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Thread: Dealing with a LAME Agent.

  1. #1

    Dealing with a LAME Agent.

    Hi ...

    Anyone have any advice for dealing with a lame agent? This fellow is reputable
    (he's in Writers Market and I've back checked with the publishers he has sold to),
    has read a sample of my work, has asked for the entire novel, then does not read
    any of it for over 5 months.

    What can you do? Pull it away from him? The only thing I've come up with is to
    continue looking for another agent.

    Last edited by CaoPaux; 07-01-2008 at 09:48 PM. Reason: reformatting

  2. #2
    James D Macdonald

    Re: Dealing with a LAME Agent.

    Continue looking for an agent.

    See <a href="" target="_new">this discussion</a> elsewhere.

  3. #3

    How long

    How long did the agent tell you it would take him to read your work?

    Also, just being in the Writer's Market does not make an agent reputable--there a mess of scammers and not so good agents in there.

    Yours is not the only work this agent is looking at. good agents get many many many (100's plus) submissions everyday. They have to put the clients they already have ahead of the perspective ones. And honestly, on a complete work--5 months is not that long.

    Publishing is a slow moving place. Readings don't happen overnight, sales don't either. DAW has had my novel since last Sept. (2003) Other places responded to my agent in less than 2 weeks. When I asked my agent how long a sale could take he said, could be 30 days or 18 months. He also states on his web site that he may take 3 to 6 months to respond to a requested full ms--he responded to me just a say or two under the 6 month deadline.

    So unless you have other reasons to think your agent is lame, time is not a good one unless it goes beyond reason--say longer than a year, or a month or two beyond what they told you their response time is. I'll also add that unless you have spoken with them you have no idea if they have read it or not--they may just be sitting on it while they consider if they want to rep you.


  4. #4

    Re: How long

    Shawn is correct. That has been my experience as well.

  5. #5

    Re: How long

    But wouldn't an agent who has requested the complete work make it a priority to read that work -- along with all of the other requested works?

  6. #6

    Many new

    authors think--they asked for it so I am the only one they are reading my work is so great!

    First, they make money on the clients they already have. That's why they can take on new unknowns who may not make money and not charge you for editing reading etc. So they have to put the clients they already have first.

    Then they may get subs from already published authors--those will come next. They will make money quickly.

    Then they have the stacks and stacks of slush to get through. They have to keep up with this in some small fashion. Usually they skim these in the office. My agent only takes query letters no sample material or complete ms unsolicited.

    Then there is the stack of partials and completes that need attention. These most times get carted home. A funny story, my agent asked me to use better ink or laser--he reads while in the tub.

    And in all this time he has to market, meet and pitch what he already has. He also edits. Yes, those new prospective clients are a priority but there are only so many hours in a day.

    A 5 or 6 months response time is a good response time.


  7. #7

    Just wanted to clarify:

    Didn't ask that question with the assumption that one unpublished, unsuccessful author's work is the ONLY thing agents have to read. i know they have a TON of other authors to deal with.

    I just wanted to know if it was a little higher on the priority list, at least above the slush pile reading.


  8. #8

    the query slush

    In many cases weeding the slush takes less time than reading a full ms. Say the agent says not to send them a partial unless asked for and they stick to this, then they can easily weed those out--just pull out any packages larger than a one or two page query letter. Bingo a mess are gone in moments. And so on--

    NO slush doesn't take the place of reading those asked for mss. But when in the office taking a few moments to get through the obvious "I didn't bother to read the guidelines" stuff is often a quick thing to get out of the way. And it is one more thing that takes up an agents time. Many have a routine they use. But again there are only so many hours in a day.

    And some (many) agents and editors have readers whom they have to wait to hear from.

    It takes time and interest--asking for a partial or complete does not guarantee a quick response.


  9. #9

    Go into politics ...

    Other than McDonald above, most of these replies DO NOT ANSWER THE

    I didn't ask for an evaluation of my thought process. I didn't give any
    specifics of my thought process. All I gave was a sequence of events.
    I asked for things I could do.

    Of course agents read from their published authors first, DUH!

    Of course then they read from other published authors, DUH!

    Of course they only have so much time in their days, DUH!

    Of course, of course, of course.

    Posting various obvious observations about agents DOES NOT provide any information about what
    I can do. It doesn't even get the subject of the sentence right.

    But thank you, Mr. McDonald.
    Last edited by CaoPaux; 07-01-2008 at 09:48 PM. Reason: reformatting

  10. #10

    Re: Go into politics ...

    Well, excuse us, but you didn't give any specifics. Yes, you stated various things, but you didn't tell us how you knew those to be so. We've seen and heard from so many others before you with the same general complaint that we have to be cautious in giving an answer because most did not know with any certainty what they suspected.

    If you don't find another agent after cutting this one loose, are you going to blame that on those who suggested you seek another agent? You asked for opinions and you received opinions. Don't blame the people who gave you their time for giving you opinions that didn't fit what you wanted to hear.

  11. #11


    my jerk tolerance is very low today.

