I’ve written on this blog before that I am currently unagented. My philosophy on agents is simple: if you find one who is a good fit with you, go for it; if not, don’t bother. Here’s why.
Quite some time ago when I began shopping my first book around, I sent out the standard queries for an agent and signed on with the first one who offered me a contract. She worked for a smallish agency out of New York City and that was good enough for me.
What I found out later was that she did the vast majority of her business with one company – Harlequin – and they eventually passed on my book. At that point I had to check in occasionally to remind my agent of my existence, and she’d dig around to find someone random to send the book to.
The editors we had heard from seemed to have something in common. They all didn’t like a specific scene which they thought made my main character a little too bloodthirsty, and wished she was softened a bit. I asked my agent if I should do a rewrite. But she said no, just send her something new instead. I didn’t have anything new finished yet, though.
Around that time, we were out to dinner with an old professor of my husband’s, and he spotted another friend of his in the restaurant – an editor from St. Martin’s Press. He immediately introduced us, and the editor offered to hear a quick minute-long pitch from me, after which she asked me to send her the manuscript to check out. I told her I’d have my agent send it along right away.
My agent, however, seemed a bit confused by all of this. I reminded her that she had instructed me not to send anything to any editor myself, that everything had to go through her, and to please contact this woman at St. Martin for me.
A few months or so went by and I heard nothing. I contacted my agent to see if she’d heard anything. She forgot to send my manuscript to SMP. She promised to do so right away.
Again I waited. Eventually I checked in with her again. “St. Martin’s Press?” she asked. “I don’t have any contacts at St. Martin’s.” She never sent it. She forgot we’d ever had that initial conversation. We ended up parting ways after that.
Do I blame the agent for what happened? No, not entirely. I think we were a bad fit for each other to begin with. I should have asked more questions. I should have followed up with SMP myself. I didn’t. I was so new to the business, I didn’t think it was appropriate to question my agent too much since she obviously knew what she was doing, right? I didn’t want to insult her. Also, I had very limited internet access at the time (we’re talking ten years ago or so), but if I had thought to do some checking up on her, I would have discovered that agent rating sites had declared her to be honest, but also noted that she made few sales.
Now, unless you want to approach one of the Big Five publishers, you often don’t need an agent. I still don’t have one. But I’m not opposed to them at all. If I met someone who I had a good rapport with, who could get behind my publishing goals, I would love to work with them. I’m just not rushing into anything this time!
Writers, do you have any agent horror stories?