3.28.2007

Be Miss Snark

Hello Miss Snark

Last year I sent my unpublished novel to an agent in N Y.
I was gobsmacked when they said they wanted to represent me. But doubts crept in however, because quite simply, they answered me too soon I felt. within a week. They also wanted money for a critique-$90. Now I know this isn't a great amount, but I was told to steer clear of agents who ask for money.

I then checked, and lo and behold, they are in the worst top twenty agencies.
I approached four other agencies. One didn't answer. One was a simple dear John, and the other two praised the book. One said it was a real page turner, but couldn't represent, which I found strange.

Anyway, I decided to self publish, and i've haven't done too badly.
But let me stress this. No matter what these people say about no agent is better than a bad one. I wish now, I had went with them. It couldn't have been any worse.

I have a sequel finished. Should I approach them again?

Thank you



Here's your chance to offer some well chosen, thoughtful advice. Have at it.

63 comments:

Merry said...

No!!!! No!!!! No!!!!

Go ahead and query - OTHER AGENTS!!! But don't go back to the one who wanted money for a critique unless you'd like to pay out and wind up self published while paying an 'agent' or worse, pay out through the nose and wind up not published at all.

Query someone else. There's a reason this one's on the worst agent list - NOT A REAL AGENT.

Anonymous said...

no no no no no no no

(how's that?)

Buffalo buffalo buffo said...

yeah youse should oughta went with them again this time

Virginia Miss said...

No, no, no. There's a reason that agent got on the top twenty list, and it's not one that will get you a bona fide publishing contract.

Query widely, but avoid the twenty worst agents.

She Who Shall Not Be Named said...

Don't be a nitwit.

Real agents don't charge you reading fees, critique fees, or any other such nonsense.

They get paid when you get paid.

Do your homework, find the real deal, and don't be a pansy about it. You have this dream, you love the work you do, so don't disrespect yourself or your work by falling for a scam like this.

Anonymous said...

don't do it, don't do it, you'll regret later. Don't give in just because you want to be published (by anyone.)

McKoala said...

Please don't go to that bad agent. It sounds like you had a decent book, that three out of four agents took the time to compliment (in an industry where they mostly send out form responses). If you had queried more agents you might have found one that wanted to represent you. So do it! Query widely!

LadyBronco said...

*borrows the clue gun*

No, No, No!

NO!

If 3 out of 4 LEGITIMATE agents liked your story, then keep querying, my friend.

You will find one to represent you.

Anonymous said...

Oh My Yes -
Requery the agent! And while you're at it, please send me the same amount. Actually double it... And your car keys, any clothing items with labels like Escada or Juicy, all unopened martini mix in your cupboard, and any first edition signed books you might have. Oh! And if genetic testing turns out alright (which, of course, you will pick up the tab for), I'd take your first born as well...
DK-M

Anonymous said...

That's an excellent idea! You have good instincts. Ms. Snark is bonkers. Nothing wrong with an agent charging you the necessary fees to process your work. In fact, I'm starting an agency tomorrow, so send that check to me. If you want, you can also send your manuscript. Please print on one side only, so I can use the other for my own novel. It's OK if you don't follow my advice. There's another just like you coming in the next minute.

Anonymous said...

Why the hell would you even be considering this? What do you think this agent could possibly do for you? They don't sell books, so why are you even thinking of giving them money? If you just want to give your money to someone, donate to The Red Cross.

Would you go into Best Buy and hand over $90 to a clerk and then walk out again without a product?

Let me put it in clear words for you: YOU WON'T BE GETTING A GODDAMN THING IF YOU GIVE THIS AGENT YOUR MONEY!

Mike said...

Erm, NO !!!

Stay the hell away from any agent that asks for cash upfront.

Oh, and make sure you get any phrases like "I had went" out of the manuscript or nobody will take it as it will be unreadable.

December Quinn said...

You got rejected by a handful of agents so you self-published?

Don't give up so soon next time. There are hundreds of agents out there. Work harder on your book. Polish it, cut it, edit it, study books you've read to see what makes them work and apply what you've learned to yours. Get a few books on writing--Self-Editing for the Fiction Writer pops immediately to mind, as does The First Five Pages. Read those books. Apply what you learned there.

Then go to agentquery.com and start querying. Don't give up until they've all rejected you. Then start querying publishers directly.

Once they've all rejected you, you can think about self-publishing if you're still so convinced your book deserves to be published.

This is not an easy business. This is not the kind of business that moves quickly, or that makes you feel all warm and yummy about yourself. You'll have to get used to that if you really want to be in it.

