Dear Miss Snark,
Some months ago a friend put me in touch with his agent. She read my novel (literary fiction), liked it, said she wanted to represent me. Given her profile, and what I knew about from my friend's experience (whose work it took some time to sell, but she persisted and got him a nice two-book deal), I was happy to have her on board and decided to forego the all-out agent search, a process I'd been dreading.
I revised the manuscript and sent it back about 4 months after our initial contact. After that, several emails I sent went unanswered, and on the chance they were getting blocked by an overzealous spam filter, I finally sent a fax, very politely inquiring about the status of my ms, and asking her to simply let me know if her interest in the book had waned since our earlier contact, since I would in that case need to seek representation elsewhere.
I received a prompt email reply, apologizing (not too profusely, it must be said); the ms had been on someone else's desk, she had read it, likes what I've done, thinks it's ready to go, and she attached the agency agreement (which I haven't returned yet).
We did have one phone conversation, but unfortunately I was not in good form and did not ask as many questions as I should have.
Basically I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable with our interactions, and am contemplating looking elsewhere. I'm hoping you can tell me where I stand.
--Must I tell Agent A that I've decided to seek representation elsewhere before contacting other agents?No
--Must I tell other potential agents about the situation with Agent A, and if so, do I name Agent A (note that no submissions have been made)?No
I'm torn about this. Agent A has a fine reputation, and did good work for my friend. She has a huge client list, I know, and I'm afraid this means she takes on lots and lots of projects but maybe doesn't sell so many. I know it means she won't have time to do a lot of hand holding, which is actually okay with me, but I'm also afraid it's going to mean unanswered emails/phone calls when I have questions or things I want to discuss. Most of all, of course, Agent A wants to represent me, and there's not telling whether Agents B-Z (and beyond) will. In fact, during the long period of not hearing from Agent A, I did approach Agent B (who I met and so was able to avoid a messy query process), who turned me down. One rejection, I know, but it gives me the jitters. Thanks for all the good advice.
Ok, let's start with some basics. "Hand holding" is not how one describes answering emails from clients. As everyone who reads this blog knows, I'm as distant as they come, but even I respond to emails from clients or potential clients (ie those I've read and expressed interest in representing) and I don't lose manuscripts for four months.
Second, you have an offer, but you don't have acceptance so technically no contract exists between you. Thus you don't have to tell anyone else you query about Agent Absentminded.
I understand your loathing for the agent querying process. The only person who loathes it more than you is I. However, like caterpillars and cocoons, querying serves a purpose beyond the obvious.
You KNOW what you're getting into if you sign with A; no sympathy from me in six months if you feel slighted, undervalued and unappreciated. The only thing that takes the sting out of that is a big fat sale which it sounds like she can do.
I'm not going to tell you what to do but I am going to tell you to pay attention to what you're seeing. A stands for Absentminded, not Anomaly.