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My agent is blowing me off

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#1 Widget

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 11:45 AM

Hope I put this in the right place. I'm new here, and keeping it kind of anonymous.

 

I would love any feedback from fellow writers, please.

 

So, the good news first. I have a blog, a book, and an agent. A respected one, that I was super happy to sign with. 

 

My blog is successful. 3.5 million views in 2 years, quite a bit of media exposure without an agent, and a self-published book that went #1 on Amazon the first day it was for sale, in its genre. 

 

The bad news -- my agent, after signing me, has been blowing me off. 

 

We met in NYC a few months ago, and really clicked. She was super enthusiastic about the book, thought it would get multiple bids. Before we met, I'd sent her a proposal I worked very hard on. She said it was great, just needed a few tweaks and she'd get it back to me that week. 

 

That was a couple months ago.

 

I followed up a few weeks after the promised deadline. Crickets. 

 

Then I got asked to be on a national TV show, ran it by her -- immediate response! So sorry about the delay, will get edits to you end of this week. 

 

That was 6 weeks ago. 

 

Again, crickets. 

 

I've now asked twice, at a one-month past and 6-week past marks, to please give me an event horizon. Friendly, face-saving emails. 

 

No response. 

 

So, my book proposal has not been shopped to publishers. 

 

Meanwhile, I was approached by another agent, who found the blog, loved it, asked if I had representation. Super agent… like an agent I wouldn't dream of getting. 

 

I told her thanks, but I'd signed with this other agency. The one that is currently blowing me off. 

 

I had someone look at my contract, it's gray. It goes into effect once they've shopped the book -- nothing about backing out before that happens. 

 

I'm giving it until Monday for the Come to Jesus, heart to heart, but WTF? I don't really want to break up, (not sure I can), but this isn't giving me warm fuzzies about this person and how committed she is to shop my book when she won't reply to my emails or keep her own deadlines. 

 

What would you do? It's driving me nuts and I'm trying not to take it personally. 



#2 C.Harmon

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:19 PM

Listen to your gut. To me it sounds like you've already made your decision. Just like in a normal relationship, if you're being neglected, then you should get out. There are people out there who were in a similar situation, left their agent and haven't looked back since. As the saying goes -- it's better to have no agent than an agent who can't do their job.



#3 AQCrew

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:20 PM

This situation is actually more common than you think -- and usually, the more "uber" and highly-regarded the agent is, the more non-responsiveness the writer is willing to tolerate -- often to a fault.

 

So the good news here: your agent has not shopped or submitted your project yet to editors.  That's quite a good thing in this kind of situation.  We have seen plenty of times where the agent HAS shopped the project -- maybe only to 4 or 5 editors -- before totally disappearing on the writer.  And in that case, the writer really is in a tough position.

 

Here's what you do:

 

1. You review your agent contract and look for a termination clause.  Almost all contracts have some type of clause stating how the parties can terminate the contract.  if there is really no termination clause, then that's a seriously bad contract.  

 

2. You decide what you want to do.  It sounds like you really want to continue to be represented by this agent, despite her lack of responsiveness.  It sound like you still want her to submit your project on your behalf.  Is that true?  You really need to examine your soul and make sure you can live with this kind of treatment from your agent.  Because it will continue... so make sure that's the kind of agent relationship you want.

 

3. Once you decide what you want to do -- you pick up the phone.  No more emails.  You call.  Now, this is where #2 comes in.... you need to be prepared for what you want from the call.  You need a written plan and you need to know exactly what you want to convey to your agent, and what you will do if she continues to act in a way that is the opposite of your expectations.

 

4. You need to realize that this situation is testing your ability to view your writing career as a business -- not an emotional roller-coaster.  Focus on all the facts -- objectively -- and attempt to make the best decision for your business.  That may mean coming up with Plan, A, Plan B. Plan C, etc. and writing them all out in a very calculated way.  

 

Agents are your business partner.  There are plenty of agents out there.  Make sure you align yourself with someone who will ultimately help you achieve your business goals.  Period.