Self-publishing after only a few rejections is taking the easy way out. And you see now where that got you, right?

Metaphysical Speculator said...

Let me get this straight. You approached a total of five agents (out of hundreds actively reading manuscripts), then decided to self-publish? That's like resigning yourself to a life of masturbation after five girls turn you down for a date.

Okay, the first one wanted to charge you $90. She's a prostitute (a cheap one, but still). She'll make you feel good (I have an agent! I have an agent!) but you can't bring her home to meet your mother.

The second one didn't answer. She thinks you smell.

The third wrote "Dear John." She thinks you smell and feels sorry for you.

The fourth and fifth praised the book. They think you're well-hung, but they prefer strong, silent types. Who don't smell.

Yep, that's pretty much everybody! Guess you're going to get some callouses on your right hand!

M. G. Tarquini said...

Query widely. Five agents is not querying widely. That's querying narrowly. Very narrowly.

And re: going back to the people who wanted to charge you money -

um...no.

Alphabet said...

I'm half-certain that Miss Snark herself constructed this as a perfect example of the mistakes that authors make when they've completed a manuscript and are excited and nervous and confused.

The clue? The correspondent says s/he approached a total of five agencies, two of whom responded with non-form letters. That's a 40% rate of making some impression on people who are professionally hard to impress.

If real, try another 100 agents; if the 30-50 on whom you make some impression don't yield one or two who go all the way to representation, self-publish again. Otherwise give the $90 to the homeless or buy chocolate.

confused said...

"I decided to self publish, and i've haven't done too badly."

"No matter what these people say about no agent is better than a bad one. I wish now, I had went with them."

Aside from being ungrammatical, isn't this contradictory? You claim you did all right through self-publishing. Surely that's better than throwing cash at a criminal?

Anonymous said...

One said it was a real page turner, but couldn't represent, which I found strange. Agents are supposed to sell books. They may be in love with your book, but if they can't sell it, they have to pass on it, nothing strange about that.

Avoid the agents that wanted money and feel free to requery the others AFTER you've done your research on them. Look them up on AgentQuery.com and see if Writer Beware has any outstanding complaints about them. (If they're not on the site, you can email and ask them). Also, make sure you know what works the agents in question represents and only choose those that represent work like yours. After you've done your homework and avoid the scammers, finding an agent will give you much less doubts - even if they reply quickly.

ozal said...

Some quick facts, just in case this isn't a joke:

1. The Top Twenty Worst are not worst because they're so-so agents. They're on that list because they actively rip writers off. Their purpose in representing you is to suck money directly out of you. They are not going to sell your book.

2. Having no agent leaves you with all the options you ever had. Having a bad agent can burn your bridges with publishers, get you lousy money in deals, and leave you stuck with clauses no writer wants in their contract. Having a rip-off pretend agent leaves you with a damaged bank balance, no money in deals, and a reputation as a nitwit.

Get a real agent, submit direct, or continue to self-publish. Don't feed the cane toads.

flem snopes said...

Ever since one of my dates pointed at the big arrow on the mall map and said, "But how do they know we're here?", I've had trouble distinguishing real cluelessness from fake. But assuming this isn't the creation of Miss Snark's sister, Miss Spoof, I'd suggest the questioner pick up some books on writing and grammar before approaching any agent at all.

Cairsten said...

Let's see. They asked for money, which is the first and most telling sign of a scam. They're among the top twenty worst. Yet ... somehow ... you feel you have missed an opportunity in not taking them up on their generous offer?

What can I say? A fool and his money are not only soon parted, but are meant to be parted. And be honest: nothing we say, in assent or dissent, will make a difference. Some people are born wolves. Others are born, well, sheep. It is the will of the Universe, writ so amazingly clear that your own heart is urging you to offer yourself up for the fleecing. Eventually, you'll find your way to the shears. It may as well be now.

sylvia said...

Before you go throwing money away, put your head right here on this block.

*swings the cluebat forcefully*

I've always wanted to do that.

Angela said...

If there is, just one thing I have learned by reading this blog is this. If an agent asks for money to represent you, then it should also be ringing very loud warning bells complete with flashing lights. Someone with more experience is bound to correct me if I am wrong, but you should not pay agents until you have signed and have agreed on expenses.

Do the research, get to know the agent, look at whom else they represent and their record of accomplishment and then start approaching them. As a former teacher used to say to me if there is, something to get a tattoo of it would be that.

Linda said...

