Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Agents Hit By Cars, and Other Minutia

I am clueless about how this writing business works. I got my agent at a conference. She submitted my m/s in last year. In mid-December it went to second reads at two publishing houses. Now it's the end of January. I've heard nothing. I've emailed my agent three times and she hasnt responded. What if she's been hit by a car and is in a coma fighting for her life?!!! Or WORSE...what if my book has been rejected
and she just hasn't gotten around to telling me yet!!

So here are my questions:
1. Why wouldn't an agent return emails to a client who's book was in second reads?
2. Is it wrong to email agent THREE times with no response? I kind of feel like i'm harassing her.
3. What exactly is a second read and how long does it take? In otherwords, when should I give up hope?
4. This is anonymous, right? If you work for my agent, you won't tell her that I would rather see her in a coma than get a rejection letter (ahem. i'm just kidding about that, mostly, by the way).

1. Because she's busy trying to sell your book.
2. Yes, you're bothering her and looking like a pestering client. You don't get to do that without a book that clears $100,000 on an advance. Quarter million and you can bug her about the temperature of the champagne in the hotel where you're staying for your book signing in London.
2. First of all, it takes a good month for an editor to get back to agent sometimes, or even longer. (Two is really the limit) But submitting in mid-December doesn't start the timer. The editor is on vacation or doing all her last-minute things so she can go on vacation. She doesn't get back until January, and then she has to catch up on the things she missed. (Oh, and a second read is what it sounds like. She's reading it a second time)
4. I have no idea who you are. For people who think that I remember names, let me tell you: I do not. I don't remember the names of prospective clients. I don't remember the names of clients. I don't remember the name of that professor I had last semester. I don't remember the names of people I went to high school with, even if they were good friends. I am so terrible at remembering names that you will always be anonymous to me unless we meet and you're wearing a name tag. So don't worry about it.

27 comments:

bebe said...

Yeah, but it is a little weird that her agent hasn't responded at all. Or, at least, it might be, depending on things we don't know. One is how frequent the email check-ins have been. If they were close together, maybe the agent just went on vacation. If they were very far apart, maybe they were mistakenly overlooked. She's swamped, she's forgetful, she's got seasonal affective disorder, something.

We also don't know how harrassy she's been outside of these three unreplied emails, or how responsive the agent has been to emailing in the past. Maybe these 3 followed 10-in-a-row replied emails, in which case, yeah, lay off the emails. But follow-up emails when people haven't responded at all are not unreasonable. (But consider the urgency. Unless there's an auction or something, the submissions process doesn't really rush, and there's never a clear-cut deadline to get things done. It may seem like the most urgent thing ever to you, but the agent has dozens of clients and the editors have dozens of agents nipping at their heels).

In general, though, it's rude not to respond at all to a signed-up client. We all do it--we're human--but it's still rude. My guess is that's your answer. She's just human, and has either forgotten or slacked off a bit without meaning any harm. You can't read too much into it. But yeah, a month and a half is a little soon to be going off the deep end about it. Especially this month, which is crazy.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, just one little comment - I'm an editor, and everywhere I've ever worked a "second read" is when we give a project we're interested in to other editors at our imprints so they can give their opinions and add their voices to the rah-rahs at ed meeting.

Amie Stuart said...

If it's three times in the same day, or maybe even the same week, I'd say excessive. If it's three times in a month, no IMO it's not and it's one of the reasons I fired my first agent *slinking off now*

the green ray said...

bebe, every month in publishing is crazy, except December and August, which are dead. So it's either crazy or dead. Ms. Rejector, I'd be interested to know about agents doing second reads. I've got two agents doing second reads on revised versions that they've both requested (one of them gave suggestions for revisions) - and they've both taken almost a year. They're both in touch with me, but what is this second read thing? Is it totally boring to pick up that requested ms for a second time? They both say they'll get to it soon. Would love to hear your take on this. Thanks for the blog.

Lisa McMann said...

Maybe I'm spoiled, but my agent responds to every email I send him, often within minutes if not hours. Even if it doesn't require a reply. He is the best of the best.

