Check please!

Oh most hallowed Snark,

Earlier this year, one of my writing pals signed with an agent we both believed was the cat's meow (down, KY). Since then, my friend has discovered that while her agent may have an excellent track record, she's not on the same wavelength as my friend when it comes to communication. In corresponding with some of the agent's other clients recently, my friend has learned the agent is known for being a little unresponsive and scattered.
*(maybe cause she's selling stuff instead of yapping on the phone?--just a thought)

I'm hoping to avoid the same situation, but I'm not sure when it's appropriate to start asking questions. I've had several requests for fulls recently, and two of my top choice agents have emailed me some specific questions about my career goals, what I'm looking for in an agent relationship, and which other agents are considering the work.

I've done plenty of google searches on both agents and have read everything I can find, but I'm craving specifics about what it's like to work with each of them. I'd love to send a polite inquiry to a couple clients on each agent's list, but I don't know if that's appropriate at this stage.

Is it best to wait until I've got an offer on the table before I start "checking references"? What's the best way to determine, in advance, which agent might be the better fit? I know it's entirely possible neither one will offer representation, but I'm just trying to be prepared.

A devoted Snarkling

It's fine to ask now. No reputable agent is going to care much if you ask clients what it's like to work with them. Reputable agents don't need to worry what anyone will say.

That said, if you're emailing people you don't know, remember that their experience may not translate to yours. I have had clients who were total pains in the ass. I'm sure they thought I was unresponsive cause I was an idiot. My perspective was I was unresponsive cause I hated talking to them. I have a client now who probably wouldn't use the word unresponsive, but he would say he never reaches me on the phone. That's cause he always calls after 7pm or on weekends when I don't answer the phone unless I've made an appointment to speak to someone.


SherryD said...

I can understand wanting a symbiotic relationship with one's agent, but I can't imagine doing research on her personality or "craving specifics." Unless I have an urgent question I can't imagine bugging my agent. What I want her to do is find a publisher for my material. If she has a decent reputation, it's probably because she does her job.

Jennifer Ashley said...

Gracious, on the many writer loops I'm on (w/pubbed and unpubbed), someone is *always* asking for the dirt on agent X who has asked for a full--these inquiring minds want advice from clients who are both happy and unhappy with agent X. We give it to them, on or off the loop. Most writers are happy to help fellow writers find an agent that fits them or steer them clear of the fraudulent ones. If you're on a writer's loop, ask away!! Knowledge is your best ally. (Not everyone is going to work the same way with each agent, of course, which is why you talk to both happy and unhappy.)

Anonymous said...

Original poster here:
Thanks, Miss Snark! As always, your advice is supremely helpful and you're just an all around swell person. Hugs to KY, too.

And just to clarify, neither my friend nor I are expecting daily phone calls with agents to shoot the breeze. In my friend's case, she occasionally (like maybe once every 6-8 weeks) sends an email to the agent to clarify something in the publisher's contract or to ask for a status update. The emails almost always go unanswered. The agent's other clients have indicated this is standard operating procedure with this agent. My friend wishes she'd known that beforehand.

THAT'S what I'm hoping to avoid.

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I wish my agent had a cranial port whereby at various points in time during the day, I could ping him and find out what he thought of me. Because of course, given the rapid pace of a manuscript's progress through the editorial gamut, hourly updates would make a difference. :-)

Then I laugh at myself and stick to the plan we agreed upon, which is that I email him once a month for an update if he hasn't already emailed me. This works. It keeps me sitting on my hands and out of his hair.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent question.

In some cases, an agent's reputation is based on the experience or success of a limited number of clients.

(Mr. X who is generating a lot of revenue is happy, but Ms. Y who isn't, can't get a call returned or the feedback she needs.)

Conducting research on how the agent works is important--but may not lead you to what you'd like to know because, ultimately, you can't really judge how the relationship will work until you're in it.

What you consider as professional communication or adequate response time may not be the same for the agent: How an office is managed reflects the personality of the agent. If your friend thinks her agent is unresponsive and scattered, the agent probably is unresponsive and scattered.

And, as Miss Snark said, in one case, she was unresponsive because she hated the client.

Good luck.

WitLiz Today said...

Where your friend went wrong is following the cat's meow. I have a cat that I wouldn't follow one foot, much less get within say a 2000 yards. Yeah, sometimes the cat manages to find me and then it's all over--scratches that is.

The search for an agent doesn't have to be like the search for the Holy Grail. I don't understand why writers agonize over this process. You know how to avoid the scammers. You've got a ton of agents who have excellent websites and blogs, and their credentials and personality are stamped all over the internet and yet you still agonize over landing the perfect lollipop; a lollipop that doesn't blog, but has a "name".....like Binky. I'm sorry but that pretty much puts her at the end of my list. But that's just me. I'm quirky that way.

What did KFJ say? Ask not what your agent can do for you, but what can you do for your agent?

This isn't match.com. Really.

Stacy said...

Miss Snark: "I have had clients who were total pains in the ass. I'm sure they thought I was unresponsive cause I was an idiot. My perspective was I was unresponsive cause I hated talking to them."

anonymous: "And, as Miss Snark said, in one case, she was unresponsive because she hated the client."

What people hear has absolutely nothing to do with what was said, apparently.

angrylil'asiangirl said...

in my personal and my professional life, my number one rule is: don't be a dumb ass.

how this applies in general is that if you knock politely at someone's front door and the door doesn't open, even if you see the curtain faintly rustle, you should get the hint that the person inside really doesn't give a poo about your existence and wants you to go away. the person inside has no obligation to open the door for you just because you're there.

i would only knock a second time if the person inside was my mother. only your mother has no right to ignore you.