No matter what the scam agent says, they're not going to get you published. They make their money off writers for exactly the reason you state, make the writer feel really good, and have their hand out. But sell your book? Why should they bother? They make their money from writers who think that it's better than nothing. Nothing is not published. Nothing and out of $$$ is what you'll have with a scam agent.

But the truth is that you didn't even try to shop your book around. You only queried four agents and then gave up! When you've queried a 100, then you can complain because you've really done the work--and then you continue to write your next book and think about what you can do to improve your book so that you can get an agent interested in it.

KingM said...

First, if you only queried four other agents and had some decent interest, you gave up WAY too easily. I would think it would take thirty, forty agents to detect a trend.

As for the scam agent, two things. First, your advice will be crap. You know that, don't you? Second, by offering your blood to the parasite, you will be feeding that person and enabling them to stick around to sucker in the next group of newbies. Don't do it.

Instead, work on your next book. Use what you've learned here to get it better next time.

Diana Peterfreund said...

Here's how it could be worse:

a) You'd still not have a contract with a real publisher AND you'd be out a whole heck of a lot more money.

b) Instead of self-publishing and keeping the rights, the scam agent would "sell" you to a scam publisher who would make you pay more than the average self-publishing company (which you say you have already used) for a fraction of the rights and profit.

c) Instead of your book going into the slush pile at a publishing house, the way it would if you were agentless and submitting over the transom, where, though small, your book does have an itsy bitsy chance of getting read someday by someone who works at the publishers, your book will never actually be sent to a publisher at all, because scam agencies don't do that, and if, on the wild off chance that they do, the publisher, knowing this agent is a scam, simply recycles the pages.

Trust me, it could have been a LOT worse.

Try again with real agents, and don't give up after four.

nitwitness said...

Send your MS to me along with the money. You'll end up with the same feeling and I'll be richer.

amy said...

Hi there,
Please, don't go with one of these "agents." It's like going to a "doctor." I suggest you read up at www.accrispin.blogspot.com and learn all about how people who go with "agents" get screwed so that you can clear your mind of these crazy thoughts and help you back on to the right track.
Best,
Amy

Anonymous said...

That's like saying a bad wife is better than no wife.

Karen said...

You could try not doing EVERYTHING WRONG!

Read all of the previous posts on Miss Snark's blog. Then you'll know it goes like this:

1. Research agents.

2. Send QUERIES to appropriate agents. Do not send the entire ms to anyone - send only what they request in their guidelines.

3. QUERY WIDELY. Five is not enough to give up.

4. Don't use the word gobsmacked.

Okay, that last one was mine, but honestly, wtf?

Elektra said...

No. Nein. minime. Non. Não. Nr.

Capisce?

Judy Schneider said...

If an actual, reputable agent said the book was a page-turner, I'd have someone with a strong handle on the English language edit the manuscript (with a fine-toothed comb) and send it back out to top agents. There's a reason the agent didn't want to represent it. If it didn't have plot/character problems (page-turners often don't), then it might have been mechanics. Give that a try.

BuffySquirrel said...

Why do you wish you'd gone with the fee-charging agent? Do you like fattening the wallets of scammers? If so, I've got some phish emails you can have!

Those agents aren't only listed in the Worst Twenty because they charge fees. They're also there because they don't make sales. Ever.

If you'd signed with them, you'd still have wasted your money and your book would still be unpublished. I suppose you would also have some encouraging letters meant to stroke your ego and keep you handing over the cash.

You'd be better off investing time and effort in your writing rather than money. Find a critique partner--someone who'll give you an honest opinion of your work in return for your honest opinion of theirs. Borrow books from the library about grammar and creative writing. Read widely. Write, edit, submit.

The Worst Twenty make their money from you, not from selling your book. Don't be a cash cow!

stepawayfromthecruelstick said...

"I wish I had went with them." I'll try to drop my cruel stick here. If that's your grammar, you need to brush up on the basics for most agents to review your work. Agents are like husbands. You can have a husband who beats you about the head and shoulders and takes all of your money - and go to your 20th class reunion with a husband, like all the other girls in your class. Or, you can go alone, feel a little sad all your friends are married, but have a sack full of money and no bruises on your face. Oh, and your dignity too. Keep writing. Keep honing your skills.

Anonymous said...

Yessiree - You shoulda went with them, especially if your book is in the Hillbilly Gothic genre.

Anonymous said...

You are certainly well within your rights to approach the agent you know to be a scammer. But know this going in: if you choose to do so, you will get EXACTLY what you deserve.

