Monday, September 29, 2008

Question on Agent Etiquette

I queried Agent Jane sometime back. Agent Jane has been great. Agent Jane offered revisions and Author Me liked the changes and resubmitted. Now Agent Jane is MIA. Author Me should have gotten a response a few weeks ago as promised from Agent Jane. Agent Jane did not respond. Agent Jane did not give a ‘busy now, give me another week or so’. Agent Jane just disappeared even though she always seems excited about my work. Author Me sent follow-up. Agent Jane still not respond. I know Agent Jane is busy. This busy time with conferences ending. *please note, this not first time I had to send follow-up to get Agent Jane’s attention* Author Me would like to submit other material to Agent Amy at same agency sometime in the future. Since I can’t seem to get a yes or no answer from Agent Jane, would it be in poor taste to query Agent Amy in a couple months?

This is one of those frustrating situations for authors. What do you do when you still like the agency, but realize the agent you’ve been communicating with is not the agent for you? I think that yes, you can definitely submit to Agent Amy as long as it is not the same work you have submitted to Agent Jane, and I would also suggest that you either wait until Agent Jane has officially responded (read rejected) or until a sufficiently lengthy amount of time has passed. Do they have posted submission response times? Since you have been working with Agent Jane it seems that you would have some idea of how long she takes. Give her a little extra time beyond that and then, if you are really anxious to submit to Agent Amy and Agent Jane is not responding, you can always send an official email pulling your work from submission. Something along the lines of, “Thank you so much for your consideration of Title of My Work sent on Date, but at this time I must respectfully pull my work from consideration.” The reason for this is that you can put the agents and then of course yourself in a difficult situation if for some reason they both come forward with two different books and suddenly want to offer representation.

Once you have pulled the work from consideration wait a week or two and send to Agent Amy. Every office works differently and I can’t tell you how closely this office shares things like submission lists or projects, but waiting a week or two should take the sting out of you pulling the work from consideration if that’s what you need to do.

One last bit of advice, that you didn’t necessarily ask for: don’t put all of your books in one agency basket. While you obviously like this particular agency and want to work with them, there are a lot of fabulous agencies out there and fabulous agents, so try not to get too fixated on “the one.” The other thing to consider is what if Agent Jane does come forward and offer representation? Based on your question it seems that you should and do have some concerns about her lack of response. If she does offer, I would address that concern directly. Tell her flat out that based on your correspondence while the work was under consideration you have some concerns about her communication style. And then make sure you have that book (or another) out with other agents so you can leverage the offer if you don’t feel Agent Jane is right for you. Because yes, an offer is an offer no matter what book it is on, so don’t be afraid to leverage any offer of representation into the best offer of representation.



ChristaCarol Jones said...

I can understand how that WOULD be frustrating, but I agree on not putting all your "eggs in one basket" so to say. Some good advice, I'm glad you posted this, because I'm sure I would have asked the same question if it were my case.

Amy Sue Nathan said...

What's frustrating to me is that this type of behavior, by agents, seems to be acceptable in the industry and to writers. It's unprofessional - and makes me wonder about the work ethic of this agent. If there were a crisis or a delay, it would be easy to have a pre-programmed email responding to all incoming email. If she is uninterested, it would behoove her to just say so. It makes the entire agenting profession look bad when things like this happen, though we all know, everyone is different.

I hope this author will tell you what happens so you can finish the story for us!

Richard Mabry said...

It appears you are saying that an author should submit to several different agencies, not put all their hopes on getting one agent. I understand and agree. But please clear up this point. Wouldn't the agent who does take on the author want to represent all that author's work?

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...


When querying, query as widely as possible. Once you have an agent hopefully you have found one who will represent all of your work and your querying days are over.


Anonymous said...

This article hit home. I've had an agent sitting on my full forever. She was very positive on a 75 pages partial then asked for the full which she thought she would finish by X time. It came and went with no response. I sent a status query and she said she was still considering it but not finished and hoped to finish in X timed. It came and went and nothing. I sent another staus query and to date...two month's later...nothing. Guess that's my answer. Even if she offered at this late date, her communication is sadly lacking. I'm not a high-maintenance writer, but there is a limit. And this is it.

Julie Weathers said...

"Even if she offered at this late date, her communication is sadly lacking. I'm not a high-maintenance writer, but there is a limit. And this is it."

Yep. I understand agents are busy, but in this case she is the one who said it would be done by a certain time.

As for the original question, I guess I would be hesitant to submit to Agent Amy because there is still a chance the original work might sell. If Agent Amy takes on the second work and then really likes the first work, it could get sticky. I would think Agent Jane might get miffed her suggestions were used and then her co-agent reaps the benefits.

Yes, I know she passed on it by virtue of non-response, but it would still make me leery. I don't want to be in the middle of hard feelings in an agency. Maybe I am just being paranoid.

If your work has come this far, I would guess you can find an agent with another agency.

Anonymous said...

I sent in this question. Thanks Jessica for answering and for all those who responded. I know I don’t want to be with Agent Jane. I don’t consider myself a needy person, but if you say you’re going to do something, do it or reschedule. And I’m a big girl. I pull up my girl panties every time I sit down at my computer. If you don’t like my manuscript or the changes you suggested, just come out and say so. This is a business after all. *ah, that felt good to say!*

I had asked the question, not because I’m putting all my eggs in the same basket, but because I’ll soon be querying something new and I didn’t know whether it was okay to query this agency (with a different agent) or if I needed to scratch them from my list. They have a good line-up of successful authors which is one of the reasons they’d been on my list to begin with!

As Julie Weathers mentioned, I don’t want to be in the middle of something awkward. *I get paranoid too ;0)* So I was looking for advice from people I don’t know and who won’t sugar anything for me.

Another reason I asked is because I ran up against this same problem with a different well-known (and respected) agency. It kinda makes me wonder if maybe I should quit doing suggestions if this is the road I’m going to keep getting led down. But at the same time, I’d rather find this frustration BEFORE I signed then after.

My query list is dwindling….
-Author Me

*side note, big thanks to the BookEnds crew for your responses in the query pit. Honesty makes a big difference and speaks well for ya'll.

Angie Ledbetter said...

This is a really helpful scenario and answers. Thanks for posting.

Anonymous said...

Now I'm curious. At what point does an author become an automatic no for an agent/agency?

I'm not talking being crazy, unprofessional or the like. I mean when they've written a good query and passed muster from their partial twice or three times, but you still aren't wowed by their work to offer representation. How do you proceed?

Hopefully, that question makes sense.

Anonymous said...

I have had a similar question, only my issue is with a query. I queried Agent A at Cool Agency in the begining of August. In her guidelines, she says she will reply within a week and if you don't hear from her, then to check on it.

After a month passed wtih no response, I re-queried referencing a the original. Now another month has passed with no reply. (This agent says she will reply one way or the other.) Should I try to query again?

There is another agent at the agency that I think might be a good fit, could I query her now that so much time has passed since the first?

Any thoughts?