11.28.2006

Priming the clue gun

Hi Miss Snark.

I have an agent who I think took me on simply because my books do well (she signed me on after my first sale and I've sold about 1.5 million books since, mainly in Europe). I've noticed that she doesn't seem very excited about my work, maybe because she loves the award winners and mine are mass market. Last year she made only 2 submissions for me. Only one was in the US, and that was a specific submission I asked her to make. She knows I'm not happy, but almost seems to brush me off - very nicely, of course. I don't understand her blase attitude when my books have a growing fan base and a lot of untapped potential.

Am I wrong in feeling dissatisfied?

Signed: Anonymous, to protect my agent, who I actually do like.


You like her? What do you say about people you don't like?

You get to be on the wrong end of the clue gun for several reasons today (but don't worry, I like you, I really like you).

First, you're unhappy. Whether that is right or wrong isn't the question. You ARE unhappy.

Second, you're not talking about this with the ONE person who is in a position to address the issue: your agent.

Third: Unless your agent tracked you down on the streets of Laredo and signed you to a contract at the wrong end of a six shooter, YOU queried her and she signed you up. Try not to think of yourself as put upon by the Fates here.


You can either discuss this with her, or not.
You can either leave the agency, or not.
You can either feel sorry for yourself or take action.

Wallowing around in "my agent doesn't like me" while cashing the royalty checks is the behavior of a clueless and self absorbed whiner. Since I'm certain that's not you I'll be expecting to hear you've taken action.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

hey, Miss Snark, that was a bit harsh. Agents, like everyone else, can be lazy. And if this author is doing so well, the agent may well be resting on her author's laurels and taking the easy money. I don't see wallowing here, but a concerned author working through their possible options. At the least, the agent is doing a very poor job of communicating - if she's only done a couple of submissions, it's odd that she's not explaining her strategy to the author, rather than leaving them feeling confused and dissatisfied. You know that good communication is key to the author/agent relationship. Better that the agent informs the author honestly of what is going on, rather than brush them off because they don't want to tell them they're not making the deals they hoped to make. Only two submissions? With an author published in Europe? There should be a ton of translation rights sales in European countries going on. Something is wrong here and your reaction is much too dismissive.

Tattieheid said...

Anonymous 11/28 you must have read a different post to the one I have.

You know that good communication is key to the author/agent relationship.

That part of your comment is relevant but in this case it is for the author to go and speak to the agent. It's the author that's not happy.

The rest is just conjecture because we don't know anything about the agent, the author or the published works.

To have sold that many books in the european market it is highly possible foreign rights have been sold extensively. We have no way of knowing whether the agent is doing her job, working to a master plan or sitting on her ass counting coins. The only person that can find out and make that judgement is the author.

Spot on as usual Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

I signed with an agent 1/06 and he submitted my manuscript at the end of May. I have received comments about some rejections "it crosses genres," or "the theme is to Medieval," but never a copy of a rejection letter ; these comments only after I asked about editor responses. My agent many times has emailed me and stated that he would call me Monday or read a new novel he encouraged me to write and said he would call me because he was reading it on the way to the Frankfurt Fair. None of this ever happened. Well, the "love is gone," as one blogging agent once described this. I signed for one year, which is this agent's standard contract. I guess I need to wait until 1/07 and give a call. Meanwhile I'm working on a new novel because I will NOT email him until then. Funny how we place our happiness in the hands of someone we never met, don't know what they look like, etc. But that's business.

Misty said...

Miss Snark wasn't dismissive - she was simply making the point that the author should be asking his agent these questions.

Anonymous said...

I think anonymous #2 and I have the same agent.

Same situation. I signed for a year, and my book was submitted once. I email (the 'preferred' contact method) and get no response. I call and he's annoyed that I'm checking up. I'm told my book will be submitted again, but it never is.

Nothing to do but sit and wait out the contract, and learn a very good lesson.

It's not always the author that's dropping the ball -- some agents just don't want to be bothered unless it's on their schedule. Usually this becomes rather abundantly clear (as in my case) and then you can decide to either play by their rules (since it's obviously working for them) or you can pack up your toys and go home.

It sucks, but hey. Not all business is good business.

ORION said...

A good agent welcomes questions and a good client knows when to ask them.
I do not pester my agent with questions that she has already answered, but I know if I send an email with one - she'll respond.
I am so amazed at the lack of communication in many of these relationships.
If whenever I emailed, I got no answer, or my phone calls were not returned - then I would be seriously upset and I would take immediate action, not send emailed questions to anonymous blogs.
As much as we all adore Miss Snark, she is unable to intervene for you in this matter!
PS Readability of this comment = 9.2

Anonymous said...

Update - I wrote this initial email to Miss Snark a couple weeks ago while still in the information gathering stage, and since then have talked more bluntly with my agent. Now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she'll do the things she says she will.

Anonymous said...