#4 SC_Author

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:40 PM

^What Crew said. I'd run out of there, FAST. You're getting opportunities you might never get again - don't miss out on them cuz of an agent that doesn't care! YOU are in charge of your own career. No one else.


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#5 AQCrew

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:45 PM

 

 

I had someone look at my contract, it's gray. It goes into effect once they've shopped the book -- nothing about backing out before that happens. 

 

I'm giving it until Monday for the Come to Jesus, heart to heart, but WTF? I don't really want to break up, (not sure I can), but this isn't giving me warm fuzzies about this person and how committed she is to shop my book when she won't reply to my emails or keep her own deadlines. 

 

 

Just re-read this... so you are making it sound like, technically, your agent-client contract has NOT gone into effect because she has not shopped your book.  

 

There are plenty of writers who have terminated their agency contract -- even when the agent has completely disappeared and won't return their calls or emails -- by sending a certified letter stating that they want to terminate the contract and the date of the intended termination.  If there is truly no "spelled out" termination clause, yes... it's likely a bit gray.  Or it's the complete opposite: you have no contract in place because she hasn't shopped it, and there's a clause in the contract that you can cite.  You'll have to assess both scenarios and decide how you want to move forward.

 

 But really, your next move is a phone call.  But before that... do some soul-searching and really decide what you want from the call.  If you still want her to shop the project, make sure you get clear timelines from her on the editing schedule as well as when she plans to submit to editors (and find out HOW many editors and which imprints in the first round of submission).  These are all crucial facts that you should obtain during your call that they will help you make your decisions in the future.

 

We will warn you: some agents will waste a lot of your valuable time if you aren't a pro-active client.  You don't have to be pushy, but you have to know clearly what your agent plans to do for you and when -- otherwise, what's the point of having an agent?



#6 Widget

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 12:52 PM

Thanks so much for the replies. AQCrew -- I totally agree I should have a plan in place.

 

My gut says to dump this agent. As much as I like her personally, I don't like how she's doing business. If you set a deadline (twice) and break it, IMO you should follow up and set realistic expectations. It also worries me that if she blows me off, who else does she blow off? And yet, she has a very good reputation and represents People You've Heard Of. And when I met her, I felt like she got my humor, my project, and had great ideas about it. 

 

The whole thing is like dating though. It's like having a great date and then the person never calls you again… except you signed a contract with them. 

 

On the issue of the contract -- I'd be happy to send it to you (I had another former agent review it) -- the termination is either party can back "in the event that the work has not been placed for publication with a publisher acceptable to you within twelve (12) months from your submission to us of your completed proposal or manuscript (as the case may be)." 

 

So I think I have an out? 

 

The problem with the Come to Jesus phone call (doing that on Monday) is it's like begging someone to treat you with consideration, which is IMO, a deal breaker in any relationship -- business or personal. 

 

I'm just trying to get a reality check, if this is bad form, or I'm being unreasonable. Perhaps this is just the why things are done and you're supposed to suck up and deal. 



#7 Widget

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 01:07 PM

 But really, your next move is a phone call.  But before that... do some soul-searching and really decide what you want from the call.  If you still want her to shop the project, make sure you get clear timelines from her on the editing schedule as well as when she plans to submit to editors (and find out HOW many editors and which imprints in the first round of submission).  These are all crucial facts that you should obtain during your call that they will help you make your decisions in the future.

 

We will warn you: some agents will waste a lot of your valuable time if you aren't a pro-active client.  You don't have to be pushy, but you have to know clearly what your agent plans to do for you and when -- otherwise, what's the point of having an agent?

 

I thought I had that information 2 months ago. The editing schedule was -- ready to go, except for a few edits I will make -- will get those to you this week. (Then you know the rest of the story.) When she planned to submit to editors? I thought within weeks, as soon as I incorporated her edits and she deemed it ready. She had a list of 20 editors. 5 from big houses, then smaller presses on down. 

 

I think part of my problem is being pro-active. I have followed all my deadlines, and been responsive. I've bird-dogged. But I don't want to be a noodge, a pain in the ass, the person whose name you dread seeing in your in-box. But yeah, I think it's time to be pushier. 