(And FYI, a speedy response is not necessarily a sign of a scam. My agent is totally legit - her blog is listed over on Miss Snark's sidebar - and it took her exactly a week to read my query, request the full, and offer respresentation. And that included mailing time.)

chris

Pay ME Pal! said...

The good news:

You checked before you signed. Congratulations on not being a TOTAL nitwit. The Snarkives are your friend.

Now, repeat after me:

"Money flows to the author."

That's good. Now this one:

"Querying "widely" means just that. I will do my homework on agents before querying again."

Excellent. This is the last one:

"Because they have taken an interest in my dilemma, I will send every poster in these comments a critique fee of $90."

That should do it. Have a nice day.

Anonymous said...

A bad agent (not to mention a scam agent) is far worse than no agent. They will only take your money and you will still not have a published book.

And as a favor to yourself, get some help with grammar and punctuation before you send out any more queries. Despite what you hear every day all over the South, there is no such construction as "had went with." The correct phrase is "had gone with."

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes!

Absolutely go to one of those scammer agents and get your bank account skinned and your works gummed up for decades to come.

It's one less MS on the desk of a legit agent who will be only too happy to represent ME!

And you tried with only 4-5 legit agents before quitting to go off to self-published limbo??

BWAH!

Impatient neos. Gotta love 'em.

Anonymous said...

You could just donate your $$ and manuscripts to the local nursing home. I'm sure they'd be just as appreciative.

Julie Wright said...

NO!
You only queried four agents???? You received a personalized compliment from an agent??? Get back into it. Buy a box of envelopes, several reams of paper, and several books of stamps. Do not requery bad agents. No one needs that headache of dealing with people who have already alienated the industry in which you want to thrive. If you received a personal compliment in a letter from an agent, you have enough talent to make your way through the query abyss. Go get it done.

bran fan said...

Miss Snark, aren't you proud of your snarklings? Honestly, you coudn't have said it better yourself. These comments are all brilliant! See? We really are learning things here at your blog. It isn't hopeless and all writers are not nitwits. Thanks for teaching us what we need to know.

And thank you to the original poster for having the courage to ask this question. It isn't easy to raise your hand and say, "I'm worried that I might have committed nitwittery." The poster now knows better. I DO like a happy ending. Don't you?

Chumplet said...

Minute Rice takes five minutes to prepare, and it tastes like cardboard.

Uncle Ben's Brown Rice takes forty minutes, and it's darn good for ya. And tasty, too.

Publishing is not a world of instant gratification. If you want to do it, take the time to do it right.

Five agents? FIVE AGENTS? What source were you using, the bathroom wall? Get out there, do some research, and take as much care in publishing your work as you did writing it.

Robert Kuntz said...

Run. Run and do not look back, lest you turn to a pillar of salt.

(I think a theme seems to be developing, no?)

Bernita said...

For some reason I can't get "Went with the Wind" out of my mind...

jamiehall said...

The twenty worst agents aren't just bad agents. They are scam agents: not agents at all. Meaning that they will take your money and NEVER get you published, except maybe with self-publishing (which you can already do yourself, cheaper).

Think about the difference between going to a bad doctor, and going to a criminal who merely claims to be a doctor.

Anonymous said...

This was my week so far:

Rejected twice on Monday from two publishers with the standard comments.

Praised on Monday afternoon, and nominated for an award for best writing on a well known web site.
(not big doings; but a personal high)

Email on Monday night: another rejection...from an editor I've worked with many times..."but please continue to submit."

Tuesday: two copies of "Best Date Ever" arrive in the mail that contained one of thirty short stories I sold last year...plus, two envelopes with real checks from a real publisher for books I received the previous week (the checks always arrive after the books). Open my BOMC newsletter and saw one of my stories was blurbed to describe the collection, along with two others, yet they forgot to mention my name.

Wednesday this gem: I love the storyline, from a publisher I've never worked with, please send this: (copied and pasted from the e-mail)"We would be interested in seeing a short excerpt that reflects the conflict within the story." Not the first ten pages, or the first chapter.

Thursday morning...we like it and want to read the entire ms (guess I chose the right excerpt?).

All this while writing, working for the web site that nominated me, and dealing with three private editorial clients who are constantly hocking me to write query letters no matter how many times I refuse (and reading this blog).

The point, dear person, is publishing is a difficult business filled with many highs and lows. One agent wrote recently "The only big books I've ever had didn't come from unsolicited queries...they were either nurtured or I went after them." So if you think there is an easy way out that involves paying a reading fee to an agent that is listed as one of the 20 worst, or believing you'll do well with self-publishing a novel, you're in for a tough ride and you might miss out on the highs of the business.

