Pub Rants

Lost That Loving Feeling (part 4)

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STATUS: Remember how much I said I value technology and all that? Well, I finally set up the RSS feed. Shuddup. I know I started blogging in January and many of you emailed me to ask that I get it set up. I love technology but I always have to set aside at least an hour to figure it out. See the little icon thingy on the right but it should work.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? MRS. ROBINSON by Simon & Garfunkel

First off, I have to say that I’m not talking about scamming agents with these last few entries. If someone wants you to pay a fee, be it a reading, editing, critique, signing, or what have you, you should have lost that loving feeling even before you began making out a check. And that goes for that whole Sobel Contest scam highlighted by Miss Snark and Galleycat and bunch of other bloggers.

I’m talking about agents with verifiable sales, are legitimate, but aren’t meeting author expectations.

It’s those reasons I want to chat about.

So, here’s the list so far.

#1 Complaint: poor communication
No updates on submission lists
Not returning calls or emails either at all or not in a prompt fashion

#2 Complaint: Not shopping projects
Agents sitting on them for too long a period of time/no feedback
Forgetting them when they are out on submission
Forgetting them altogether and is surprised when the author calls for an update
Sending only to 5 or 6 editors and then giving up

#3 Complaint: Original agent leaving and author being passed to another agent
The new agent doesn’t feel the love

#4 Complaint: Inept submitting of projects
Agents getting the info about the author and project incorrect.
This wasn’t in the comments but I participated in a chat loop this week and an author was pretty steamed that the agent had done a mass submission with hers just one of several client projects sent to an editor.
Not reading the project even before sending

#5 Complaint: Lack of career planning
Agents who basically submit projects but don’t do anything else.

#6 Inability to sell manuscript
All the other complaints are pretty darn valid. This one gives me pause because hey, there have been projects I haven’t been able to sell. No agent can sell everything he or she takes on. Now I have to say my sell-through is pretty darn high but it’s still not 100%.

On the other hand, sometimes I can understand why an author would want to make a change. Maybe a new agent can create what the other agent can’t. I have my blindspots. Maybe a new agent can see what I can’t or maybe the material has become too familiar and a fresh set of eyes is needed.

#7 Complaint: Personality conflict
Agent too cold or distant
Working styles too different

These reasons seem pretty valid to me. My suggestion? When an agent offers representation, ask for the contact info of current clients. Then contact those folks and get the scoop. How does the agent work? What is the communication style? Have there been any hiccups? Any agent drawbacks? Etc.

I’m always happy to forward on the email and phone numbers of current clients (with their permission) who are happy to talk with a potential new client about me.

That’s your best bet for getting the inside info on an agent. Even with this, I’ve heard of agents who were right for one author but so not right for another. It happens.

Happy weekend folks.

26 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    If you didn’t sell a novel by a first-time author, would you consider shopping another manuscript by the same writer?

  2. Anonymous said:

    You are a small business owner subject to the same wins and losses as any other business.

    It’s perfectly acceptable for a client to take his or her business elsewhere if she or he believe that they can do better elsewhere. Happens all the time.

    No, you won’t be able to sell every MS that you accept and it’s good to see you admit it. I think it’s be unrealistic for any agent to make this claim while signing on a new writer. My only hope after giving it your best, that you’d release the writer so that they could find other representation.

    Then, like any other small business owner, you’ll move on.

  3. Anonymous said:

    A few months ago an agent who blogs, said that she thinks it’s silly for a potential client to ask for current client referrals, because of course she’s going to direct them to her clients who love her. She felt her blog was a better way to see how she works. I was kind of wondering about this because I have an agent looking at a full and he got it through a sort of fluke, so I know nothing about him and I can’t find much online either, except that he’s extremely reputable. I was kind of wondering where to go for more info if he did offer me representation. It’s good to see an agent with a different opinion on this because I was a little hesitant to ask him if the need arose.

  4. Diana Peterfreund said:

    Anon #3, this agent who blogs said that his clients who loved him woudln’t give an honest answer but his BLOG would? that sounds suspicious to me. His blog is his opinion. the point of referrals is to get, you know, OTHER opinions.

    You can ask for regerrals, understanding that they’ll refer you to people who will give good stories (much as you would if you were applying for a job — you don’t put down the name of the boss that fired you! You can ask around amongst your writer friends to see if anyone knows anyone who can give you another perspective. Etc.

  5. Yasamin said:

    Happy friday! The whole idea of trying to find an agent makes me want to tear my hair out. I haven’t even a clue where to start. Some say to submit your work, some say thats bad! and to go to confrences and gatherings (which can really get expensive from what I have researched) and others say go agentless. The idea of finding an agent then losing them or being unhappy with them makes me wonder if some agents out there really cause those complaints. I am sure they do as any job has a few bad apples.

