do writers. Agents pass on names? So do writers.

Some people are just "fatally flawed."

Anonymous said...

My agent has also insulted the hell out of me by simply refusing to respond to the most basic, polite question as to what exactly is the status of my novel. Even if I get a call tomorrow saying my novel was sold for seven figures, I'd give the agent the silent treatment on the next novel.

Anonymous said...

I'd say that having no agent at all is preferable to unwarranted abuse like this.

litagent said...

Let's be fair to the poor agent, who may just have had a really bad day that day. Yes, he should have acknowledged receipt of the revisions in a timely manner, and yes, he probably should have been less abrasive in his response, but I've been known to be abrasive myself when I'm feeling overwhelmed. His point is still a good one for people who don't realize all the things that agents, especially independent ones do, which happens to include activities as mundane as standing in line at the post office. We also analyze royalty statements, follow up on sales, and negotiate deals, as Miss Snark ably pointed out.

As for researching and making connections, the fact is that the industry changes daily. People come, people go. Houses go out of business, new ones are started. Of course we already have connections, but no one is so well-connected in the industry that he knows every new editor or press. Keeping up with the industry and who's in and who's out IS an important part of the work.

Anonymous said...

All of the above, yes; and it does seem that many of the commenters here have had similar experiences, but I would like to give the agent the benefit of the doubt only in the fact of not knowing how the request by the author was worded. susan @ Spinning

Anonymous said...

I agree with litagent. Most agents out there don't have the benefit of an assistant, so they have to do ALL the work themselves, plus motivate themselves to do it all without succumbing to that whole avalanche of pressure. This leaves little time for constant handholding. They have enough to micromanage without being micromanaged by every writer they take on. If only this agent in particular had set up ground rules from the start -- like a step by step agent/writer business plan (i.e., "This is what you can expect at this stage and at that stage... and be forewarned that you shouldn't expect your agent to have time to play chit-chat by email or phone all the time because your agent will be busy doing this, that, and the other....").

Writers by nature can be so insecure, especially about their own writing, but using that insecurity to fuel constant nagging of their agents is untenable. Yes, the squeaky wheel gets the oil in many cases, but if the wheel squeaks too much and too often then that's when it's time for the agent to change the whole damn tire!

Anonymous said...

The author asked, three weeks after sending revisions to the agent, whether or not the manuscript arrived. What the hell makes answering that "hand-holding" that an agent doesn't have time for?

Bernita said...

I don't think a simple email request to insure a revision reached the agent's office safely should qualify as "hand holding" and elicit this sort of response.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Let's NOT be fair to the poor agent! It was rude. It wasn't handholding. It was business, and they failed. The agent owes the author an "I'm sorry I'm PMSing even if I'm a guy; I'll eat dirt to make up for it" apology.

Even if the author's email was whining and hectoring, the agent's response was poor. This agent needs to eat more chocolate and even out their disposition!

Just Me said...

If the agent is that busy, wouldn't it have been quicker for him or her to write 'Yes, the revisions arrived, I'm very busy but will read them and get back to you as soon as possible' than to go into an epic rant?

This wasn't a product of busy; this was a product of rude.

Feisty said...

Don't you think that that "did my manuscript arrive" could be interpreted by said agent as "holy, moly, I have a real needy writer here".

Fact is, you can confirm, using UPS, that your ms has arrived. Lots of writers do it.

I also think that this writer was kind of asking if the agent had read her ms yet but in a very cloaked way. I've never had an agent or editor NOT get a ms. It's more likely that they'll lose it once they get it than the USPS won't get it there.

I think the writer has the right to know, but I think the agent interpreted her question as meaning something else like "why the hell haven't you gotten back to me?"

What we say and what people hear are not always the same thing.

Besides, there's the three month rule. You wait three months. You pull out your hair, you don't sleep at night, you worry and fret, but dang it, you wait three months before you contact the agent or editor.

bonniers said...

When I say I'm researching publications for the best matches for my fiction, it usually means I spent all day reading Miss Snark and Making Light.

Wesley Smith said...

Feisty, there are a couple of things to consider:

1) We don't know if NitwitNoMore sent his/her manuscript via overnight delivery. In fact, many MANY agents dislike accepting any deliveries that require them to sign for receipt because they'd spend all their time signing for queries and partials they'll reject anyway.

2) I could have misread the original post, but it looked like the agent was already in the writer's employ. Once the relationship has been established I don't think the 3-month rule applies any more.

Lisa Hunter said...

These stories make me want to burn candles and offer libations in thanks for my own helpful and endlessly patient agent.

Feisty said...

Wesley:I have friends with agents and they are more than a little fearful to make a call to check on things.

Seems there are two kinds of agents.

Those who are friendly and warm and fuzzy (maybe like Miss Snark) and those who are all business and call you if they have news which means you don't hear from them for months at a time or maybe a year as in the case of one friend.

In the second case, authors tend to be afraid to initiate contact. I couldn't work with an agent who got upset if I emailed her, but hey, more power to those who can.

So, even if this agent is in the author's employ, it doesn't mean that said agent likes to be contacted.

On confirming if a package arrived, you can do that without having an agent sign for a package. UPS does it all the time.

Anonymous said...

feisty, where does the 3-month rule come from? what does it say? i thought miss snark has said that she responds to things infinitely sooner, which would seem to negate the 3-month rule. please give details! i'm curious.

Victoria Strauss said...

This agent's reply sounds terribly familiar to Writer Beware--if not the actual words, then the attitude. Questionable agents are fond of browbeating their clients, in hopes they'll be too intimidated to ask pesky questions like "Where have you sent my manuscript?" or "Could you please send me copies of rejection letters?"

Other things that make our alarm bells ping, because we've heard them too many times from too many bad agents: "researching publications for the best matches for my authors," "creating submission packages for my authors," and especially "building connections within the industry." And another thing. Why revisions to just the first chapter?

We could be wrong, but we're wondering if this agent is in our files.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with Just Me.

Everyone gets 'testy' sometimes, but if you're halfway together you can remain relatively courteous, especially to one whom you are--theoretically/potentially anyway--making money off of! What would be the big deal to just say, "Got your revisions, get back to you as soon as I can."? That would be enough for me. This agent's tone comes off like some mean someone talking [down] to a naughty child. I would never tolerate that kind of agent attitude. It's disgustingly rude!

And why does this agent waste time standing in line at a post office when s/he can buy postage by mail or, even easier, print it out on their own computer from an online site? In lieu of that, call Pitney Bowes and get your own damn machine, jack. P.O. visits is the worst of excuses!