 

That's not my preferred form of interaction, however. I generally prefer people to just do what they say they'll do and communicate when things come up that overtake their deadlines. 



#8 AQCrew

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 01:08 PM

 

The whole thing is like dating though. It's like having a great date and then the person never calls you again… except you signed a contract with them. 

 

 

We don't want to come off as -- didactic -- but it's not like dating at all.  Dating does not involve money.  You are losing money every day here -- both in terms of time invested while the project goes unfulfilled and unsubmitted as well as the opportunity cost of not going with another agent who could sell your book.

 

 

 

On the issue of the contract -- I'd be happy to send it to you (I had another former agent review it) -- the termination is either party can back "in the event that the work has not been placed for publication with a publisher acceptable to you within twelve (12) months from your submission to us of your completed proposal or manuscript (as the case may be)." 

 

So I think I have an out? 

 

 

You really don't want an scary red and black avatar who talks in second-person plural omniscient to be giving you specific contract legal advice.  No, you definitely do not want that.  But your proposal is not completed because you are still waiting on edits from your agent, right?  You certainly are not trapped.  

 

 

The problem with the Come to Jesus phone call (doing that on Monday) is it's like begging someone to treat you with consideration, which is IMO, a deal breaker in any relationship -- business or personal. 

 

 

 

The problem here is that you are treating a phone call as a "coming to Jesus" moment.  We're not entirely sure that we would jump from non-responsiveness to termination WITHOUT laying out a strategic plan for moving along that path, which likely would include more than one phone call.

 

Again, this isn't dating.  You don't just call and dump.  If you really want to be professional, you have to be a little more strategic... 



#9 AQCrew

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 01:10 PM

I thought I had that information 2 months ago. The editing schedule was -- ready to go, except for a few edits I will make -- will get those to you this week. 

 

 

So she didn't give you the edits that week (despite saying she would)... and you waited a month to follow up with her?  Is that right?  And then, you followed up again after two weeks?  



#10 Widget

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 01:18 PM

The dates are -- first deadline Sept 17, by end of week. Then I follow up October 2. (Nothing). Then October 7, invitation to media event. She responded. New deadline, end of that week. It's now November 6 -- I've emailed twice to follow up, no answer. 

 

Completed proposal has been with them since September 8. 

 

"But your proposal is not completed because you are still waiting on edits from your agent, right?  You certainly are not trapped."

 

Thanks for the bitchslap. :-) Yes, that's the point I'm confused about -- as far as I know, this thing has just sat on her desk since September 8, so if she hasn't shopped it to publishers yet, I do have an out. 

 

Look, flouncing off because she doesn't return my emails is not the professional image I want to convey either. I will call. Ask for a concrete PLAN, and if she goes dark again then end it. I would also like to give her a gracious, face-saving out if she just lost steam, has other things going on, whatever. 

 

I'm not worried I won't find another agent. But I am worried about pissing this one off, or damaging my own reputation in any way. 



#11 AQCrew

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 01:23 PM

 

Completed proposal has been with them since September 8. 

 

"But your proposal is not completed because you are still waiting on edits from your agent, right?  You certainly are not trapped."

 

Thanks for the bitchslap. :-) Yes, that's the point I'm confused about -- as far as I know, this thing has just sat on her desk since September 8, so if she hasn't shopped it to publishers yet, I do have an out. 

 

 

We would tread more carefully than that.  You have a contract.  It's grey because you HAVE submitted a proposal -- and who knows if legally it's considered "completed" at this point.  If you don't play this just right, you could end up with another agent who sells your book, and then this former agent comes back to you and claims that you owe her a commission on your deal because you're still under contract with her.

 

Maybe your agent wants out too, and you could make it easy for her by following up with her by phone every week until she agrees that it's best for you and her if you amicably part ways.  Lots of ways to approach this dilemma -- so long as it's not shopped.  Good luck with it.



#12 Widget

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 01:28 PM

Thanks so much for your help AQCrew. I really appreciate your advice. If I break up, mutually or otherwise, I certainly won't do it without getting it in writing. 

