Pub Rants

The Phone Is Your Friend

 18 Comments |  Share This:    

STATUS: My shoulder blades hurt from trying to handle all the tech problems on top of all the client work I need to review. I plan to finish up a lot of stuff tomorrow which excites me. Newsletter subscribe/opt-in is still an issue but I think we have finally nailed down the problem.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HARDER TO BREATH by Maroon 5

Agents must be snowed under in January or doing “housekeeping” without informing some of their clients because I’ve been seeing some posts on the writer sites I visit where the writer is lamenting about their incommunicado agent.

I realize that a lot of authors don’t have a close, communicative relationship with their agents, so it feels like “bothering them” when they have questions, need to know the status of a submission, or generally want to career strategize. But remember, they work for you.

If you are sending emails with no response for weeks on end, you need to know that the telephone is your friend. Pick it up and call.

At the very least you can confirm that there is no problem with your ISP or with your emails getting spam blocked if you leave a voicemail message.

Your agent may take several days to get back to you (he or she could be out of town, out sick whatever), but if weeks go by without a return call, then some of your questions are starting to be answered. You haven’t been demanding; has this agent lost that loving feeling?

Personally I think it’s an awful way for an agent to dissolve a relationship but I’ve heard of it happening that way often enough. You need confirmation so you can begin to move on and find that agent who will embrace you and your work and you can’t do that if you are stuck in limbo.

Get courageous. Pick up the phone.

18 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    I agree! Pick up the phone. I knew my relationship with my first agent was finished when he stopped answering my emails. The three or four times I subsequently called, I was told he was too busy to talk, or he was out, or he was not in that day (you get the picture). And this is how I knew the relationship was over. I emailed to ask if it was over – no response. I then politely wrote a letter and sent it via certified mail thanking him for being my agent and asking that we part ways (isn’t that rich?! But it was the polite and right thing to do).

    At this point I began my querying process all over again and I quickly learned that there is indeed life after leaving your agent (or your agfent leaving you). My next agent sold my book to Random House in a six-figure, two book deal. One of the reasons she was willing to take me on (aside from my writing) was because I never badmouthed my first agent so she knew I wouldn’t ever badmouth her. If your agent stops communicating and the relationship goes south, just move on.


  2. Anonymous said:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I’m still sucking up the nerve to call my agent and have ‘the talk’.

    It’s good to hear from an agent’s perspective.

  3. J. said:

    It’s so important to do it if it needs to be done. I know a writer who was too afraid to call her agent and after a YEAR she finally got the nerve to ask about a manuscript that she thought was being shopped around. The agent thought it was a WIP and hadn’t sent it anywhere.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story. I checked out your website as well and your writing advice/links page is great. I will definately be checking out Nefertiti when it comes out.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Wow, Michelle, an agent who behaves like an ex-boyfriend-wanna-be instead of a professional? Pat on your back for staying professional yourself through it all. It can be very hard to keep one’s mouth shut after being treated that way, but it is the professional thing to do. You give courage to us all!

  6. Anonymous said:

    “If your agent stops communicating and the relationship goes south, just move on.”

    Amen to this.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Get a load of this story:

    My agent likes my novel. His staff worked hard with me on great revisions. I was thrilled when he said that it was polished and ready to go. He replies to my emails and comes to the phone when I call, which isn’t often.

    The problem is that seven (SEVEN!!!!) dates for beginning the submission process have come and gone with nothing sent. I was recently given a new date and I’m terrified that, too, will come and go without a single editor seeing my work. Every day spent waiting to even start playing the game feels like an eternity.

    The holidays, being out of the office, timing, other projects, and loss of his assistant have all been used as excuses over the past four months. Like the grateful shmuck that I am, I have remained understanding and pleasant throughtout this process. I’ve thanked him profusely in each email for everything he is doing and wished him luck on his other projects. Then I sit and wait some more.

    He remains available to me when I email to ask about moving forward. If he never returned my emails, I’d have a clear answer about this guy losing that loving feeling. But what’s a writer to do when a well-respected agent with lots of super sales DOESN’T drop off the face of the Earth, but still won’t get your work out there? Is four months without submitting to editors too long?

    I did send one email that was 90% ass-kissing and 10% stating my concerns. He replied with a long, snippy email about how much time he’d spent on me without making a penny. I could very well turn around and say, “Listen, pal. I haven’t made a penny here either!” He also said the market was bad before the holidays and everything was being rejected that came out of his office. If he thought he could’ve sold it back then he would’ve sent it out. It’s all about timing, he said. He wants to find the perect time to send my novel into the world.

    I feel like I’ve been practically begging this guy to send out my work. That doesn’t sit well with me knowing that an agent should be passionate about getting a client’s work out there. Begging can’t be good.

