Monday, July 13, 2015

RANT: Beware Of Pushy "Agents"

So... some there was some talk on Twitter yesterday, about a certain "agent" condemning authors who had the audacity to ask her to wait for a response on her offer of representation until the author heard back from the other people who had their manuscript. I tweeted about it for a bit, but I want to expand on that a little more here, where my tendency to be longwinded didn't make that a problem.

Okay, let’s spin a little scenario for you here, so I can better illustrate how insane this is (and downright predatory when you take into consideration the number of writers who wouldn't question this stupid request because they'd have no idea that this isn't the industry standard!)

Say you’re a relatively “new” writer. You’ve worked hard, you’ve toiled, and done everything you could to make your book as perfect as it can possibly be. You love this book. It’s the thing born from all your struggles, and abandoned ideas, and late nights typing away while everyone else had fallen asleep.

You decide, this is the one. This is the book you’re going to send out into the world. You compile a list of agents, you sweat over a query letter, and after psyching yourself up for more time than you really think you should need, you hit send.

What happens next is a spiral of emotions. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Worry. Every single time your phone makes that incoming email sound you leap on it like it might scamper away from you. And every rejection breaks your heart a little bit more.

Then, that magical day comes. You open your email and there’s something from an agent you queried, or one who requested pages from you during a contest. Finally, you read something other than “This just isn’t for me.” They’re interested! They want to talk! It's "THE CALL!!"

And then they tell you they want an answer right away. 

“Don’t bother notifying the other agents who have your book."

RED FLAG.

"Just sign with me right now, it's unprofessional to ask me to wait for you." 

RED FLAG.

"Don't waste my time.”

RED FLAG

You stare at the email and think this is great…. right? They want to work with you. But a little voice inside of you is screaming that something’s not right with this. And if it’s not, it definitely should be!

Agents are great people. They’re understanding, competent, awesome professionals who take things like this beloved book of yours and fall in love with it just as completely as you have. They want the best for you AND your book.

They also understand that what’s best for you, might not be them. That’s why any reputable agent out there won’t bat an eye when you ask for a couple weeks to make your decision. Time to let everyone else with your manuscript know you’ve had an offer of representation. Hell, most of them will even come right out and tell you to do this.

Anyone who says otherwise, or asks for special liberties with your book, or demands to have a response right that second, doesn’t have YOUR best interests in mind. They're concerned about them, and what they want. They don't give a crap about you.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t sign with someone just because they make an offer. Talk with them, talk with anyone else offering, mull it over, sleep on it, make sure that when you say “yes” it’s to a person you’re 1000% confident in.

Your agent doesn’t just sell stuff for you. They advise you on your next book, on the path of your career, they talk you down when you’re convinced everything sucks, they read your manuscripts over and over, and advocate for you on a daily basis.

It's a big job, and it's not something you want to put into the hands of someone who will make the publication process harder. Going from an unknown author, to an agented author, to a published author is a LONG process and it’s stressful enough without feeling like you haven’t got a single person in your corner. Your agent should always be that person.

It’s been said a million times, and it’ll continue to be said because it’s the truest of truths:

NOT HAVING AN AGENT IS BETTER THAN HAVING A BAD ONE.

Write that on a post-it and stick it to your computer. Paint it on the wall. Skywrite it. Dream about it. Whatever it takes for you to keep that at the front of your mind while querying.

If you have even the slightest feeling the agent interested in your manuscript isn't right for you, walk away. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don't.

Do your research, take your time, and make informed decisions. There are people out there who WILL try to take advantage of the insecurities felt by undiscovered writers. Don't let them. Push back, and take control because there are so many genuine, absolutely WONDERFUL agents who are always eager to advocate for talented writers.

Good luck!

Megan. 

3 comments:

  1. Great post. And I agree with you in every way.

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  2. I stumbled across some of that conversation on Twitter, and I'm totally with you. Your agent has to be someone as concerned about your career as you are. From what I've heard from friends who've gone through it, parting ways with an agent is beyond painful, but it happens. Best to make sure you've got the right one to begin with.

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    1. Oh yes. Nobody ever wants to move backward, and signing with a bad agent is a great way to do just that. A good agent will advance your career, a bad agent weighs you down.

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