Recently, the following was posted under a pseudonym at WriteWords.org.uk
“So I'm a published author with an agent - a newish (less than five years) one at a middle sized agency. But certain things keep happening and my gut keeps ringing the alarm. What do you think of the following?
Secured first non-fiction commission.
Re-sold to one minor territory.
Last commission for me was two years ago.
I had to renegotiate the contract (factually inaccurate/severely unfavourable).
Delivered contract seven weeks late.
Ignored missing payments.
Didn't manage shoddy editorial work/problems of publisher (took twice as long as writing the book).
Rarely responds adequately to communications.
Offers to do things then never follows up.
Appears to send pitches with typos.
Believes 'authors shouldn't complain, agents shouldn't explain'.
Believes you should answer the question you want to answer not the question you're asked.
We've had one cancelled project this year and then with two follow up pitches the agent chose not to chase them for six months and from what I can tell has never formally had a rejection, but now considers them dead (I could do this).
As I'm in the process of finishing a novel I'm wondering whether I can trust this agent to pitch adequately and conduct themselves courteously and professionally. I'm also wondering if the first commission was a bit of a fluke (the agent likes to give their partner credit for that idea when it was actually me finding out what the publishers the agent worked with were looking for and tailoring a pitch accordingly).
Apols for long post. Any thoughts? Thanks!”
Link to post and comments: http://tinyurl.com/32fgqg5
I believe the above is not the exception, but is closer to the 'rule' nowadays. It isn't openly discussed for obvious reasons. Whether the (published) writer of this post belongs to the Society of Authors, I don't know, but would certainly recommend membership. The fee is not excessive and the advice pure gold. It is worth having a contract vetted by impartial professionals.
The replies to this post are enough to overwhelm both new and seasoned writers with despair. They clearly show that there are no real guidelines in force and no 'etiquette' observed. Authors literally do not know whether they are coming or going.
Advice from agents and how to approach them is often contradictory. For instance, some claim that one of their 'pet hates' is authors who mention well-known titles as the kind of readership they're aiming at. Others demand to know where you think you fit in the scheme of things and want you to snap out famous names in that field. If you don't, it's a serious minus.
We are midstream of a publishing revolution when the roles of all the parties concerned must be redefined if book-publishing, as we understand it, is to survive at all.
Literary agents have been around for, perhaps, a century, but it is only in the last two or three decades that they have evolved into a high-profile species able to demand contortions – and distortions – from the creative writer in order to hinge supply to the perceived demands of a false and fickle market.
This, while fantastical timescales work against author, agent and publisher alike.
If they are to justify their niche and regain trust, I hope they will come to see themselves rather in terms of promoters - maybe even of good books already well published - and creators of trends – based on what clients feel the need to write. Authors are surely the truest index of the collective unconscious.
As for publishers, it has always been a hazardous profession and one for gamblers, but I wish they'd put their house in order and learn the art of balanced housekeeping. To unleash a product onto the market without any real notion of how the retail price is arrived at seems lunacy and rank bad business. Time was when judgment was sharper and greed blunter, enabling the better/bestsellers to finance those of literary merit who didn't make it into the top lists. Today, so much is staked on 'the next big thing' that it requires all the funds available to make it happen. The majority of authors are left to sink or swim on the offchance of fame, or even a steadily accruing readership, out of the blue.
And it would be good to see the return of old-style editors who nurture talent and understand where their authors are coming from. A few more conscientious and educated copy editors would also be a bonus.
It seems to me that the industry is haphazard and topsy turvy. Authors have generally been bottom of the heap when it comes to revenue percentage, but now they are virtually expected to give work away. It is worth reminding the gatekeepers that without authors the whole edifice would collapse.
Causes Rosy Cole Supports
World Vision, International Prison Outreach, Salvation Army, Emmaus Project, Poor Clares, DogsTrust, BUAV (against animal testing) WWT (Wildfowl &...