STATUS: I totally forgot to blog last night.
What’s playing on the iPod right now? LONG HOT SUMMER by Style Council
It sometimes happens that a writer lands an agent, goes on submit, but then the agent gives up after just a short time or a few submissions.
Personally, I can’t figure out what the agent was thinking. Why bother taking on someone if you don’t think you can commit for the long haul? Besides, every agent I know has a story of getting 30+ rejections and finally selling the book. It only takes one! Such a cliché but often true. I’ve even heard of agents taking up to 2 years and 5 years to sell a project.
But that’s an aside. Let’s say this has happened to you (as awful as that would be). Here’s the info you need to be an animal about getting from that former agent. Bug that person with emails and phone calls (politely of course—I always advocate being professional and polite) but do annoy them until you get the exact names of the editors who saw the work and the imprints/houses. And if you can get the responses, that’s even better!
Because if a new agent is going to take you on, it’s imperative to have that info. (And just about every agent I know has taken on at least one client who has been previously submitted so it happens.)
Here are a couple of reasons why we need the info:
1. If I have the submit list in hand while contemplating offering representation, I can clearly see if I think the former agent sent the work to the right editors or not. If they haven’t, heck, I’ve got a clear field and can probably sell the work by getting the project into the right hands.
2. Having the info allows me to weigh my decision on whether I think there are enough viable other places to take it to.
3. The editor list lets me see if an editor has left publishing or has moved to another house and suddenly, I’ve got a clear shot at that imprint again. It’s musical chairs in publishing.
4. The editor list allows me to pinpoint an editor who has already seen it (maybe a year or more ago) and I can sway him or her to look at it again if we’ve done a big enough revision on it that I can pitch it like new.
5. Some editors are notoriously bad at never responding and if that’s the case and I see that on the list (and the responses you have—or lack thereof), I can target a different editor at that imprint and it’s like submitting fresh.
6. There’s nothing worse than not knowing that a project you took on was previously shopped and you, the agent, now have egg on your face when an editor writes and tells you that they’ve seen it before and it was NO then and it’s still NO now. Ouch. That pisses me off and so if you have the editor list, then you can give it to me before this can happen.
Not to mention, it’s your right to know who has seen your manuscript, who turned it down, and what they said about it so even if you are parting ways, get that info. Most agents (I hope) are good people and happy to give you that info as a matter of course but if the agent isn’t doing it, be wonderfully annoying and politely make it clear that you will continue your inquiry until they do. They may just send it your way to make you go away!