Quote This!

Dear Miss Snark,

I'm a multi-published author looking for an agent for the first time. I queried an agent at a prestigious company, who got back to me in record time (two days) to tell me she didn't handle my genre, but that she had handed my material over to another agent at the agency who would be contacting me.

Agent 2 contacted me in a few days, very cordial, had her assistant send me
a paper to sign giving permission etc. We had a couple email exchanges during that time...then nothing.

It's been eleven months. Every three or four months I send a polite email query inquiring about her timeline and get no response. Sometimes I alternate that by querying her assistant...and get no response. (Except for once when I was told how busy the agent was.)

Seriously...wtf??? Does she have any intention of ever reading this thing or am I fool for not considering that door completely closed? Is this a ploy to get me to go away and I'm just too dense to see it?

Let's review.
U send Q
A says "not I, but B"
B says "I'll read it, sign X".

Do you see anything here that marks YOU as the fool?
Ya, me either.

In all seriousness, why would you want to work with someone who treats you like you don't matter?

Fuck that noise.

Get an agent who treats you with respect.

You wouldn't tolerate this kind of behaviour in any other kind of professional relationship, why would you even consider doing so here.

Get off your ass, tell this agent she's a nitwit, and find a new one. And if you need assistance, just forward this blog posting to her and say "this is about you".


Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure I could name the agency this person is posting about - but of course I won't. I had a similar experience. I agree with Miss Snark. If an agency doesn't have the common decency to treat you as a professional, then why would you want to sign with them?

Anonymous said...

I wish someone WOULD say so the rest of us could know and query and accept representation at our own risk. I can find out agency size, sales, clients etc etc from various resources, but if I don't know someone who knows them (and they don't have a wonderful blog like this one or some others I've read) how do I have any idea of their, um, well character?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, man, let's dish some dirt! Seriously. As Anon #2 pointed out, research can't take you behind the scenes. As a side benefit, perhaps if certain agents realized that they were gaining a reputation of treating writers like Killer Yap's, um, eliminations, they might take steps to clean up their act. But probably not.

kim reid said...

"but if I don't know someone who knows them (and they don't have a wonderful blog like this one or some others I've read) how do I have any idea of their, um, well character?"

First, only query agents that, on paper, you'd love to sign with, otherwise you're wasting time. I always wonder about the selction process when I read somewhere that an agent has made an offer, but the writer is isn't sure if they should sign.

When they make an offer, you interview them, and then interview some of their clients. They should be open to you talking to a couple of clients (but only after an offer is on the table). Read the acknowledgements page of their clients' books - is the thanks to the agent perfunctory or effusive? Check the net for interviews they've done (like at MediaBistro or for writing groups), which might give you a sense of their style. Check P&E for complaints. Ask at writer boards if others have any feedback on a particular agent. Beyond this kind of research, you won't know until after the honeymoon how fab they really are.

Anonymous said...

Short of the interviewing and speaking to a couple of other clients, I think all the other areas of research could be done before one sends the agency a query letter, or at least the MS.

kim reid said...

You're right, last anon. That's the info that makes them look good on paper - my ordering is off a bit.

Anonymous said...

"Beyond this kind of research, you won't know until after the honeymoon how fab they really are."

There's only so much research can tell you. I'm one of the unfortunate ones who found out after the honeymoon: a well-respected agent at a solid agency with sales, enthusiasm and credibilty in my genre. They were prompt and passionate during the querying process, loved my work, and when we met, I felt as if we really clicked.

One year later, we had yet to submit. Their responses to the requested rewrites were painfully slow, and required often more than one email prompt or call to respond. I felt fearful that I was being a difficult client just by asking for status updates, and thought that having an agent (however frustrating) was better than being on the hunt again. Finally, I voiced my concerns and asked for improved communication and a clear plan of when we would be submitting. They reacted strongly and just like that, we split.

I'm still looking for a new agent, but the concept to my novel - which was ahead of the curve two years ago when I began writing, and slap-bang on the zeitgeist one year ago when I signed with the agent - is now looking old, regardless of how polished and well-written the novel may be.