I would think an agent would get less emails 'bothering' her or him if he or she would establish the way things work at the outset, or at least at the first premature email inquiry as to the status.

Agents, please just tell new writers what to expect. If you don't expect to hear anything for a month, tell us that. It helps. It really, really does. And it will lighten your email box.

I don't understand why a 20-second reply is so difficult, especially if it gets a nervous/nagging/ignorant author off your back for a month.

But like I said, I'm spoiled. *shrug*

Anonymous said...

Next time, ask the agent what to expect and what s/he expects from you.

Anonymous said...

I fired my agent--today--for lack of communication. She'd lost interest in the project and let me know by ignoring me and avoiding me. Too bad I wasted all that time waiting.

I don't think three e-mails in six weeks is excessive, but that's me. I am looking for an agent who has the common courtesy to respond to me in a timely manner.

Lisa's agent sounds like a dream!

Eileen said...

My agent is also a dream- she might not get back in minutes or hours- but always within a few days. She also provided some timeline expectations for me as a newbie.

Lisa McMann said...

anon 10:26...who said,
"Lisa's agent sounds like a dream!"

I'm finding out this is true.

I don't know if this is good or bad. :(

Phoenix said...

I don't know about agents, but editors at least will respond to you even if they are in a coma.

True story: My editor invited me to submit a story for a pb anthology (she'd already pub'd 3 stories of mine). I sent her one that I thought nailed what she was looking for. Got a rejection. One line. Form letter. Stamped-on signature.

The day after I got the rejection, I saw her obit online. She had gone into a coma on the Thursday before and died on Saturday. My rejection was dated Friday.

I can just see her rousing herself from her coma with the single thought she had to reject my story if it was the last thing she ever did...

So don't be letting your agent off the hook too easily. Car accidents, comas ... these gals are tough. Unless they've actually been pronounced dead, they can still communicate. And I'm not too sure I'd let her slide even if she produced a death certificate in lieu of a doctor's note...

Phoenix said...

I don't know about agents, but editors at least will respond to you even if they are in a coma.

True story: My editor invited me to submit a story for a pb anthology (she'd already pub'd 3 stories of mine). I sent her one that I thought nailed what she was looking for. Got a rejection. One line. Form letter. Stamped-on signature.

The day after I got the rejection, I saw her obit online. She had gone into a coma on the Thursday before and died on Saturday. My rejection was dated Friday.

I can just see her rousing herself from her coma with the single thought she had to reject my story if it was the last thing she ever did...

So don't be letting your agent off the hook too easily. Car accidents, comas ... these gals are tough. Unless they've actually been pronounced dead, they can still communicate. And I'm not too sure I'd let her slide even if she produced a death certificate in lieu of a doctor's note...

bebe said...

green ray: true, but January really is crazier than the others. Believe me, I'm living it right now. (OK so it's spilling into February a little...but the difference between this week and next week is staggering).

And my December was unusually crazy this year, actually. Just in a different way.

Amie Stuart said...

My agent is pretty quick to respond too which I love and whoever said, it only takes 20 seconds is right--for whatever that's worth.

Phoenix you made me laugh....LOL

Anonymous said...

Geesh...my agent sometimes never responds to emails, or chooses to respond to some questions and not others. It's very frustrating. He sent in a submission over 4 months ago and not a peep from the editor....or atleast none that he's cared to share with me...

Anonymous said...

What Lisa said... "You're bothering her?".... Screw that. You wrote a book, she asked to represent it so she could make money from it. It's her JOB. I will NEVER understand agents who don't reply to emails. Maybe the first gets skipped, dropped, things are busy. But on the second?

A 20 second reply - "No word yet - give it another 6 weeks. If something happens before then - I'll let you know."

20 seconds. No one is that busy. You're not out performing life saving brain surgery and can't be bothered. You're an agent. Reading books and talking to people.

This one reply eases the author's minds. Lets him/her know things are still waiting. Sets expectations - which should result in no more emails for at least six weeks.