Jena said...

Let me add my shrieks of "No! No! No!!" to all the others.

Go to P.N. Elrod's blog for an insight into the dealings of one of the 20 worst "agents" out there:

http://p-n-elrod.livejournal.com/23100.html

Emily Veinglory said...

Bad agents don't sell books. You would be no better off and $90 poorer.

lorem ipsum said...

If you were smart enough to find Miss Snark, you're smart enough to know better. Masochists who don't know the difference between "gone" and "went" don't deserve to get published.

Elektra said...

"Minute Rice takes five minutes to prepare, and it tastes like cardboard."

Thank you! My mom tries to tell me it's the same thing as I'd get freshly steamed from the Chinese restaurant, and won't hear otherwise. Grumble...

Anonymous said...

I've never been gobsmacked. Is that legal in most states? Since I live on the Left Coast, it's probably okay.

Roger Sutton said...

If the query letter to Miss Snark bears any resemblance to the query letter to the agent, it's no wonder that the latter--and perhaps the former--thought you'd be an easy mark.

Anonymous said...

You stopped after querying 4 or 5 agents and self-published? Pay your dues--it takes time and energy to make it in this industry. Don't be so impatient. If you can't handle taking the time to search for a good agent or publisher who will take you on, then you aren't going to make it in this business. Period. If several legit agents gave you a "good rejection" you're a fool to ignore the signs.

If you want to go with a bad agent, ignore everybody and go with them, but don't complain when they screw you over and you end up locked into bad contracts for years down the line, or when you end up losing lots of money.

There's a reason pros are pros--they listen to advice and they are willing to extend the time and energy to achieve their goals.

Much luck to you!

Dave Kuzminski said...

If you're going to turn around and go with someone who charges, then what the hell good am I doing with the warnings I post at P&E? You think I like having those fee-chargers and scammers sue me?

Well, actually I sometimes like their attention because it means I'm getting through to them enough to hurt their illicit income, but that's different. It really eats at me to see all the research and dccumentation I have backing up those recommendations be disregarded.

Now go look up some decent agents and submit according to the guidelines. If you go with a fee-charger or scammer, I expect you to send me your photo so I can use you as the poster child for P&E's anti-scam campaign.

Victoria Dove said...

Oi. I'm going to give you advice that I got from the wonderful Agent Kristin: An agent's job is to sell your book. WHY would they TRY to sell your book if you're paying them?

In nitwitanese:

Query widely. And a lot. And don't ever EVER pay an agent upfront!

lorra laven said...

To Dave Kuzminski - Don't let the toadies get you down. You're providing an invaluable service to writers. I ALWAYS check your website for info before querying anyone. Why waste a stamp on a crook?

And, by the way, thank you!

Dave Kuzminski said...

Oh, I'm actually looking forward to seeing Babs in court. Seems she hasn't read the Art of War... never attack when you're not prepared to win.

The Mysterious Mr. Write said...

I wish you had went with them too.

It's two bad that you're novel am not representated by a more better agency.

Miss Thanga Diddly Doodly said...

If an agent asks you for even one measly dollar, keep on looking. When they offer to pay you for your work, you have found a real agent.

Easy peasy.

Anonymous said...

Goddamn, "the mysterious mr. write". Seltzer passing through the nasal canal doesn't feel good.

But it was worth it. Best response to an illiterate question I've seen.

S. W. Vaughn said...

What can I say? A fool and his money are not only soon parted, but are meant to be parted. And be honest: nothing we say, in assent or dissent, will make a difference. Some people are born wolves. Others are born, well, sheep. It is the will of the Universe, writ so amazingly clear that your own heart is urging you to offer yourself up for the fleecing. Eventually, you'll find your way to the shears. It may as well be now.

This is not true at all. Okay, it's mostly not true. I made all of these mistakes when I started out, including giving people money and making the mistake of believing the scam artists and POD publishers that praised my book really did like it and thought it publishable.

This person can learn. Asking questions, as s/he has done, is the best way to start.

Listen to the serious advice here, question-asker. Don't go with the Top 20 Worst agents. Query legitimate agents, but most of all work on your craft and write a damned good book.

/pep talk :-)

Paul Riddell said...

During my writing career, I was very fond of referring to Proverbs 26:11 for an answer to that sort of question. "As a dog returneth to its vomit, so a fool repeateth his folly." It works to describe people who still think that George Lucas will put out a decent Star Wars film one of these days, and it works here.