Moral of the story? You can't always discover the flaws in an agent's style before signing with them, but you can control how long you put up with a situation that isn't working for you. Don't hang onto a poor agent for the sake of it, you could be damaging your career in the long term.

Anonymous said...

You shouldn't believe what you read on the Internet about agents and agencies. There is no fact checking when agents are interviewed. I had to laugh when I recently read the Galleycat blog story about my former agency. They did just the freakin opposite of what was written!

Anonymous said...

Can we play this game? Will Miss Snark allow? How about this: I'm going to guess that the agency in question starts with the letter "T."

Hot or cold, original poster?

Anonymous said...

I had the supposedly #1 agent in my genre call me and ask for a revision on my first novel. Obviously, I was so excited. But the revision letter never came. Never came. Never came. I asked for a status check--no response. Finally, after five months, I withdrew the manuscript and went elsewhere.

A friend, represented by another agent (an extremely well-known highly-regarded agency), recently found out that his agent hadn't submitted to any of the houses he'd been told the ms had been sent to. He found out because he was sick of status inquiries through the agent, and getting suspicious, finally called the publishing houses themselves. Trust me--this agency would NEVER end up on P&E, and if I told you the name, you'd be very surprised.

It's incredibly frustrating.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Oh, humm. Well, I have my guess here too. ... Forget them. They aren't worth your sweat.

A well known name doesn't mean they deserve their reputation.

Anonymous said...

It's very disturbing to hear about reputable agents from big-time agencies sitting on manuscripts, lying to clients, and basically falling down on the job. Is it a symptom of being overworked and overly optimistic about what they can handle?

Anonymous said...

Ooooh! Ooooh! I guess the agency starts with T too! Sounds like a few of us out there have had a similar experience with big name agency. My, my, how word gets around.

Anonymous said...

Begins with a T? Let me guess. Is the first word....The?

Mark said...

I had one sit on it for six months, and then after a second inuiry pass in a form rejection.

Lady M said...

What do I want in an agent?


To have repsect, to employ common courtesy, to have some availability for me and be fairly prompt at responses (for reasonable requests, spaced reasonably), to have the air of open friendliness and to be business minded and most of all to be blindingly honest, without being rude or harsh.

I don't want them to hold my hand, but sometimes I want them to show me the ropes, if I need to get on them.

I don't expect them to be perfect, but I request that they treat me with common courtesy and respect.

I do expect humor to be a part of every encounter.

Do I want a "soul-sister" or "soul-brother" out of an agent?

Not necessarily, but if that happens, I'm not going to scream bloody murder.

I demand honesty and integrity from myself, and I suppose that would be characteristic of what I look for in someone else.

So Original Poster...

First I would pull out my photocopy or original of the paper that she had you sign. I would read any fine print on it and ask myself exactly what it was you signed.

Then I would send her an email asking her to please return your email to advise the status of your business arrangement. I would also cc this to the original agent and to the assistant.

If she does not respond within a few days - to a week or two - then it is time to cut your losses - unless... that paper you signed gave her exclusive rights to your material for a specific amount of time.

I would then send her an email advising her that you thank her for her time, but that you were hoping for a more interactive business arrangement. That if she should have need of you, you will be available for any questions.

I wish you well and hope that when you go to search out for an agent that you find one that will meet and exceed your expectations.

I'm a nobody right now, but some day I hope that the right agent will skyrocket me to fame and fortune - as a team. :P

Anonymous said...

Why would you need to sign anything to give an agent 'permission' to read your work???????

Anonymous said...

I'm new to this whole writing/agent/publishing industry, but I have worked the 9-5 type jobs in a high tech industry. In that scenario, I'd have to sign a contract with my employer that set certain expectations of my performance as well as get a job description.

Based on what I'm reading here, agencies and by extent, agents, are effectively keeping their employers--us, the writers who have the product that they hope will bring in the bucks for them--in the dark. What is to prevent us from adding what our expectations are? For example, as we're the employer, could we not insist on them agreeing to keeping us in the loop about what they are doing with the manuscript, who they contact, time frames, etc.? That way, if they don't do their job, we have a predetermined guideline as to when to fire them and look for someone else.

