Agents who half-ass it

If you are represented by an agency, then why are you querying me directly? Isn’t that your agent’s job?

Ahhh…yes and no.

Scenarios run like this; Big Agent tries like the dickens to get your manuscript onto the Big Editors’ desks. Only they pass on the project. Repeatedly. Now the options are more limited – and that translates to money. Big Agent has a choice; do I work just as hard to sell to a smaller publishers where the remuneration isn’t as grand, or do I let my author do the legwork because I. Am. Too. Important.

If the author is successful in getting a bite from an editor, guess who swoops in for the kill?

And this is what I know when I read the innocent query letter that tells me they’re repped by Ima Too-a Bigga For-a My-a Britches-a.

And what do you think my attitude is toward that agent? Not so hot-a. No one likes to think, “Hey, what am I, chopped liver that I didn’t deserve your time and effort?” as they read a query letter. And that’s exactly the message that comes over loud and clear.

I’m not so petty that I take it out on the author. Just the opposite, in fact. My heart goes out to them because they’re on their own now. “Hey, I tried, and you’re on your own now. I’ve lost faith in your manuscript.” I find that cruel.

If it’s not worth it to continue pitching the work, then let the author go. But for crying out loud, don’t half-ass it. Agents know far more about opening doors than authors do. Agents can pick up the phone and pitch to editors. An author who tries that will incur the beagle’s wrath, which usually results in her pearly whites connecting with the posterior soft tissue.

And let’s say I want the manuscript. Does anyone believe I’m going to feel all warm and fuzzy toward Mr. Fancy Pants Agent during contract negotiations? And what about pre- and post-production conversations? Does this agent really believe I’m going to give a rat’s fuzzy navel what he thinks about cover art or promo plans? First thing out of my piehole would be, “ohhh, so now you care. ”

I know, you’re thinking, “So what’s you’re point, Pricey?” Well, my point is that if your agent says you’re free to query on your own, take that as a big sign that he’s writing you off. That his sole purpose now is to enjoy the fruits of your labor because he’s Too Big to do it for you.  He needs to concentrate on his other client, The Sure Thing and sell to the Big Editor.

Sure, he’s there to negotiate the contract, should you prevail, but don’t forget who opened the door – you. Seems to me that should change the percentage that he’s entitled to.

5 Responses to Agents who half-ass it

  1. Voidwalker says:

    I’m sure if my agent told me to go ahead and pitch my own stuff, I’d be VERY upset. The first thought that goes in my mind is “What in heaven’s-antonym am I paying you for then?”

  2. catwoods says:

    Insightful. I agree with Voidwalker, “What the heck?”

    How do/can you combat this? If an agent tells one to knock on doors solo, should an author consider renegotiation of the contract?

  3. Cat: the only way to combat that is to be prepared to walk away. And why not, considering the agent has. Communication is key. The first thing any author should do if confronted with this is to ask “whazzup?” to their agents. Get it out on the table so there are no ambiguities.

  4. There’s an interesting flipside to this. Sometimes simply being able to say you have an agent can open doors that would have been shut if you didn’t have one. Even if you’re doing the inital approach, it’s like being able to brandish a qualification – ‘hey, I can write’.

  5. Dirty: When an author queries me me and adds that he’s represented, the reply that’s dripping from my bloody red pen is, “not very well.”

    An author should not be pitching his work anywhere if he has an agent, and there hasn’t been an instance where this knowledge opened up my particular door.

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