O, most munificent, o heaven's gleaming ray, Miss Snark,
Agent X and I had a fantastic first six months together editing and re-editing and polishing my novel. We wrote or talked almost every single day. X was excited, I was excited, and then the manuscript went out. We went from muy caliente to meh after I refused to do a third uncontracted rewrite for a specific editor. I did the first cheerfully, the second grudgingly, and refused the third because no offer had materialized and I was fairly certain one wouldn't.
After that, X shopped the novel to a few other editors, and the first editor rejected it, but said she'd be willing to read it again if I went another direction. She didn't ask for a minor tweak- think "I like the characters, but could they be hired assasins on a secret mission instead of kindergarten teachers trying to start a union?"- but Agent X was hot for me to rewrite again. I refused.
And now, I think I'm getting dumped by the Silent Withdrawal method mentioned in your blog a few days ago- long silences (almost two months, now, more than a month last time) from X's side, and no reply to a single status query e-mail in over a week. Rather than sit and cry about it, I feel like I should make the break official by writing the termination letter specified in our contract, but I don't know what to say. I really value all the hard work X put into the pre-submission editing of the novel. It was a lot of thought and consideration for no compensation, and it made my novel so much better. Besides that, I'm uncertain about everything- maybe this is standard operating procedure? Maybe my expectations are too high? Maybe I should have done more rewrites?
So I guess I'm asking two questions: it's the right time to break up, right? And since I suspect it is, what do I say? What would you expect to see from one of your clients, if one of them were foolheaded enough to abandon you just prior to drowning herself in the Hudson River? (Where else could one go after Miss Snark, after all?)
Many thanks and sirloin niblets for KY
I find this fascinating. Your agent is all hot and excited during editing but when it comes time to actually buckle down and sell this puppy, after six attempts, s/he loses interest? How does this agent earn a living?
I like sitting around talking about plot points as much as the next person but it doesn't put sirloin on the poodle snout.
My colleagues and I talk about this syndrome a lot and a very smart friend of mine said "editing isn't agenting". I have to remind myself of this almost every day cause the lure of editing is it feels like work, and it feels like getting things done and it is those things for you but it's not for me.
It sounds like your agent loves editing and doesn't much like the suck it up and sell it part. Dog knows there are decades I feel the same way.
First thing is, you must call her up and say "hey, what's the 411 on this". Don't ask if she's lost enthusiasm. Ask specifically what her plan is. If she doesn't have one, that's a major clue that she's not going to be shopping this around much.
If you do send a termination notice, don't try to soften the blow. She's going to be unhappy cause she put in a lot of time. That's not your responsibility. You simply say that you've come to a parting of ways, her work is appreciated, and thank you very much for her effort.