    My game plan now is to wait for this new date. If my novel still hasn’t gone out, I will have to say buh-bye. Happily, my novel will not have been shopped to anyone so a new agent will be able to take it on.

    The whole thing makes me queasy, especially when I think that maybe my agent isn’t full of crap and his reasons for the delays have been genuine. Losing this agent because of impatience on my part would terrible.

    But waiting four months to submit a ready manuscript? Anyone else think that’s sucky?

  8. Anonymous said:

    I wouldn’t know, due to lack of experience. However, you could read Kristin’s archives, especially ones with ‘lost that loving feeling’ in the title for a better idea. I seem to remember something on this issue in those entries.

    Kimber An

  9. Anonymous said:

    My non-communicative agent still has two subs of mine out there. I’ve been waiting for them to be rejected beofre firing her. I mean, how awkward would it be if one of the editors wanted my MS after I’d fired her? It’s been three months with no word. Is this a good plan or not?

  10. Anonymous said:

    To anonymous at 8:09 a.m.:

    Yikes! That sucks. It’s so darn hard to get an agent that once we do, firing him or her is obviously not to be taken lightly. And perhaps his timing issue is valid, I don’t know. But four months seems awfully long. I did revisions for my agent before I signed. The day I signed the contract, she sent my ms out the door.

    Have you ever spoken to any of his clients? Is this his MO? That might be worth investigating.

  11. Anonymous said:

    I sent several e-mails that were not answered, and then I got a letter in the mail – she terminated our contract.
    So I’m back on the market looking and querying. Not one to waste time, I sent off two queries the next day. I suppose it would have been nice to have a phone call from her, but I suppose a letter is more professional in this case.

  12. Anonymous said:

    Update to “Get a Load of This Story”:

    Just got a positive email from my agent (without me sending one first… Wahwahweewowwow!) regarding the upcoming submission plan. I guess my mind control abilities are better than I thought.

    P.S. All of his clients love him. Maybe I’m just too anxious. We’ll see how it goes.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Anonymous 809–Four months is a long time but not unheard of. My agent has had my ms for about 4 months as well. I’m frustrated that it hasn’t been sent out yet, but she was so overwhelmed with work that she stopped accepting query letters. She also was reading my ms one last time to see if there was any more editing she wanted done before submitting it.

    If the new date comes and goes with no action from your agent, and no explanation for the lack of action, I think you should draft a Dear John letter to him or her and move on. Believe in your writing. You’ll find another agent if you have to.

  14. Anonymous said:

    Agent Kristin,

    I feel so bad you are hurting your shoulder blades with technical problems. Although I believe surviving technical problems with the brunt upon your shoulder blades as an odd combination… it still evokes my sympathy. I’ve been a long time silent blog enthusiast of yours… admiring your openness, agentness, and non-snarkiness for a long time. As one of the silent in your fan club… “Hope the shoulder blades feel better soon!”

    P.S. Don’t get me wrong. I think Ms. Snark’s snarkiness is “hotter than a jalapeño pepper.” It is sometimes you can get too much of a good thing, and sometimes the opposites are oh so cool to experience.

  15. Anonymous said:

    I wonder if some agents hold onto material before signing a writer if they are trying to figure out how to position something for the market (i.e., they request revisions, but don’t sign until they know an editor will be interested). Then, boom, the writer is offered a contract and the manuscript goes out the next day. From what I’m reading, it also seems that sometimes an agent signs a client but the submission won’t happen for a while because of revisions, positioning, etc.. Does this paint an accurate picture in any way?

  16. katiesandwich said:

    The fact that an agent would terminate a relationship by simply refusing to contact the author shocks and scares me. I know it’s probably a rarity, but it’s good to know that at least one agent I’m going to query (you!) won’t end things that way if we have to part ways. Of course, I also hope I can keep the same agent for my whole career, but who knows what could come up?

  17. S. W. Vaughn said:

    Anon 8:09 – That is indeed sucky. And I can almost guess who your agent is, as I’ve heard the same complaint about he of whom I’m thinking from more than one other author (and of course, there are those who are thrilled with him, too). Does he have Hollywood connections?

    I hope things work out for the best for you, and the forthcoming submission date sees your manuscript out the door! 🙂

  18. Anonymous said:

    About 10 months ago, I signed up with an agent who took my collection of stories on and was thrilled to learn that I was working on a new novel. He decided to play that card when he approached publishing houses and the overwhelming majority said “great, collections are a hard sell and we would love to look at the novel before we make up our minds.” Fast forward to a few months later. The agent has two editors interested in the collection and he pushed me to finish the novel fast. I did that in 9 months, with a full time job, a baby and all.

    Then total silence!

    I called and was told to wait! I get an email a few weeks later to say that he would call a week later. 3 weeks later he still hasn’t called.

    I know it’s a business of patience but come on. Don’t you want to make a buck, or is it just us?