Miss Snark said...

Agents are not employees of clients. If you did "employ" me, you'd pay me a salary, provide an office and materials, pay withholding taxes and social security.

Obviously, that's not the case.

Lady M said...


Ya mean I can't order you to cook and clean?


And I thought I bought the agent, lock-stock-and-barrel when I sent in my first handwritten, all CAPS letter telling you "I can Shpeel evry wurd and make a stury of them wurdz that is soo gud u weel want to bye it."

I may not know much but I learn more every day. *grin*

On that note, I think a good agent/client relationship is about a lot of communication.

Like a used car salesperson who lies to you and sells you that good lookin' Rambler that makes it 5 miles down the road and then falls to pieces as the super glue holding it together comes undone... There are probably some agents who do not share their actions with their clients.

But if you want one that does, you need to let them know upfront and be precise, I would think. AS though you are buying a car - you should look under the hood.

*figuratively - I don't want all the guys saying "Hey baby, come here - I read in a blog that I should be checkin' under your hood.. Vrrrrooom Vrrrroom."*

Miss Snark - do your agreement/contracts say anything regarding communication and explanation of your daily activities, minus bathroom breaks?

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark said, "Agents are not employees of clients..." Oops, my bad. Thankfully you straightened me right out and put me on the right path.

This does prompt questions. Do agents represent the writers or the publishers? (My assumption has been the writers.) And would it be appropriate to put time limits on when the agent should get back to me at various stages of the process, which are extendable by mutual consent?

Anonymous said...

Dude. How about you read through Miss Snark's blog from the beginning?

If you don't know the basics about what an agent does, it's silly to start asking specific questions. Get thee to the Snarkives. You can learn a ton about agents and the publishing industry there.

Lady M said...


I am new to the business, but let's just say the agents are the "middleman" in between the author and the publisher.

An agent gets the books or stories from the author, chooses whether it will actually sell - then the agent decides which publishers to send it to.

The agent forms the contacts and keeps them adequate.

A good agent will be in the know about what specific publishers are interested in publishing - and will have cultivated the contacts... Meaning the publisher will seriously look at their suggestions.

Consider the literary agent as you would a real estate agent.

A good Real Estate agent will get your million dollar home sold for double the price, get people interested, start bidding wars - and then help you select the best offer and assist you with contracts.

That's my take on it.

Technically they employ you - but without you - the writer, they would have no job.

They are compatriots.

They are the only way - 99% of the time to get to a publisher of any merit.

They are also - if they are good - worth their weight in gold. (or Gin...)

Or in my case - CHOCOLATE.

Do study more on what an agent is.

Some key words to think on when thinking of an agent would be:

Loyal, salesworthy, gold, marketing, jack of all trades, good at what they do and most of all: willing to fight to the teeth for what is right.

Sounds like a superhero, you say?


That would be an agent.

Lady M

Anonymous said...

Thank you Lady M for that excellent clarification. The real estate agent analogy is really helpful as I've had to deal with them more than once and can relate.

To anonymous Dude--I have skimmed back over some of the early blogs, and even clicked on links, but as the entries are nearly a year old, some of the links are out of date. Bottom line, I've found some really useful information, but not necessarily what I was looking for.

Hoping you all will give this tyro a bit of slack. *sheepish grin*

Anonymous said...

From the "anonymous Dude" to "anonymous":

Actually, after I posted that, it occurred to me that I was being more than a little rude to you. I am sorry about that.

Thank you for not (despite your perfect justification) snarking me savagely for it. :) Tyros are very welcome here.

Lady M said...

Anon to anon to anon post...

*I hope you understood that*

Your apology in this board impressed me and I just wanted you to know, if you thought no one else noticed it, I did.

It takes a lot to admit you were rude or wrong, regardless of your invisible anon. tag.

So thanks, even though it wasn't directed to me.

Lady M

Ps. what kind of word verification is this? ibmmwkah Grrrrrr...

Anonymous said...

To 'Anonymous Dude' from the object of the first post. Thank you for the apology. I really appreciate it. I agree with Lady M.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." -- Mahatma Gandhi