Worse than No Agent At all
by Laurie Alice Eakes
“A bad agent is worse than no agent,” an experienced published author told me. These are difficult words to accept, even to believe, when we are warned that you can scarcely get published any more without an agent. I know I rejected this well-meaning writer’s words.
And learned the hard way how right she was.
Through my personal experiences that set me back personally and professionally for nearly a decade, I will use this article to demonstrate the precision of the admonition in the first paragraph. My story is not unique, I have learned over the years, so I am candid as I discuss what can happen if you jump at the first agent who offers to represent you, or if you submit to one without doing your research on her first, research such as finding clients who have left, as well as those who have stayed, what she represents, to whom she has sold.
Before I begin, let me point out that just because an agent is not right for you does not mean she is not a legitimate professional. I discuss this later in the article. Writers are as varied as their books in what they need. Likewise, so are agents in how they work. Part of the process of finding a good agent is finding a good agent who works for your professional needs.
I finished my first novel. My romance authors group thought it wonderful, so I packed it up and sent it off to an agent, the agent of my published author friends. Within a couple of weeks, she wrote back and told me that she was full up with clients, but referred me to an agent who had worked with her in the past and was seeking new clients at her new agency. Figuring this was a good recommendation, I packed up my manuscript again and sent it off.
And got the call that she would represent me.
What joy! What excitement! I had an agent. Surely I was on my way to publishing bliss.
When my agent and I met in person, we didn’t click. Why I won’t go into, but she exhibited some behavior that set off alarm bells in my head. Of course I ignored them. She was an agent in New York with a great address–the same building as St. Martin’s Press, and I was writing secular fiction.
During the next year, I worked hard on my writing. I finished a couple of manuscripts, something I hadn’t been very good at doing. I went to a couple of regional conferences and made contact with editors who liked my stories and said send away. After these conferences, I contacted my agent and told her to send the projects. Then I waited. . . And waited. . . And waited. . .
She called me once a month to tell me nothing had happened. Sigh. But things took a while. In July, I went to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York city. Great things would happen there, right?
My agent never remembered to bring the list of editors to whom she’d sent my stuff. She hated my next idea, said it would never sell. She started communicating through faxes instead of telephone calls, which was just weird.
Discouraged, certain that I really couldn’t write after all, I stopped working on my writing. I even dreamed that my agent told me that I knew nothing about writing endings, and thus finished nothing because my dream seemed to tell me what my agent wouldn’t tell me in person.
Yes, this sounds neurotic, but I was in a dead-end job and wanted so much more for my life, desperately longed to be able to write full-time. An agent in New York was supposed to be the key, so why wasn’t this one working out?
Because she wasn’t working.
At the advice of a published author, who took me under her wing and mentored me, I took a drastic, what I felt was a career-shattering step—as if I had a career–I wrote to my agent and asked to know to whom she’d sent manuscripts, as I was severing our relationship and needed to let the editors know.
Surprise. She hadn’t sent my stuff to any of them, not even the ones with whom I’d made contact over a year earlier. She said she didn’t think I was publishable and should move on.
Interestingly, within two months, she moved on after her agency fired her.
Read the rest of Laurie’s story next Tuesday…
Award-winning author Laurie Alice Eakes does not remember a time when books did not play a part in her life; thus, no one was surprised when she decided to be a writer. Her first hardcover was an October, 2006 Regency historical from Avalon Books and won the National Readers Choice Award for Best Regency, as well as being a finalist for Best First Book. She was also a finalist for the ACFW 2010 Carol award in the short historical category. After selling her first book in the inspirational market, she also wrote articles and essays for Christian publications. A brief hiatus in publishing climaxed with her selling thirteen books in thirteen months, to publishers such as Barbour, Avalon, and Baker/Revell.
She is an active member of RWA and ACFW, and started the Avalon Authors group blog. A graduate of the Seton Hill University Master of Arts Degree in Writing Popular Fiction, And a Bachelor of Arts graduate in English and French from Asbury College, she is an experienced speaker, and has made presentations at local and national RWA conferences, as well as local universities and libraries.
Until recently, she lived in Northern Virginia, then her husband’s law career took them and their dogs and cats, to southern Texas, where she writes full-time and enjoys the beach whenever possible.
You can find her web site and read excerpts from her books, including her February, 2011 release, Lady in the Mist, at: