Wednesday, August 23, 2006

When an Agent Disappears

I’m with an agent right now—one-year contract. When he offered me representation, I had partials all over town, but I foolishly yanked them with the offer of representation from a reputable, well-known agent.

Said agent has never gotten back to me. Won’t return emails, won’t call. It’s been six months. At what point should I panic?

I don’t know that panicking is necessary, but I think now (actually I think three months ago) is a good time to take action. I would send an email and follow up with a phone call to let the agent know that you need to hear by the end of the week the status of all of your material. I would also let him know that you’ve been very concerned with his lack of communication and you don’t feel this relationship is working. Be firm, not wishy-washy, and stand by what you say. Whether or not you hear from the agent, my advice is to cut your losses and get out. Six weeks is too long to go without hearing (especially after numerous attempts at contact), let alone six months. Even if he gets in touch with you now, do you really want to wait another six months to hear anything again?

I’m hoping you have some sort of termination clause in the contract that allows you to get out before one year. Even if you don’t, I would send a certified letter terminating the relationship and demanding a full accounting of all submissions made on your behalf and any feedback he has received. I would also give him a time frame (probably in the contract) by which he has to finish up any work on your behalf.

Also, if I choose to go out on my own again at the end of the contract, is it okay to resend my book out to others that requested it before and explain what happened? Or will agents remember me as the “jerk that yanked his book”?

I don’t think it’s a matter of “if,” I think it’s a matter of when you’re officially released from the contract. A bad agent is not better than any agent at all. If you pulled the work respectfully and didn’t leave agents hanging, they will certainly not remember you as a “jerk.” This kind of stuff happens all the time, and like I’ve said in previous posts, handling things professionally, by either pulling the submission or giving agents a chance to offer themselves, does keep the door open for you. My biggest concern is that if he has submitted the work you don’t necessarily know who he sent it to. But, if he won’t tell you, there’s nothing you can do about it. A new agent will just have to dig in and submit as if it’s never been seen before.

Good luck!


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've heard of this situation happening to so many writers! Yes, the writers did their homework and asked all the right questions. And yes, the agents are reputable, AAR types with lots of experience and solid sales records.

So why do some agents take on a project, then disappear into the ozone? Do they simply have too many clients and can't keep up?

I feel lucky that my agent started shopping my ms right away, and has kept me informed of the editors' responses. Still, I worry that she'll eventually lose interest and ignore me.