Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Thin Line Between Love and Hate

Question of the day: I've been very frustrated with my agent. We started working together almost a year ago, and nothing is getting done. She rarely returns my calls and emails--I hear from her once every few months. She is constantly putting me on the back burner for her other clients--it's frustrating. I understand I'm a new writer, and haven't made her any money yet, but I still expect some respect. We haven't even approached publishers yet. But she has a lot of contacts, great credits to her name and is respected throughout the publishing community so I hate to say anything. She is a big time agent and I'm lucky to have her. It just seems like she's lost interest in my work, and at this point, I'm not sure what I should do. Thoughts?

Ugh. I always hate hearing stories of how writers are mistreated by agents because a) I think it gives agents an unfairly bad reputation when many of them are responsive and generous, and b) I hate hearing how writers think that they're powerless when situations such as these do arise. (And yes, arise they do.)

So, that said, the first thing I'd try to do, if possible, is get your agent on the phone and explain how you've been feeling. She might not have any idea that you feel neglected, etc, even though it sounds like you're well-within your rights to feel that way. Alternatively, she might tell you that she's just not as excited about your work, which would really suck, but at least then, you wouldn't be in limbo and you could make a decision as to how to move on.

Barring that, I'd do the same thing via email (if you can't get her on the phone). It sound like, in essence, she's holding your work and your career hostage, and while it's always scary for authors to do, you should take the reigns to the situation. Having a negligent agent is worse than having to start looking for a new one.

Unfortunately, a lot of writers fail to understand this. In our industry, agents are the Revered Ones, the Demi-Gods, the Holders of All Power and Truths, and I've always felt that this line of thinking does writers such an injustice. YOU are responsible for your career, so if YOU'RE not being served in the manner in which you believe you deserve to be, find a way to remedy it. Agents, when true advocates for you (like mine is), are amazing resources, and it's always better to have someone in your corner than not...but if your agent is MIA or is only in your corner symbolically, then frankly, you're stranded in that corner by yourself anyway, whether or not you technically have "representation." Go out there and find someone who will go to the mats for you. You deserve nothing less.

Anyone else ever been in this situation? How do you feel about the balance of power between agents and writers?


Anonymous said...

To be honest? Maybe a little jealous.
BEst wishes

Anonymous said...

Great post and timing for me personally Allison. It's really hard when you finally get an agent and then things don't work out. I just let mine go after looking at our emails and realizing she hadn't contacted me in over a year. My mom has been very ill and has been my main focus since May, so I was surprised how long it had been and that my agent couldn't be bothered to drop me a note and tell me what she's been doing on my behalf, or at least just check in and see how I was. She's new to agenting and her contacts are limited, but I was still so happy to have someone "get me" and my writing that I guess maybe I stuck it out longer than I should have. We had a few polite emails back and forth recently and she admitted that she should have been in touch and did I want to print out and mail her three more copies of my book and have her send them out? But I decided it was time to move on. I did feel bad though, about firing someone, about now being "agentless"...etc and reading your post Allison has helped me understand that I did the right thing, thanks:)

Anonymous said...

Allison's got some good advice!

I'd like to agree with her, I would try to always remind my agent that I'm here, working, writing, doing something. E-mailing him/her about another article or a short story I got published, anything related to books and publishing, that would be appropriate.

The more your agent hears about you, the more he cares.

Anonymous said...

How frustrating. As Allison mentioned, it really does seem like your career is being "held hostage". Good luck with whatever happens--moving on, getting your agent back on board, etc.

Anonymous said...

A similar thing happened to me. My agent suggested I rework my proposal to attract larger publishers, but he always took so long to respond that it took 7 months for the revision and then another 3.5 months till he started pitching it.

The problem was, he was the only agent I was able to land after several months and dozens of queries.

I did get frustrated and started another round of agent queries, again with no luck before he finally pitched the book.

Like your writer, I felt lucky to have him -- and was unwilling to fire him without any other prospects.