    So mainly, where do you think the best place is to start looking for one?

    Also, for some reason, I find that Sobol Award just frightening.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Clarification: No, the agent didn’t say her clients wouldn’t give honest opinions, she just said that any agent is going to direct you to her happiest clients who loved her, just like you wouldn’t put a boss who hated you for a reference. And her blog really does tell a lot about how she works…I definitely wasn’t dissing that agent! I was mostly asking what’s the best way to find info on an agent who doesn’t blog, doesn’t have a website (other than the agency’s website)…that sort of thing…

    And for the person who was wondering about whether she really needed an agent or not, until recently, I’ve been slogging along without any intention of trying to find an agent. I’d been pulled out of the slush pile quite a few times and had editors who would read my stuff, so it didn’t seem like there was a reason to try for an agent too. However, I had an opportunity to have coffee with an editor at a major house who is also a writer, and she told me that if you really want to be taken seriously, you should have an agent. I’ve been searching ever since (6 months now) and have fulls out three places, so hopefully it will pay off! Of course, this is just her (and my) two cents on the agent thing.

  7. Lynne Simpson said:

    This is where an organization like RWA helps a lot. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve seen emails on chapter and national loops where a writer will ask if anyone with info on Agent XYZ will contact him/her off-list. If an agent makes a habit of behaving unprofessionally — losing manuscripts, lying about submissions, whatever — word does eventually get out.

  8. Anonymous said:

    The question I have for Kristen is this:
    What if you only get one offer for representation and immediately (even though you’ve done the homework), you feel a mismatch in terms of goals and perspective? Should the writer refrain from saying “yes” and hope someone else comes along? Or do you go (as another poster has indicated) and try to negotiate until your confusion is resolved?

    I have to say that I admire how much Kristen has laid bare for people to comment upon. And she does it with a lot of class.

    As for the Sobol prize, I’m sick of hearing about it.

  9. ClicheCrusher said:

    I’m a new commenter to this blog (commented last about firing my agent), but wanted to assure YASAMIN that, sooner or later, she will want an agent. The main reason is that most of the big publishing houses will not accept unagented submissions. Also, even if a smaller house wants to publish, the writer seldom has the needed skills to negotiate the publishing contract, and MAY end up giving away vital rights, as well as suffer other contractual pitfalls.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Based on reading your blog, and my experience with my literary agent, it seems like agents don’t have to be accountable for their actions, especially ones representing authors on a handshake agreement. If a project didn’t sell like they had hoped, some agents simply lose interest, and that’s when the choppy communication surfaces, and forgetting where and when they submitted a project. The relationship is so much like dating. If your partner loses interest, or your not as good in bed as they had hoped, you’ll know it.

  11. Kendall said:

    As near as I can tell, Blogger sets up all their blogs with a corresponding Atom and/or RSS feed, Kristin. I’ve read yours that way since I found it (last year?), via the Atom feed it appears. (Atom & RSS are just two different types of feeds, that most people lump under ‘RSS’.)

    I use Safari, which detects the feed link and gives me an icon to click on for it. It appears to use the first one it finds, since it defaults to the Atom feed and that’s first in the HTML for your blog. So perhaps what you changed added the RSS version of the feed. (I suspect smart/good readers & browsers can handle either/both, though.)

  12. Yasamin said:

    Thanks so much ClicheCrusher! I have a feeling that you are very right as to the fact that contracts scare the hell out of me.

    the whole Newbie thing in this world is starting to get old with me. I think I have read so much on the whole agent/no-agent thing that my head is going to explode. I can only hope I find one or they find me. :p
    Gracias much!

  13. Anonymous said:


    Start looking in the acknowledgements section of books that resemble yours (genre, tone). Usually, authors thank their agents. Neat trick, eh? Check AgentQuery. Check Publisher’s Marketplace. Check Editors & Predators. It’s overwhelming at first, but it gets easier. If you write romance, join RWA. If you write mysteries, join SinC. Good luck!

  14. Maribel said:

    “Check AgentQuery. Check Publisher’s Marketplace. Check Editors & Predators. It’s overwhelming at first, but it gets easier. If you write romance, join RWA.”

    yeah, but you don’t always get the full story off those things. there’s an agency out there that a friend of a friend was with for like a year or something. the man claimed to be this hot agent selling things left and right when all it was was him selling one author (who used to be an editor) over and over again. i heard of him through the chick lit chapter where a lot of writers seemed to sign on with him in droves. however, when i queried him, got a request, got an offer and then asked him for references, he pulled his offer from me saying he “didn’t want to work with a diva.” just for asking for references? i just wanted to talk to all of these clients who he was claiming to sell. but to pull his offer from me because i wanted references seemed sleazy and untrustworthy to me. since then, i did manage to talk to a lot of his clients through e-mail and they told me of his short-temperedness, his lack of success with their novels, his blaming the rejections on them, not sending to the editors the writers asked him to and (this shocks me the most) not letting them see the rejction letters or even knowing what editor said what about their work. then, when they questioned him about it, he got all miffed off and said they didn’t trust him and he didn’t appreciate being questioned. why is this man in the business? i’m just glad i found all of this out before i accepted his offer and i’m glad he thought i was a “diva” for asking for references. i’m pleased to say my friend’s friend just recently got a deal and, in fact, like six or seven other people who used to be with him left and went to other agents and they’ve all sold. so, you can’t find that information out on predators and editors or on some marketplace listing because you’ve got to dig and interview and question and really know the agent you’re getting involved with. i just hate that people wasted their time with him and that he’s still out there trolling for authors and that i spent way too much time dealing with him, too. i much prefer the openness of the industry blogs i read because it gives me a sense of what to expect from an agent.


  15. James Aach said:

    I admit this is a snarky comment, but when a column starts out with “I value technology” I think it’s important to point out that this may well not apply to the written word in fiction, where technology and science are topics best left undiscussed. My article at discusses this in more detail. I think there’s some irony here.

    But other than that, your comments from the perspective of an insider are always valuable.

  16. Heather said:

    Maribel, have any of the people who’ve dealt with this agent submitted their experiences to P&E or any of the agent research sites? If not, then people WILL keep signing up with him because we won’t know that there are problems with him. Even just your experience would be very valuable for one of those sites.

  17. Anonymous said:

    maribel, none of the sites you mention claim to give the whole story about an agent. That’s what research is for. For example, your research turned up that “the man claimed to be this hot agent selling things left and right when all it was was him selling one author (who used to be an editor) over and over again.” Research like that is needed before querying an agent, or at least before signing. Part of your research should involve Publishers Marketplace,, P&E, Writer Beware, and so on, but, as you mention, you’ve got to do your own legwork as well. And remember that “There isn’t much out there on him/her” is not a good sign in a potential agent.

  18. Anonymous said:

    Why can’t you give us the agent’s name?
    There are already top 20 lists of worst agents. You can log in anonymously and do so. We’d all like a chance to blacklist this guy.
    Give us his initials and city of residence ast least.

  19. Richelle said:

    Not to deviate from the topic being tossed about, but I really liked how you mentioned authors leaving an agency, Kristin. That happened to mine, and I had never, EVER even considered that. I’d just been so happy to get one in the first place. I was very lucky to be passed onto a great one.

    Very nice list of things to think about.

  20. Anonymous said:

    I’ve heard Maribel’s story before (so she’s either the same person I already heard it from or this is this agent’s standard MO), and she’s right. Your only research into an agent should NOT be what you can find merely on a list like P&E. You need to talk to clients. You need to talk to writer friends, and you need to keep tabs on what an agent is selling and to whom. Ideally, an agent will show a strong record of sales for a variety of writers on a variety of levels (debut, midlist, big deals) to a variety of markets. Any time I see an agent only selling to ONE publisher or only ONE client, red flags go up for me.

  21. Anonymous said:

    PS: It is not “maribel’s” job to slam agent’s on another agent’s blog. I’m no fan of this agent’s but he does indeed have clients that think the world of him.

    The point is that she knew from her first conversation with him that their styles would NOT mesh. Don’t just sign with an agent because htey offer. Be discriminating regarding whom you trust your career to…

  22. Anonymous said:

    I’d rather not have Maribel expose who this agent is, either, as much as I wouldn’t want to sign with him myself. But, one writer’s nightmare might be another writer’s dream. It’s all subjective. If this agent isn’t charging for his services or not selling at all, then who’s write is it to “out” him simply because of other people’s dealings with him. If he even has one author who is selling, then some editor takes him as serious. So, I’d rather not see him ripped apart on a blog like this, even though I don’t know who he is. (Let’s face it, though. There are only so many male agents in this business.)

  23. Anonymous said:

    I’d be interested in Kristin’s take on Maribel’s original post about how this agent operates. Is this industry standard to keep your clients at arm’s length like this? Is it kosher not to tell writers where work is being sent? I certainly wouldn’t want an agent like that. How is someone like this even in business? How can writers avoid even querying him?

  24. Anonymous said:

    Well, I’m not Maribel, but her story sounds very familiar to what happened to me. I suspect it’s the same agent too because he made an offer then dropped it hours later when I started querying two of his clients. One was an old chapter member of mine who was/is a bestselling author now. Long story short, he pulled his offer saying he and his partner who he used to represent btw, have decided not to take on any new clients.

    I have no such compunction not to name names, but out of respect for this blog, I’ll just give an initial.

    It’s J. Last initial. P.