Friday, June 17, 2011

What happens when...

Being that I hope to query soon, I wanted to talk about what happens after you sign with an agent. Now, I don't have an agent...yet. :) I'm working hard towards that. So when I read this post, my heart sank. Most of us may think that once we get our awesome agent, our problems are over, birds will sing, the flowers will seem a little more vibrant, and we may feel like we are walking on air. I have thought this and for the most part this does happen. You see the celebrations on blogs, giveaways, etc. It happens and I get all excited (and a little jealous) of those folks. It's great to see dreams come true. But what happens after the party settles?

Now, I know a few folks who have been through this. Once you get your agent that is super awesome and you can go to him/her for anything, you may even hang out together (this is kind of my dream, people). The typical progression may be-- your agent sends you revisions (sometimes lots of them) to ready your baby for submission. Once your agent is satisfied, then submission to publishers it is. This process can be long or short depending on your journey. Once you land that book deal, more revisions may occur, then it's onto getting a real book. I'm sure I'm missing some steps, and this is probably the smoothest publishing story ever (it's a dream), so leave anything you would like to add in the comments on that. Like I said, I'm no where near this stage, I'm just giving a brief overview of the process.

But what happens when the agent deal isn't what you expected? What if you don't click with that agent after you sign the contract? What if that agent never really seems interested? What if they never submit your work?

I read this post from Candace Ganger and it got me thinking. This isn't the first time I've read something like this and I wonder how you can avoid it. How can someone really know if the agent is right for them? Sure research, but what if that's not enough? Trust your gut, yes, but is there any other way this heart break can be avoided?

I'm looking to see what your thoughts are. I know there are some sites that may help Query tracker, Guide to Literary AgentsAgent query, etc. I know I'm missing some. But what if these don't give you enough info?
Where do you go?

Let me know what you think.

I also extended the date for my Lipstick Laws Contest. Ends June 23rd. So you have a few more days to enter.

Thanks and have a great weekend!


  1. Candace is not the only one I personally know who's been through this. We're all human. Sometimes it's a mere mismatch of personalities or expectations. Other times it's life getting in the way. I have another close friend who was so excited about her signing. Then, a few months later, said agent made a career change. It was rough on my friend but it really wasn't anyone's fault. :) The best advice I've been given is listen to your gut. And from what my closest writer friends have gone through, query those agents you are serious about, that you'd actually be willing to work with. This lessens the chance of a poor matching.

  2. I see it often on the blue boards. It does happen. For me, I don't query agents just because they rep my genre. And I think having a lot of questions and going with your gut will help every writer about to sign. Tough place to be.

  3. I obviously have really nothing to add to this since we are in the same spot on our journeys. So, I can't wait to hear what others say! If I were to have an answer though, I'd agree with both Salarsen and Laura--trust your gut.

  4. I think the particular situation that happened with Candace is unusual in that the agent behaved unprofessionally. A more normal situation might involve personalities that don't mesh or a life/career change for the agent. And that's something that nobody can predict in advance. Of course, your agent might be wonderful and hard-working and devoted -- and that still doesn't guarantee your book will sell. So, I think it's a risk, no matter what you do. Trust your gut and put yourself out there. The only really terrible mistake is not ever taking the risk at all ...

  5. I'm not ready for an agent yet but I'll admit the process frightens me a little bit. I'd say - like everyone else has - trust your gut. When you've done all the research you possibly can, it's all you've got left.

  6. I blogged about this last, and will be blogging about it again on the QT blog next week. I have some links on my post that might help.

    I still cringe when I think of that agent and what she did to so many writers. I've heard worse stories about her than what Candace mentioned from clients who did sign with the agent.

  7. I'm unsure if I want an agent. No matter what I'll have to sign away control to a publisher, but to put my whole career into the hands of someone who may or may not be concerned with my best interest is a tough call. I want to hook a big publisher (who doesn't?), but at what cost?

  8. I was so sad reading about what happened to Candace. It's a lesson to everyone to follow your instincts. I for one am a little leery of agents who haven't made a sale yet. I will probably still give them a chance so long as they are at a reputable agency, but it does give you pause. Agents are human too, which means they may have the spectrum of badness that can be found in any person.

  9. I try and be sure to only query agents I can get enough info on to know they're legit. I love the absolute write water cooler forum too.

  10. Like anyone else, agents can be fired!

  11. Two layers/steps were too much for me, which is why I went straight to querying publishers. I guess the same thing can happen, but that's the chance we all take.

  12. Yeah, sigh. Since I know of this situation *personally*, my advice is to really really really listen to what your gut is saying even during the first phone call.

  13. Hi Christine,

    I stumbled upon your blog while I was leafing through Facebook profiles from high school, and got intrigued that there was another writer from our year...

    I just thought I'd tell you that something very similar happened to my partner, Jessica. She worked with an agent for two years on a middle reader novel set in historical San Francisco only to have the agent, after putting her through several major revisions, reject the book for being "too political." It was pretty crushing.

    I think the lesson we both learned from that experience is that the power agents have over writers is just indicative of how out-of-whack the publishing world has become. Agents, after all, are supposed to work for the writer, and yet it often seems as though that power dynamic has been reversed. It's very sad.

    Jessica's answer has been to go at it agentless, which, while risky, is feasible, especially if one isn't necessarily interested in making a living as a writer. She has found that there are many very promising smaller presses that have sprung up as mainstream publishing moves away from any literary work that won't make an immediate profit. Many of these presses have distribution focusing on independent booksellers.

    Of course, none of this is a problem for me, as I write experimental poetry. I never need to worry about making money off my writing. I never will.

    Hope you're doing well,

    Jim Maughn

  14. I think listening to your gut is key. there are plenty of agents (Reid, Faust, & Nelson) who offer suggestions on what to ask, what to watch out for, what to expect.

    Writer Beware is also a good resource when beginning to put your work out there. An extra set of eyes on your MS is as important as an extra person for a sounding board when it comes to agents.

    I am also somewhat leery of the agent who has never made a sale, particularly if they are not connected with more reputable agents.

  15. What happened to Candace happened to me, too. I believe the initial excitement masked my gut instinct.