In fact it took me less than 20 seconds to type that. But I'm a fast typer.

What's funny - all the agent blogs talk about what great communicatars they are (and maybe those agents are the exception).

Number 1 reason authors fire their agents - lack of communication.

What agents should really be upfront about is - I'll only care about you if I can make lots of money off of your work. Otherwise you're a dink and I get to ignore you and waste your time if I choose by going with the time old tradition of ignoring you until you get so fed up you go away.

Why don't agents just simply tell it like it is.

Anonymous said...

amen!

EmmaK said...

Seems strange that the agent does not respond to this person's emails within a reasonable time. Even when my agent does not respond to my queries, her assistant will get back to me or talk to me when I call on the phone.

Anonymous said...

It's only 'pestering' if the agent answers the emails and the client keeps emailing. Otherwise, it's called 'being ignored.'

Termagant 2 said...

Is it wrong to email agent THREE times with no response?

No. She's the AGENT. In regard to your book(s), you're her EMPLOYER. It's your DUTY to find out where your book is and what's happening with it. The only thing wrong with this is the non-response.

Repeat, lest this be misunderstood: the author does not work for the agent.

T2

Anonymous said...

Seems the most antsy writers are the ones who haven't sold yet. Writers who have sold know how...slow...the...process...can...be.
And forget the "she is your employee" nonsense. Be polite. She's not your employee, she's your business partner. Until she sells you she gets nothing. You are a charity case.

The Rejecter said...

Thank you, Anon 8:11, for summing it up.

Also, if the agent is your employee, you probably don't want to treat them badly, or they might quit. You know, like any employee.

Anonymous said...

The "don't treat 'em badly" paradigm works both ways. And I never used the word employee. I stand by my previous comments.

Anonymous said...

anon 12:47, my response was to this:

"No. She's the AGENT. In regard to your book(s), you're her EMPLOYER. It's your DUTY to find out where your book is and what's happening with it. The only thing wrong with this is the non-response.

Repeat, lest this be misunderstood: the author does not work for the agent."


Strident and rude. And wrong. It's a relationship based on contributions of both. I pity the agent who "works" for this attitude.

If either of you feels like you work for the other instead of working for yourself towards a common goal, you're in the wrong relationship or the wrong field.

anon 8:11

Anonymous said...

I've had a full out with an agent for twelve months and they refuse to respond to any inquiries.

I know I'll never hear from them, 'cause even if I did, their version of my ms no longer exists.

But to be quite honest: I kinda, sorta hope they DID get hit by a car, or at the very least, a bus.

Termagant 2 said...

Strident? Maybe. I've been accused of worse. Rude? I don't think so. I'm just trying in my own small way, to remind authors that we still hold at least some of the power here. It's OUR book. OUR product, at least till someone wraps it up in a glossy cover & slaps a price tag on it.

Sure, treat everyone with the respect they are due. That goes without saying. But I've heard way too many authors moan about how they are afraid to "pester" their agent, don't feel they have the right to ask for updates, too timid to realize they might HAVE to ask sometimes.

And no, FYI, I am not one of the "antsy writers" who has never published anything. I just got an e-mail accepting Book #4.

T2

Anonymous said...

Writers who beat up on agents are among the least likely to be career authors.
They also beat up on editors.
It ends up that no one wants to work with them. Publishing is a small world, and word gets around, because editors and agents actually talk about writers. Some of it is business and a lot of it is gossip.
So go ahead, assert yourself. Spend your time fighting with everyone and a system that you have to deal with eventually. Do this instead of writing. And do it on behalf of all the "unwashed" writers out there, who won't stand up for themselves. I daresay you're not a household name, and with this belief system in place apt not to be one.
Well, at least you have your principles, if not a writing career.
No worries.
Leaves more room for those of us who want to do this for a living.

Richard said...

I could easily see one forgetting a common name like 'John Smith', but surely something like 'Mikhaylovich
Przewalski' would stick in your mind (even if you could not remember to spell it).