    What did you want to hear? Your post implied he was lame because in 5 months he had not read your stuff. OK :shrug We told you all the reasons why he may not have read it yet.

    What next?

    You wanted to know if you should seek a different agent. What's the big deal on that? Do you have a contract with this agent? An agreement that he gets an exclusive for x amount of time?


    Well, then why do you need to ask here if you don't. Move on. But be warned that you will most likely meet with the same thing--it takes time to go through the process.

    And once you get a reputation for being an idiot about the process and how much time it takes, then no agent is going to even want to read your work because you will be a pain in the rear to work with.

    Don't ask a question that you might not like the answer to or that you already know the answer to.

    The subject--should you seek another agent?

    How the hell do we know if you don't tell us any other reason that the person is lame except that he has taken 5 months so far to respond.

    That alone does not make an agent lame. And given that reason alone, my answer would be no, give this one a reasonable amount of time--most say up to 6 months many 9 months to hear on a complete ms.

    Other reasons--well, given your tone, I would suspect that you have bombarded this agent from the start with when will I hear letters, phone calls or e-mails. James told you what you wanted to hear--so seek away. You didn;t need us to tell you that smarty pants.


  12. #12

    oh and

    as to a sequence of events--all you said was that the agent had taken 5 months already. That's one event. We gave you reasons why he may have taken that amount of time.

    As to pull it away--well, professionals would say--OK it's be 5 months --then they will review the communication with said agent and then notify said agent that they will be seeking elsewhere.

    Seems to me though that you have your own idea of a time frame.


  13. #13


    Just a small note to say that at least one lurker enjoyed and learned from the carefully crafted explanations and illustrations of what an agent does. Thank you for the education, it helped me a lot.

  14. #14


    Rob, you started this thread, but you don't control it. Jim gave you all the information you needed, and then others continued talking about the subject. Like all conversations, the topic wandered.

    People will talk about whatever they want, and complaining about it is peevish.

    So lighten up. It isn't all about you. Duh.

  15. #15

    Re: Cripes

    One message Jim often parlays to people is this: After you finish your book, start your next one. There is a very good reason for this rule!

    To wit: I get soo caught up with stuff I am doing that I often forget asbout something I submitted. Stories, articles, poems, etc. And when I get an e-mail along the lines of "I like this idea--tell me more" it takes a few minutes for me to remember what it was for.

    DO NOT let a response time determine if you will stay with an agent or not. Granted I stayed with an agent for a year who did NOTHING with my book (and Victoria even suggested it was a bum deal), but, you know, you can't get hang-ups with an agent because they take long to respond. Agents are busy people.

    You would do well to start on your next book. Focus on that instead, for now.


  16. #16

    Re: Go into politics ...

    RobABard, to quote a better writer than you, "Without the digressions, nothing would ever get said."

  17. #17
    James D Macdonald

    Why I answered the way I did....

    If the question arises in your mind, "Should I look for a new agent?" the answer is "yes."

    The agent/author relationship is based on trust. Once the trust is gone, or if it never develops, then there isn't a happy outlook for that relationship.

  18. #18

    Should you look for a new agent?

    hail to the mighty Jim :hail He's a smart man. If you don't trust your agent, look for a new one and start your next project.

  19. #19

    Learning from Russell Crowe ...

    I loved Gladiator, so I suppose I should embrace this experience in the Collesium.

    First, of course it always isn't about me. But, in theory, it should be about the subject
    of the query, not some neighboring idea that pops into one's head that stimulates one to
    write. As a poetry editor said to me once: "focus ... its the hardest thing
    in writing." So even here, resisting the urge to just flail back at the Romans, in
    a little bit I will add useful info to the discussion.

    Another friend (actually the father of a childhood friend), who has published 3 books
    thinks that 5 months is unreasonably long. Sure, I can sit and wait ... but 5 months
    is indicative of 99% death. As he said, the passion for the manuscript is most
    certainly gone, and it is highly unlikely that the agent will recover it. He then
    tried to help. He tried discussing it with HIS publisher. My friend came back
    to me with three suggestions. One of these suggestions was: "Have you tried
    finding out who the agent's executive assistant is, cozing up to him/her, and getting a
    feeling for the agent's work habits? Perhaps the agent has been on holiday." (An English

    This answer was 1)very helpful, and 2)a perfect response to the question I asked.
    I didn't include it for fear of biasing the discussion. But I include it now to move
    things along.

    Another suggestion the publisher had was to contact the agent, let him know that I've
    revised the manuscript, and ask if he wants a new copy. Again, practical and doable.
    I pass these on if others of you are in the same hole I am in.

    As for the other fine comments, I again simply say "focus". I don't know what your goals are.
    Perhaps it is to write and appear expert on a bulletin board. My goals are to produce
    manuscripts that agents want to represent and to find strategies to herd these agents
    to actually sit down with these manuscripts and read them. A discussion
    of how an agent works, regardless of how erudite and detailed, which does not provide practical
    steps describing how to inject my work into their work process does not provide energy
    toward my goal. And it did not provide energy to my question. I know how to imagine things too.
    Doing is the bigger problem.

