robinellen (robinellen) wrote,

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Thought on the world of publishing...

I just finished reading up on a backlog of Editorial Anonymous posts, and one of them was about an author who had apparently done a couple of unethical things -- and how this gets around.

The second time the author did something unethical, it was at the behest of her agent (or so EA heard), and EA was commenting on how it's a small world in children's writing, and how this agent and author may be surprised in the future when no one wants to work with them.

What does this have to do with me? Well, this month marks my 3-year anniversary of agent seeking (sigh). I've learned quite a bit in three years, actually. I probably know more about most agents than your average writer (especially those who go out and get their first choice right away). A few of the commenters on EA's blog suggested that writers should share their negative experiences with other writers -- and then other commenters shot that idea down.

My opinion? It would be nice to have that kind of honesty in the writing world, but it's pretty unrealistic. Because it's often not the agent who pays for this kind of thing (even when it's the agent's problem), but the writer. However, I can share (without naming names) that I have a list of agents that I will not query. They're not agents who are on a Beware List somewhere -- they're simply people who have treated others I know with less respect than I want. These are them, in a nutshell.

Agent A: Made promises and didn't keep even one of them. This was my own personal experience with the agent, and although I don't query her anymore, I don't hold it against her, either. She was trying to be nice -- probably she never meant for her words to be taken by me as a promise, in the first place.

Agents B and C: Two agents I've seen who are the 'Immediate Sale Or Else' types. They're not interested in an author's career, even though they make that claim. If they can't sell the book within six months (or sometimes even 3), they dump the writer. All this after a great deal of initial enthusiasm, sometimes enough so that they convince the writer to go with them instead of other offers...and when the editor response wasn't what they thought, they broke up with the writers. I cringe every time I hear of a writer signing with one of these two.

Agent D: Flaky. She's got a great rep -- with some people. But with others, she's lost mss or shown high enthusiasm only to respond with a complete lack of interest the next moment. She'll promise a quick read -- on the phone even -- and then never contact the writer again.

Agent E: Too important to care. This is the agent who will think a writer has huge potential, but if it doesn't pan out (and quickly), she'll drop you because she already has too many high-selling authors to really care.

Agent F: Too busy to care. Another who shows amazing initial enthusiasm...and then never contacts the writer again. Ever. (Yes, this is another personal experience).

Agent G: Insecure. This agent likes to spend tons of time working with a writer -- but isn't secure enough in her own abilities (imo) to make it over that hump and offer.

Agent H: In Over Her Head. This agent starts strong and enthusiastic, but as her client list grows, she slowly retains less and less control over any of it.

To be fair, I've also seen some agents whose professionalism and loyalty seem impeccable (in my own experience), and those I'll list by name: Kristin Nelson, Jennifer Laughran, Wendy Schmalz, Zoe Fishman, Miriam Kriss, Holly Root, Susanna Einstein, Emily Sylvan Kim, Kate Schafer Testerman, Erin Murphy, Tracey/Josh Adams. (ETA: some from comments' list) This isn't even close to a comprehensive list -- these are only agents with whom I (or someone I know well) has had consistently good experiences. And a good experience doesn't mean tons of sales -- it means an agent who treats writers (clients and non-clients) with respect and professionalism, even if their book(s) doesn't sell right away.

Do you know of others? What do you think makes an agent worth querying -- and what keeps you away from others?
Tags: agents, agents/querying
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