Your Agent is Seriously Ill

I have an agent who has been shopping a novel around to A-list publishers. Hadn't heard much since October; not even a bill for copying. Thought he'd given up. Couple of e-mails on handling a pitch to a tv net got no response for several weeks...until yesterday. His wife informs me he in in hospital waiting for a liver transplant. Feeling lousy on every possible front. What to do?

Oh man, this is just the worst kind of situation. You feel like a rat for enclosing a "you're fired" note with a get well card, but this is your livlihood and it's not a good thing to have it stalled.

First, get on the net and find out what happens with a liver transplant patient. What are the odds he will get one? Do patients recover enough to work? Is it more than possible, is it likely he can resume work? How long does that take? I'd find this out from the net rather than asking Mrs Agent cause she's got her hands full and some of the answers may not be pretty.

If this is a long standing relationship, and you think he'll recover enough to work in six months, hang in there. Otherwise, I'd start shopping for a new agent, and ask the new agent to act as a co-agent and split any commissions with the former agent for a while.

And you stay in touch with the former agent, and his wife, and you offer up whatever form of communication with the deity that you do that he may be restored to good health lickety split. Goat sacrifices optional.


Anonymous said...

To get you started:



If you know any medical doctors, ask them for information. See if they'll ask a buddy who does liver transplant. Depending on your locale (Big City vs. Tiny Town) there may be more transplant surgeons wandering around than you think.

What you're really interested in is prognosis. If he's on the transplant list, he's already in trouble. The sicker he gets, the higher he'll go on the list. He could get a liver tomorrow morning or could wait and wait and die waiting.

Looking on the net, you want to get your information from peer reviewed journals, JAMA, that sort of thing, not from the sites set up to give info to patients and families, such as I've listed above. Those endeavor not to scare people to death, so while the truth is there, it's couched in 'happy' terms.

The biggest concerns post-op are rejection and infection. Both are concerns for the life of the liver. Remember, though, even the healthiest looking agent can drop dead while out jogging.

Good luck. It's a lousy situation, for both you and your agent.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes:

I know nothing about liver transplants, but I know a whale of a lot about kidney transplants.

Transplant surgery is a lot more commonplace than it used to be, and, by sheer irony, AIDS has given transplant doctors a whole lot more info and insight into people living with suppressed immune systems.

A friend of mine went through a kidney transplant about five years ago ... did marvelous and is a LOT healthier now than he was before the transplant.

Is there a possibility of live donors in liver transplants? Where perhaps part of a relative's liver could be used? That cuts down on the rejection substantially ... but, then, my friend went with a cadaver donor (highest possibility of a rejection), and he's done quite well.

And yes, it is sad to say that many people on the transplant list do die before they get a transplant. One thing Miss Snark and Anonymous didn't suggest was to sign your donor card and and tell your family that you won't be needing your organs when you meet St. Pete at the Pearly Gates.

Really, it's the ultimate in recycling, and you can save many, many lives by donating your organs upon your death rather than letting them become worm food.

It's also very possible that this guy knew he was sick for awhile, and has made arrangements for that ... maybe now is not the best time to ask, "Hey, bud, what's shakin' with my book?" But a tactful question (about what plans he's made for his business) to Mrs. Agent or (preferably) to any of his associates might be in order.

Not to be a total jerk about it, you could frame it like this: "This must be a really difficult time for you ... Was this sudden? Did you guys have any warning? Is there anyone helping your husband out with his business? I do hope you've some support."

If she says, "Oh, yes, he's made arrangements with his best bud Agent X to split commissions," then hie thyself to Agent X and say, "Hey, what's shakin' with my book?"

If she says, "We've been battling this for months/years," then you need to start looking for an agent with a healthier liver AND a healthier streak of honesty and commitment to his clients ... but split the commissions, as Miss Snark suggested.

Let this be a lesson to all lone-wolf agents out there that they need a Plan B in place ... because in New York, you could always be flattened when you tumble out of a pedicab and into the path of a Mack truck. And you could just be maimed -- not dead, in which case you really DO need a Plan B.

Anonymous said...

Liver transplants are different from kidney transplants b/c people only have one liver, so there's no such thing as a "live" transplant. You have to wait for someone to die with a suitable liver. And the list for livers is long, unfortunately (many chronic alocoholics end up needing livers).

If you do start reading professional journals, make sure that you can understand them (those articles are written for other professionals, not lay people).

What a terrible situation; everyone involved has my sympathies.

susanw said...

FWIW, I have a friend who's now had *two* liver transplants, one at 21, one 8-10 years later when her body rejected the first one. In both cases, she was in terrible shape right up until the transplant came through, and then recovered very well and went back to her normal life. But it's major surgery, to say the least, and it takes time.

Basically, if your agent gets a transplant in time, there's no reason he can't do a great job for you for many years to come. But there's no way to know if that will happen, and you *are* looking at several months where he won't be doing much work, best-case.

What a tough situation! Best of luck to you both.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I'm the first anonymous above:

Live donor liver transplants are done, with varying degrees of success. That's because the liver is a regenerative organ and, like the kidneys, you don't need all of it functioning to live. Generally part of the right lobe is taken. For the donor, the liver will regenerate on that side.

Unfortunately, liver transplant is not as 'simple' (if organ transplant can ever called simple) as a kidney transplant. It's prognosis is not as good and survival times beyond transplant not as long.

I urge the author to look through her address book for anybody in the medical or research field who can point her to good information on the subject. Beyond that, fulminant liver failure is rare, but it has been known to happen. So, it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the agent, presuming he's not on life-support, what arrangements he's made for his clients.

Again, best of luck. A very sad situation.

Anonymous said...

Seems like there would/should be a clause in the contract to cover when a person becomes disabled or deceased. It's common in business. Seems like a prudent measure given the unfortunate and unexpected turns life can take. Miss S, have you ever seen this?
- Dan

Anonymous said...

One of my best friends received a liver transplant. Here is the scenario... If your agent is in the hospital, he's in trouble. Most recipients are wandering the street with a beeper if they are near the top of the liver transplant list. My friend was extremely ill (and very green) and still wandered the streets until the day the liver arrived. When an expected recipient takes a turn or the worse, they go in the hospital. "Getting sicker" does not move you any further ahead in the liver line. Livers are scare. The line is long and if the doctors determine you are too sick to receive a liver and live, the patient dies in the hospital. Very sad but fact. It is a bad sign your agent is in the hospital. It will probably be all said and done with a couple of months. My friend got a liver and became totally "normal" for over 15 years and then he died from complications. Any note you send at this time about your book will probably not be read or welcome. I'm sorry. I know it is your life but this is his life.

kathie said...

This is so tough for your agent, his family and you too. I think you can genuinely offer your concern and also inquire what his wishes are in terms of selling your work. Though times like this it is hard to think of anything but the person in question, they can't be upset that you'd need to know what to do next. Good luck to all involved.

ColoradoGuy said...

Most of the comments made above are on the mark. I am an ICU physician and care for liver transplant patients all of the time. It is true that many die waiting for a liver. It is also true that most livers come from the recently deceased; living donor programs exist, but they are controversial because they carry serious ethical issues, mainly that the donor may die from the procedure.

These days the most common cause of liver failure leading to transplant is infection with hepatitis C virus.

Statistics vary, but in general, 90% of those who get a successful transplant are alive 5 years later, although many continue to be ill in small or large ways. Still, many, many liver recipients go back to living nearly normal lives, in the 5-10 year time frame at least.

Bottom line: if your agent gets a liver, he/she has a good chance of being back working for you in 4-6 months or so.