4.03.2007

Who gets custody of the submissions?

Dear Miss Snark,

What happens when a writer parts ways with his agent midstream and novel #1 is still out with an editor or two? Is the submission withdrawn? Will the writer blow his chances with those editors? Will his name and his agent's name be bandied about, humiliating everyone?

Also, is there an official cooling off period before the writer should begin querying other agents? Say, sixty seconds? Six days? Six weeks?


I've been on both sides of this one.

When I get a new client who has pending submissions from a former agent, I talk to the former agent directly. Usually they just say "take it, no problemo". I do the same thing. I'm not hung up on getting "what's mine" cause I know there's a lot more to a sale than sending a manuscript.

When a client leaves me, I send them a list of where their work went and the status. I don't pull the submission normally. I just let it wither away. Without me calling to follow up, there's not much traction. On the other hand, if by some miracle an offer comes through, I tell the former client and ask how they want it handled. Amazingly most of them want back in at Snark Central.

There are no hard and fast rules here other than to behave well and not get emotional.

There is no cooling off period but you should check your contract with your agent to see what it says about notice. Absent a specific release date, most of the time you need to give him/her 30 days notice.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

When I misunderstood my ex-agent and thought when we parted ways he was letting go of his submissions, he kind of freaked out on me--was furious and rather insistent that no, if the book sold to one of the houses he had it out at, he would be the one to represent that book. He seemed to think I was ungrateful for (accidentally) assuming otherwise, in fact.

Anonymous said...

"When a client leaves me, I send them a list of where their work went and the status."

What would you say about an agent who wouldn't share that info while representing me, ignored repeated requests for it, and wouldn't name so much as one publisher he'd shown my work to after he terminated our contract?

What recourse do I have? When my next agent (for a different book) asks about the first, what do I say?

Nobody said...

My ex-agent left the submissions where they were and told me if an offer came through, he'd just pass it on for a new agent to handle, or if I got a new agent in the meanwhile, they could contact those editors and let them know. He did the dumping though, maybe that matters.

Ryan Field said...

I've seen things like this actually go to mediation and it's not pretty. Always better to keep it nice.

Anonymous said...

I'm still not quite clear. Do you need to wait until the 30 days (or whatever the contract says) is up before querying again?

Anonymous said...

So, if I'm not getting it wrong, a fantastic manuscript needs "traction" before an editor will call back shouting, "I wanna buy!" Just clarifying =)

Anonymous said...

I have sort of a related question. I've sold Book 1 (nonfiction) with Agent A, who, for a variety of reasons, is not doing it for me. I've turned in the whole draft of Book 1 but am still waiting for them to come back to me with edits (and won't receive the final chunk of the advance until after that's done. At the speed this publisher has moved so far, it'll be months).

Meanwhile, I'm working on a proposal for Book 2. I would like to find a new agent (I'll call him/her Agent B) for Book 2, but at what point is Agent A done "agent-ing" Book 1? If I terminate our contract now, is Agent A no longer obligated to represent me on the current project should things go awry with the advance or what have you? Since Agent A has had nothing to do with the proposal for Book 2 (doesn't know it exists) what is my obligation to her?

Knowing how slowly these things can move, I don't want to wait too long to start pitching Book 2, but if I wait until all the loose ends are tied up with Book 1, it'll be sometime next year before I get it in front of any editors. The timing and etiquette of all this has got me perplexed.

Anonymous said...

"What would you say about an agent who wouldn't share that info while representing me, ignored repeated requests for it, and wouldn't name so much as one publisher he'd shown my work to after he terminated our contract?"

I suspect you didn't actually have an agent; you had a scammer. Are you quite sure it was a real agent, who actually sent it out? They're supposed to send you the rejections if you ask for them, I believe.

My (former, his decision) agent summarized the rejections, but he would read to me from the letters when we met; I know they existed. If your agent won't even show you evidence he sent it out... he probably didn't send it out.

Read Writer Beware and Preditors and Editors to make sure you weren't taken. At the very least, you had a new/unsuccessful agent.