 

Thanks again for the perspective. I wish I'd thought to ask you guys here at AQ sooner! 



#13 sharpegirl

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 03:30 PM

Thanks so much for the replies. AQCrew -- I totally agree I should have a plan in place.

 

My gut says to dump this agent. As much as I like her personally, I don't like how she's doing business. If you set a deadline (twice) and break it, IMO you should follow up and set realistic expectations. It also worries me that if she blows me off, who else does she blow off? And yet, she has a very good reputation and represents People You've Heard Of. And when I met her, I felt like she got my humor, my project, and had great ideas about it. 

 

The whole thing is like dating though. It's like having a great date and then the person never calls you again… except you signed a contract with them. 

 

On the issue of the contract -- I'd be happy to send it to you (I had another former agent review it) -- the termination is either party can back "in the event that the work has not been placed for publication with a publisher acceptable to you within twelve (12) months from your submission to us of your completed proposal or manuscript (as the case may be)." 

 

So I think I have an out? 

 

The problem with the Come to Jesus phone call (doing that on Monday) is it's like begging someone to treat you with consideration, which is IMO, a deal breaker in any relationship -- business or personal. 

 

I'm just trying to get a reality check, if this is bad form, or I'm being unreasonable. Perhaps this is just the why things are done and you're supposed to suck up and deal. 

 

Personally, I would be put off by your agent's behavior. Mine always gets back to me within 24 hours (sometimes 48 on a weekend) and often we have a 8 hour time difference, because she spends a lot of time in the UK. You sound like someone who needs a lot of communication (nothing wrong with that, you just need an agent who gels with that) and your agent isn't providing that. However, I would also give her a chance to explain herself. There may be an underlying personal cause (a death in the family, illness, etc) that caused the delay. Obviously, it's up to you to decide to stay with her, but I'd definitely have a frank discussion with her about expectations, timelines, and communication styles and then decide. 

 

I do want to say, if waiting and people not making deadlines, or promising you something at a time, and not getting it to you drives you crazy, be warned: this is the way traditional publishing can be, especially on the editor level. They are bogged down with work, they make promises that sometimes they aren't able to keep, sometimes things are out of your control, like your editor leaves and it takes your publisher a few months to find a new one, so your book gets pushed back an entire year (the position I am in right now! Luckily, it worked out, gave me some more time I needed with my draft :D). And if you sign a contract with a publisher, you're not going to be able to get out of it if your edit letter is six weeks late, for example. Having an agent who is in top of things is REALLY important because they're the person you send in when stuff like that happens and you need the publisher to act/respond. And in my opinion, the more communicative/involved agents are more likely to be the ones who are willing to go to bat for their clients in that way. 

 

Best of luck, whatever you decide to do. It sounds like even if you part ways with this agent, you're in the most ideal situation to seek out other representation for the book. 



#14 Jeanne

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 04:03 PM

Widget,

 

Do you belong to Author's Guild? The sales of your self-pubbed book would probably qualify you for membership, and here is the thing: They offer excellent free legal advice to their members. It might be worth checking out, especially if you're considering withdrawing from your contract with this agent.

 

The annual membership fee is $90.

 

Jeanne



#15 Widget

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 04:14 PM

Thanks Jeanne. I'm married to a trial lawyer, so if comes to that, I've got "in-house counsel." But I will certainly check them out. 

 

Thanks Sharpegirl -- I appreciate the perspective. I understand people and projects get OBE (overcome by events), but after *weeks* I'd appreciate some heads up. I don't think I'm particularly needy. She let her self-imposed deadline lapse a couple times and I followed up. Your second point is what really gives me pause -- these are early days, how's this going to play later into a business relationship/deal? 

 

A former agent I know told me that agents are often spending 95% of their day on publishing deals they've already sold. So, if you're waiting to get a deal, you're at the bottom of the To Do list. 

 

I'd like to better manage my expectations. If she'd said "Okay, realistically, it's February before i can look at this" I would've rolled with it. It's the open-ended, no answer stuff that's driving me batty. 



