Dear Miss Snark;
I've been thinking of breaking up with my agent. He's a great guy but has had my manuscript locked in a cage for over two years without any results. His slow pace is beginning to annoy me. My question is this: Since he charges for photocopying and mailings (which were meant to be paid when he sold the book), am I obligated to pay him for these charges, as the book was never sold? We don't have a contract, just a handshake deal.
You have not provided a key piece of information here. How many submissions have been made? Your language -- "locked in a cage" "without any results" "slow pace"-- reflects your frustration with no results, but it doesn't tell me about the effort.
I've got things here I haven't sold in two years either. Several. I've racked up about $500 in mailing, messengering and postage on each one. If they pull the plug, I eat the cost. My contract says that specifially: "expenses are billed when the project is sold".
If your agent doesn't have an arm's length list of submissions and rejections, your problem isn't who pays the expenses.
If he does, you might want to ask what those rejections are saying and either revise, or start on something new.
In any case, expenses are deducted from the proceeds of a sale. You are not obligated to pay for expenses unless the work sells.