Monday, November 10, 2008

Dear Jeff: I Hate My Agent

Dear Jeff,
I hate my fucking agent. She NEVER returns phone calls and I don't even call her every week. I talk to her like once a month, cause quite frankly I don't want to be a pain and I've got a life and I'm busy writing. It takes her like 3 weeks to get back to my emails. I actually came up with a publishing deal on my own, handed it to her as free money and it took her 2 months to respond to the deal with an email to me saying, "Oh, did I get back to you about this?" And I'm thinking no motherfucker, I negotiated the deal myself after waiting for your ass that long.

I feel bad because I've recommended many authors to her and they're all having the same experience. She says she'll have a manuscript read in two weeks and I patiently wait for 2 months. She says she'll call by tomorrow and I don't hear from her in 3 weeks. That's bullshit and ridiculous. If you can't do it then don't say you're going to do it. I'd rather have you say I'll call you back in one month and do it then tell me a week and not do it for a month. Be a woman of your word.

I have been through agent nightmares with countless agents and they're all exactly the same. Nice people, but flaky. Is this the norm or have I just had bad luck with agents? -- Diane

Dear Diane,
My God, you sound frustrated and based on what you're saying you have every right to be. Have you tried talking to her? Then again, you probably can't even get her on the phone or to return a call.

There's a couple of things you can do. Either grin and bare it, because most agents aren't any better (trust me, I've been through my fair share of them) or get out.

If you get out, you should start looking for another agent discretely. They say it's better to have one bird in the hand than two in the bush. This means not blasting a bunch of query letters around town looking for an agent because it's a very small town, a very small community and everybody knows each other. Agents are in the business to sell books. They are glorified sales people. That is how they put food on the table and feed their children. So, naturally they're going to spend more time on a client that is bringing them more money. You're right, taking that long to return a call or email, really is unacceptable. One thing I will say, however, that many writers do not realize is that agents are people too. They're not just people that sell books and there may be things happening in their office or in their personal life that you may not be aware of. That said, at the end of the day, it's business.

So, ask a friend to help you get a new one. Once you've had one agent, you often get a better look at an agent because you've received a "right of passage". But you better have a good track record for sales. If your first book tanked the agent maybe leery of signing you, if you have a bad reputation for being a demanding, obnoxious, diva that may taint their decision too. If you don't have any of those things going against you, and you really are amazingly talented then getting a new agent shouldn't be difficult. Happens every day.

The other thing I'd like you to know, like all authors to know is that you should take control of your careers. Make your own deals. Besides the major publishers there's tons of smaller reputable publishers that are definitely open to reading unagented submissions. Pitch your book to them directly and when you score a deal take it to a new agent and use that as leverage for signing with them.

If you do decide to leave your current agent do try to reach out them at least once, at least by short courteous and polite email, then send them their notice via certified mail and be done with it. Some agents will beg you for another chance. But in my experience, if they gave you problems before it's just a matter of time before the exact same thing happens again. Just like when you give a boyfriend or girlfriend another chance.

Hope that helps!

Jeff Rivera

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