#16 sharpegirl

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 05:34 PM

Thanks Jeanne. I'm married to a trial lawyer, so if comes to that, I've got "in-house counsel." But I will certainly check them out. 

 

Thanks Sharpegirl -- I appreciate the perspective. I understand people and projects get OBE (overcome by events), but after *weeks* I'd appreciate some heads up. I don't think I'm particularly needy. She let her self-imposed deadline lapse a couple times and I followed up. Your second point is what really gives me pause -- these are early days, how's this going to play later into a business relationship/deal? 

 

A former agent I know told me that agents are often spending 95% of their day on publishing deals they've already sold. So, if you're waiting to get a deal, you're at the bottom of the To Do list. 

 

I'd like to better manage my expectations. If she'd said "Okay, realistically, it's February before i can look at this" I would've rolled with it. It's the open-ended, no answer stuff that's driving me batty. 

 

No, I totally get it. I don't think you're being unreasonable at all to expect her to keep to her promised deadlines and communicate with you. The thing is, at least in my experience, a lot of publishing involves silence/stuff going on behind the scenes that no one really alerts you to, which is really frustrating. And that's why you need an agent who is on the ball and communicative, because they're the ones that can get a publisher to stand up and take notice if a ball's been dropped. 

 

Personally, I felt better about "bugging" (I put it into quotes because I shouldn't have ever felt like I was bugging her, since we're in business together. And she never acted like I was bugging her, because I wasn't, lol) my agent after we'd both made money. But that's an attitude that I don't think is the best to have, because you should absolutely prioritize your career and if this person can't get on board to even submit things or answer your emails, it makes you question how strong her follow through is with editors, etc. Being on an editor's submission pile, these days, is just another form of the slush pile. Unless the agent is out there hustling (I'm talking meeting with editors for lunch, making phone calls, getting them excited about the project before it even lands on their desk) or has a great reputation for sales (meaning the editors will see a submission from that agent, go "Oh, last project of hers, I really wanted, but it sold over a weekend. Better read this one first!") it can mean languishing at the bottom of an editor's pile of MS's until they have the time to get to it. 

 

I'd definitely have an honest discussion with her. I'm a big fan of laying out needs honestly, especially about work style and communication, as well as getting a solid plan from her about submission. If you stay with her, I'd get her submission plan and list, as well as agree on how you'd like to be updated about the submission. I stress when I'm on sub, so my agent only lets me know when there's a good news, and once every few weeks gives me a basic update of where we are in terms of rejections/acquisitions/etc. She also only shares rejections with me if she thinks they'll be helpful. 



#17 AQCrew

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Posted 06 November 2014 - 05:53 PM

Can we just say that we love it on the days when AQC feels like the Hall of Justice?



#18 Widget

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:47 PM

Well, I tried calling. 

 

"May I ask who's calling?" -- like she was in?

 

I gave my name. Then she clearly told the agent who was calling. Young person, sounded kind of nervous… "Um, she's currently unavailable."

 

Left my name, my number, let's see if she returns calls. 

 

I'm probably paranoid at this point, but I definitely got the feeling I was being blown off again.



#19 AQCrew

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 12:57 PM

This is why you write a script in-advance.

 

You call back around lunchtime, and you see if she's available then,.  If not, you ask if you can be transferred into her voice mail.  Everybody has voice mail.

 

If that still isn't "possible" -- you make the assistant write down your message verbatim.

 

Then, you leave a clear, non-rambling message, and you note that you have not heard back from her regarding your follow-up emails sent on xx date and xx date regarding her final edits, etc. and as a result you are looking to schedule a meeting by phone with her in order to touchbase.  

 

Then, you say, "I hope to hear back from you by Tuesday morning (or whatever), and if not, then I will plan to call back and try to reach you again."



#20 Widget

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Posted 07 November 2014 - 01:05 PM

Well, I had a script. It was for when we spoke. I guess I wasn't factoring in the intern firewall.

 

Thanks. Great suggestion. I'll use that exact script when I call back later today. 







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