    Finally, I did forget how writers like to write, sometimes even when the writing drives them
    far into the weeds. To that oversight, I point at myself and say "DUH!". Expecting answers
    that were all concise and to the point was a naive mistake. There is Hamlet, and then
    there is The Wasteland. People write what they want to write. I made a mistake. I reacted impulsively after a long day. That was wrong. I apologize.

    Bring on the tigers.

    Last edited by CaoPaux; 07-01-2008 at 09:50 PM. Reason: reformatting

  20. #20

    Re: Learning from Russell Crowe ...


  21. #21

    Re: Learning from Russell Crowe ...

    Another friend (actually the father of a
    childhood friend), who has published 3 books
    thinks that 5 months is unreasonably long.
    Sure, I can sit and wait ... but 5 months
    is indicative of 99% death.
    I don't agree here at all. And had you included all the info above, you've done a rewrite (hmm, maybe you should have waited to submit till it was ready to submit--) then the replies would have been different.

    You only said it had been 5 months and should you move on. I am sure the above person had more info than you gave us.

    First off: What length of time did the agent give you? (his response time--not an imagined or what someone said should be his time--HIS time frame?)

    Second: Have you contacted this agent for a status check? If not--WHY?

    Third: Yeah--if i had three books already under my belt and they had sold through, then 5 months would be a long time. But as a first time novelist--honestly, 5 months is not that long.

    Fourth: 5 months is not indicative of certain death. Not if the agent typically has a 9 month response time, or even a 6 month response time. If it goes beyond THEIR normal response time then it may well be dead in the water--or maybe they lost the ms.

    Fifth: You asked here if you should move one, but in a post on another thread you ask for info about an agent who asked for a complete of your ms. Same ms? If so, then why even ask this question obviously you have already made a choice to seek other representation.

    Sixth: Stay on topic--:ha :rofl :rollin :jump Uh-Huh--yeah right, we do pretty much stay int he general area but if you come to BB's to stay in topic, you are in the wrong place we often digress and then come back--or not. It's a give and take conversation and those of us with some degree of knowledge often assume (rightly) that others are reading and following these conversations and find places to stick in info they might need.

    Seventh: focus on your writing, not on what others write--meaning: OK why lash out at us? Reminds me of the crit group participant who lashes out at those who say anything bad about their work at all and then latches onto the one Pollyanna in the group who never says anything bad so therefore loved the crappy ms. If you are not prepared to think on all the answerers given and already have an idea of what answer you want to hear--then skip the question.

    You already had an answer from this published friend so why even bother on a BB? :shrug


  22. #22

    Re: Learning from Russell Crowe ...

    I agree. Look for a new agent. There are many out there.

    What I can't stand is like this one agent. She asked for an exclusive read. Eight weeks have passed and I still haven't heard from her. Oh well, screw exclusivity, I guess. I am going to send out more. Several agents have requested it and they all said four to six weeks -- I still haven't heard anything.

    This is really a crazy business.

  23. #23

    Re: Learning from Russell Crowe ...

    I'll agree on the "This is a crazy business," boy is it. Have you contacted the agent who wanted the exclusive?

    It always amazes me that writers are so reluctant to contact the agent if they have a question or concern. Take the time they say add a couple of weeks and then contact them with a nice note:

    Dear so and so,

    As per your request I sent you my novel "Great American Story" on May 1st. Did you receive the manuscript? If so may I inquire on the status?

    This will most always if the agent is a pro get you a response.

    Dear Author,

    I have been so swamped lately that I haven't gotten to it--please give me an additional two weeks to look it over.


    Dear Agent,

    It has now been 6 weeks since you received my novel "Great American Story." I have not heard from you regarding my manuscript. What is the status?

    Use something like this if they gave you a time frame.

    But communicate--if you can't communicate with the agent how will you if they offer to represent you?


  24. #24
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    New Hampshire

    When to look for a new agent

    ... or keep looking for your first agent.

    Want to know the answer? There isn't an answer! Here, like most places Your Mileage May Vary!

  25. #25
    Ruled by Dachshunds smallthunder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    New to Portland, OREGON

    Red face Exclusivity?

    Quote Originally Posted by maestrowork
    I agree. Look for a new agent. There are many out there.

    What I can't stand is like this one agent. She asked for an exclusive read. Eight weeks have passed and I still haven't heard from her. Oh well, screw exclusivity, I guess. I am going to send out more. Several agents have requested it and they all said four to six weeks -- I still haven't heard anything.

    This is really a crazy business.
    Hi, Maestrowork --

    Do you mind if I ask you -- how much time did this agent request for this exclusive read? If the agent did not request a set time, did you set a time period -- and if so, for how long? Is this agent in the 2005 Guide to Literary Agents? If so, what was listed as the agent's turn-around time?

    Finally, are you talking about a partial or complete ms.?

    I've been trying to explore this issue on a neighboring thread in this forum ("Average Time"), and would appreciate it if you could weigh in there.

    "'Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,' the Mock Turtle replied; 'and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.'

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