Idiot agents who need to be clue-smacked

Dear Miss Snark,

I signed with a newbie agent. He has given me good notes and has been enthusiastic about my novel (we're in rewrite stage, not showing stage). He also has stood me up numerous times for meetings about next steps and does not return phone calls or emails. I had to write a letter to get him to respond to me suggesting that perhaps I needed new representation, and he had excuses about busyness (which is acceptable), but no apology or assurances that he would be more responsive in the future (which is less acceptable).

What now? He's guided the project to this point, so to walk would be unfair of me. But it's excruciating to work with someone who is the one sitting up the meetings he then bails on. Do I get a new agent? Do I put up with this? I don't want to be coddled; I just want a working relationship that works.

I have to tell you that the run up to going out on a book, what you call the showing stage, is the easiest, least frustrating part of the working relationship. It's just you and the author. If this part is hard, you're in for a world of hurt.

You are not an indentured servant. This is YOUR work and your project and your peace of mind. If you're writing to me NOW, you're going to be buying weaponry at the CluePorium once you get editors, sales people, publicity people and everyone else involved.

If he hasn't gone out on this book -if he hasn't shopped it-- this is the IDEAL time to make a change. Once he's started shopping it, you've got detritus to deal with.

Every single client that I sign hears the same thing from me: be very very sure right now cause there's gonna come a point when we need to draw from that well of confidence when things are going badly and we're both cranky as hell.


Anonymous said...

He actually stood you up for a meeting? There's busy and there's plain rude.

Anonymous said...

After reading this letter at a glance I'd like to say move on, but first get even by setting him up like he's never been set up before so that he'll think twice before standing anyone else up again in his lifetime (pick him up, take him to dinner somewhere in Jersey as your treat, and then leave him there...you get the picture; there are ways to get even with assholes).

But, and I could be wrong, it sounds as though we're not getting the full story here, and his side might be interesting.

Anonymous said...

His answer to my "why are you blowing me off and is this not working for you and if so, tell me now" note was that his office may or may not be moving and he's been misplacing papers. Apparently he does not own a cell phone and forgets how pay phones work. And yet he assures me he loves loves loves the mss. To be honest, it's the lack of apology and lack of forthright "I screwed up" response more than anything. If he doesn't want to cut me lose and he isn't able to simply apologize and from this point on be more professional, my gut says it's only going to get worse. But how do I dump the only gaent I was able to get? Starting over is a horror.

ORION said...

He's wanted face to face meetings with you?
My agent worked with me on my revisions entirely by email and phone.
What were these meetings supposed to be about?
Specifics relating to your novel?
Or were they informal let's meet at a bar kind of thing?
Just curious.

Anonymous said...

A bad agent is worse than no agent at all. The bad agent basically holds your manuscript hostage; s/he isn't selling it, and you can't either.

I'd suggest you ditch this train wreck immediately. There's no way this situation is going to get any better. Remember that it's easy to say "I love love love your manuscript", but it's hard to actually sell it. If the agent is lying to you now, you'll never know where you stand later. You'll never know if your manuscript is being shopped at all.

Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Anon,you poor thing! Please, after you tell this agent goodbye, alert agent query or Preditors and Editors about the poor service. He might not be scamming anyone, but surely other new writers should know of his method of working. Maybe you could come up with an easily crackable code and tell us him name? Like 1 = A or something to tip us off without tattling? Or write it in Ubbi dubbi, we'll figure it out. Your info makes me appreciate all the more the incredible initial relationship I am developing with an agent, and he hasn't even offered me representation yet. Good luck to you, anon. Hope you find another agent who believes in you soon.

Anonymous said...

To anon #3: Starting over is horror, but dealing with a bad agent could be worse. Is this someone who is even slightly known (even if he's new there should be something about him you can dig up; often the new ones who are hungry tend to overpromote themselves)? Does he have any sales? Any other clients? Is he listed anywhere? You can go to P&E and look him up to see if there's anything negative that's been posted (reputation is everything in this business and the bad agents always float to the top sooer or later like scum). The cell phone thing would bother me (does he have bad credit and can't get one?). The may or may not be moving would bother me, too (can he pay his rent?). And, to be honest, it's starting to sound a bit creepy. I'm hoping for your sake this guy isn't a wannabe agent, and I hope you haven't paid him any fees. I'd really like to see how this turns out and wish you the best of luck.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I am being vauge, but I don't want to besmerch someone who I think is simply young rather than a con artist.

He is with a VERY reputable agency (you'd know it), but just started several months ago. I am as of today looking for another agent and will break with him this week. I thought (naively) that this part - the hunting for an agent part - was over. Ah, well.

Thanks, all, for your comments!

Anonymous said...

If this guy is from Very Reputable Agency, why not go to the principal(s) of this agency and share your concerns with them? Lack of cell phone might be a corporate issue, who knows?

Or, Miss S, is this simply Not Done?


Kim Rossi Stagliano said...

Anon - unless this agent's name is Random House the III the agency must have had a good reason to hire him. You can probably save the relationship AND help they young man out a bit too. Can you speak with a partner? Explain how pleased you are to be with them and that you think Young Agent X has been terrific but may need some support right now to represent the agency best? Remember, the agent has to sell to editors and I'm guessing the principals wouldn't be too happy to know that this agent might be slipshod to editors. Turn the conversation into a positive, don't berate the young man (you sound like you wouldn't anyway) and make it a win win. You keep your agent in a good house, where he's surrounded by knowledgable, experienced agents, he learns that you respect him, even though he is new(and probably terrified) and the principal sees you as a mature minded client who is a team player. Or, invite him to Jersey for lunch and ditch him at the Vince Lombardi rest stop. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"I'm sorry I am being vauge, but I don't want to besmerch someone who I think is simply young rather than a con artist."

If I owned the agency where he works I'd want to know about this.

Anonymous said...

If he's being this unprofessional with you, what makes you think he's being any more professional with the editors and industry people he contacts?

On the other hand, I do understand the fear that keeps an author with a poor agent. I put up with this kind of behaviour for a year from my old agent (when I was too young - 19 - and naive to think anything more than 'But Agent is big and important and making all those 'Most Influential People in Publishing' lists! I must stay!').

But don't - stay, that is. I regret so much hanging on for the agent to improve and show me the enthusiasm they once had, and they never did. Now the concept for the MS is passe, the market for the genre is dead and I have a novel I invested three years of my life in that I can get nothing but 'lovely' rejections from agents saying that I'm a great writer and they could have sold it a year or two ago, but now... etc.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

My take on this is that he's working very hard to get a book he can go out with. I agree with the person who questioned why you needed to meet with him. It sounds like he wanted to do some hand-holding and nuturing to get this ms in shape but that he's just overwhelmed juggling a lot of potential projects to try to get his career off the ground.

He obviously took you on hoping the ms would improve so he could sell it.

Since he did actually sign you, it may be worthwhile communicating with another agent there. But I think what I'd do instead is, on my own, or with the help of a writing group or a freelance editor, try to figure out what the ms needs to be shoppable. Get it in the best shape you can. That way, if a senior agent there is willing to take a look at it, you'll have the best product you have to show them. Don't waste this opportunity.

But beware of being taken on just to keep you in house. If the other agent is not truly a fan, then move on.