Writing is a lonely business. Those of us lucky to have plenty of writer friends can ask each other this kind of stuff. Those who don't, ask Miss Snark. Nothing wrong with that, and the author was careful to frame their letter without snarking their agent. There was no need, based on the letter I read, to throw around words like 'wallowing', 'clueless' or 'self-absorbed whiner', even hypothetically. That was my point above, and I don't see anyone answering it.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it will dismay Miss Snark to learn this, but some agents' contracts purposely eliminate all ways for an unhappy author to sign off and take her pages elsewhere, even in death. The contract I saw that did so had a clause that allowed the agent to kick the author out any time any reason. So if that's your agent, you might be stuck until she's more sick of you than she is happy about your $$.

Anonymous said...

The advice is a little harsh, maybe, but it's true. Many of us reading the blog would kill to be in this person's position - to me this email smacks too much of 'pity me, pity me'. All the author needs to do is TALK to her agent - who hasn't been mean, or done anything wrong - and simply ask what's happening.

If the author doesn't like the reply, he or she can move on - rather than moaning (boasting) to us about how her 1.5 million sales don't make the agent she picked too excited!

Rachel

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark's advice was a little harsh, but Miss Snark is not a coddler.

This publishing business has no user's manual, so it's hard to know if we're the one with the problem, or our concerns are justified. Miss Snark offers a valuable reality check.

tlh said...

I'm no lawyer, but isn't a contract that has no outs for one party unenforceable or something?

Might be worth it for you folks with permanently binding contracts to look into that.

Anonymous said...

The advice is a little harsh, maybe, but it's true. Many of us reading the blog would kill to be in this person's position - to me this email smacks too much of 'pity me, pity me'. All the author needs to do is TALK to her agent - who hasn't been mean, or done anything wrong - and simply ask what's happening.

If the author doesn't like the reply, he or she can move on - rather than moaning (boasting) to us about how her 1.5 million sales don't make the agent she picked too excited!


Get over your jealousy. Authors who are successful have just as many fears and feelings as pity-poor-you, who haven't broken into print yet. Your attitude is as bad as a successful author would be who carped at you because you're only a wannabe. Get a clue and quit letting envy rule your common sense.

Miss Snark was right in her advice, but lack of tact and diplomacy are nothing to write home to Grandmother Snark about.

What I read in the author's letter was worry that she was being too harsh on her agent, that maybe she was asking for more than she should, and not wanting to look ungrateful.

After hammering Ann Stuart to pieces for her lack of diplomacy, Miss Snark certainly flopped sides in hammering this author for her over-use of it.

desert snarkling said...

Many of us reading the blog would kill to be in this person's position

This is too often used as a prelude to telling a professional writer trying to manage their career: Shut up, you don't have anything to worry about, you're published after all.

Writers don't stop having career issues or needing a bit of career issues once they get published--if anything, the issues become more complicated.

There's a whole world of concerns beyond "Gosh, I wish I could get published!" And they're much harder to find straight answers to--one of the great things about Miss Snark is that she's willing to respond to these questions, too, and never tells anyone, "You're published, so quit whining."

She finds other, better reasons to tell us to stop whining, instead. :-)

Julie Leto said...

Just because someone has seen a contract like that doesn't mean an author has to sign it. I have no pity for authors who would sign such hooey.

Anonymous said...

I know that 'me too' comments contribute very little to the debate, but Rachel's comment (above) says exactly what I wanted to say.

Tattieheid said...

tlh said I'm no lawyer, but isn't a contract that has no outs for one party unenforceable or something?

The short answer is it depends on a range of factors including The particular Country or State Law that applies, the full terms of the contract, the behaviour of the parties during the contract, custom and practice, the mood of the judge and whether fraudulent intent can be proven. Along with a range of other factors.

This is viewed as a Business Contract not a consumer contract so there is normally little or no Statutory protection it all relies on common law. The relative knowledge and bargaining positions of the parties at the time it was signed are considered to be irrlelvant in many countries. There is a presumption you took legal advice and tough luck if you didn't.

Many one-sided contracts of this nature have been held to be enforceable over the years so it is important you understand the implications of any contract you sign.

Many contracts of this nature can still in fact be broken but it usually turns out expensive and dependent on a good lawyer. Plenty of high profile examples in the music industry.

I'm in the UK, have studied law, including contract and agency, but I am not a lawyer either. If anybody feels they are trapped in a contract of this type get good advice from someone that knows the up to date legal position in your area. Sooner rather than later.

LadyBronco said...

Wow, There's an awful lot of anonymous commenters on this subject. Hmmm....

I have to throw my 2 cents in, tho.
I totally see the need for an unobjective opinion on this one. Sometimes, a dis-interested opinion is what it takes to light the fire, so-to-speak. I also see the need for this author to stand up for himself/herself and say "HEY! Stop treating me like I don't count!"
The author in question may not get the response he/she wants, but the author will feel much better about hinself/herself when that happens.

Richard said...

Are all writers and would-be writers this caustic to each other?

Anonymous said...

no we're not, Richard. I was shocked at Miss Snark's unusually snappy tone and started the comments rolling by saying that in this case it seemed totally unjustified. Most writers are very nice to each other, I assure you (and because writers talk to each other a lot, we all know who the few nasty ones are).