STATUS: Feeling upbeat. How can I not with Mary J on the stereo? I’m working on contracts, which is always labor intensive and detail-oriented. An editor also called to make an offer for one of my projects.
What song is playing on the ipod right now? FAMILY AFFAIR by Mary J. Blige
I’ve spent the last two days talking about the huge hug fest I’ve got going on with all my agent pals. You have to know there is a flipside—the nasty agents who don’t operate with impeccable integrity or a strong ethical code.
Agents are still a microcosm of the society at large, which means there are always a couple of bad apples in the bunch (and I’m not talking about scammers or faux agents. I’m talking about real agents who walk some very fine lines in their relationships with other agents).
It’s called agent poaching or in other words, agents who deliberately steal clients from other agents.
We agents all know who they are but I wonder if the general writing world at large has any idea.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about authors who have become unhappy with their current representation and decide to make a change. That certainly happens often enough. The author independently has made the decision for the change.
No, I’m talking about the agents (and they all have solid reputations and good sales records) who deliberately target the clients that other agents have built to a high enough level to be poached. Then this poacher sidles up and promises the world. Promises such as “I can get you significantly more money than so-so has done for you” and “I can build you to the next level and so-so can’t” and “I can get you on the NYT list or USA Today.”
Sounds awfully good to the author. So what’s the problem?
Poachers can’t always deliver. Then they do one of two things: 1) drop the client faster than a bad hot potato when reality doesn’t match expectation (because the author’s career hadn’t built to that needed level yet and now they’ve just shot themselves in the foot) or worse yet, 2) start ignoring the client and the author ends up low on the totem pole with the new poacher agent whereas two months ago they were getting tons of attention and now, when expectations haven’t been met, are suddenly getting none.
If the Poacher does manage to fulfill the promises, then good. I guess both parties got what they needed. The stories you don’t hear are all the authors who left the poacher agent after getting burned.
I’m a big believer in world karma and what goes around comes around.
Publishing is a small world. If you’re an author listening to a poacher siren song, make sure you’re really not getting what you need from your current agent. Talk to him or her before making the leap.
Be sure to talk to the current clients at the poacher agency but also be willing to dig a little and talk to the former clients. You might be surprised at how revealing that can be.
But most of all, you need to be willing to pay the price if you are lured to another agency and it goes sour. There’s no going back to your former agent (who’s now looking like the world’s greatest agent)—although many have tried.