Some thoughts on agents

Hey, guys. Sorry I haven’t posted anything new in a while. I have been writing plenty; I just feel behind with updating this site. I’m actually looking to re-design it on a better server, but that’s another issue.

Anyway, the subject of literary agents treating authors as disposable has been coming up in my Twitter feed a lot, and I wanted to have my say about it.

These are a few of my less-than-stellar interactions with agents, all of whom are from well-established agencies with excellent track records. I don’t want to name names right now; mostly I just wanted a space to say, “authors deserve better.”

Agent A replied to a full request saying they liked the ms, but it needed “a lot of work.” They were willing to provide me with detailed feedback for an R&R but only if I would give them exclusivity–which meant withdrawing the ms from three other agents who also had partials or fulls. (This agency did not require exclusive fulls or I gladly would have complied.) After a lot of debate, I offered to stop querying and send no other fulls or partials until they made their decision on my R&R, but I couldn’t withdraw the ones I’d already sent. They declined and never clarified what they meant by “a lot of work,” even in a vague sense. The agents with the partials/fulls also said no.

Agent B said I “must” send them my full after reading my first page in a consultation. I was working on a revision at the time, which I completed a few months later. At this point, the agent had closed to unsolicitied queries, so the website form was gone. I tried for a year (and purchased 2 additional consultations) to get them the manuscript they so enthusiastically asked for. They continued to praise my work, reiterate interest, and said the online form would be fixed to accept referrals soon. They also said emailing the ms was not an option. I even tried their DVPit link, since I’m a ND author. It did not work either and as far as I can tell, no DVPit authors were able to submit to Agent B that year. The consultation company was sympathetic and said they would reach out, but no answer came. When the agent no-showed at my final consultation, I gave up. I also asked for and received a refund (for the no-show and my recent membership renewal, as I had no intention of purchasing anything else from this company.)

I spoke to Agent C through a similar consultation. My protagonist has ADHD (Own Voices) and when I asked if that neurodivergence came through in the first page without the benefit of the query, Agent C questioned how the character was neurodivergent. When I replied, they told me that they didn’t know anyone who had ADHD and, “I hope this isn’t offensive, but the first thing I think of is the dog from Up.” I’d been hopeful that an agent “seeking diverse voices” wouldn’t compare people to cartoon stereotypes of their disability. I reported the incident and received a refund along with an apology from the company. I’d been so worried about coming off as petty that I didn’t want the agent to know I’d made the report.

Agent D worked at Big Name Agency when they requested my ms via DVPit. I sent it and they called me on the phone to discuss an R&R. I made all the revisions they asked for and sent it. No reply. I sent a follow-up. Still no reply. I finally learned through a former client that Agent D had left the agenting business. (Apparently the email address was never closed.) I contacted Big Name Agency and they asked me to send the revision to a different email. They even confirmed receipt. Then silence again with no response to follow-ups. A few months ago, I sent an email saying I was withdrawing my ms from consideration. Unsurprisingly, they did not reply.

This is obviously not representative of the agenting business as a whole. And I’m finally at a mental spot where I’m okay (not happy, but okay) with stepping down from the query-go-round.

But if you’re still querying, please remember you deserve to be treated in a professional manner. Don’t chase after agents who don’t value you or your work. They aren’t worth it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *