View Full Version : Is it common these days for agents....

07-27-2008, 10:46 PM
to sign writers, without having read the books they contractually agree to represent?

Call me old-fashioned, but I find that appalling. I realize they could get lucky and stumble upon a sale, but most projects require someone with passion -- and connections -- to help it reach the acquiring editor's hands. Even with that passion, it's so very difficult, as we all know.

Are authors accepting this as "the way it's done" nowadays? Everyone is so desperate to have an agent that they sign on with people who don't even read the book, yet say they love it (until it's time to actually do something, of course)?

Times certainly have changed....

A reality check would be most appreciated right now. I'm in the Twilight Zone. ;)

07-27-2008, 11:05 PM
My agent read the book she's now selling before she signed me, though she's my agent for anything I write. Other agents read partials and fulls. I saw no sign anyone would consider signing me without reading my manuscripts. Maybe if I were Stephen King?

07-27-2008, 11:18 PM
to sign writers, without having read the books they contractually agree to represent?

No. Did this happen to you? That's certainly not standard practice at all.

07-27-2008, 11:59 PM
Uh... have you checked the "Bewares" section to make sure this agent is legit? It rather sounds like one I had contact with... before I found him on the "Twenty Worst" list.

07-28-2008, 12:07 AM
No reputable agent would sign a debut author without reading their work. I know several graduates of the Iowa MFA program were offered representation on the basis of short stories they have written but that is highly unusual...

07-28-2008, 12:42 AM
Thank you all for confirming that I haven't gone insane. Yet.

I'm collaborating, as an uncredited author (by choice), with the final say on all matters resting with the listed author.

The author did her homework and researched the agent, who is fairly new, no red flags other than being new.

The book had the final edit; it's tight, done by a professional editor after already having gone through various levels of editing by other professionals.

The agent made plans to start sending out queries to pub houses Monday -- still hadn't read the manuscript (skimmed it!) -- then lo and behold decides to read it this weekend.

Bottom line is that she doesn't like the descriptive style. ("take out setting and character descriptions, leave it to the reader's imagination")

??????? Granted, styles and preferences vary, but that's exactly why you need to read the friggin manuscript before signing, so you can know if you resonate enough to be able to promote it!

This is so unprofessional that my head is about to explode.

Every single beta reader was engaged immediately; they could see what the heroine saw, smell what came into her awareness...with much attention given to making sure there was no repetition.

I think this agent saw I had a solid marketing plan in place and that's all she cared about. The book be damned. She assumed that she could, at the last minute, dictate changing it to be something completely different than it is - but something she feels comfortable (given her newbie status) she can sell. Sorry, Charlie. I realize there is a word count concern, but we're talking 110k, not 250+. It's within the realm of reason to at least make it onto an editor's desk, if she does her homework.

The first-time author with whom I'm working (I've worked in this industry in various capacities for years), has evidently been in contact with other agents who've given her the impression this is the norm nowadays.

Again, it makes no sense whatsoever to me. It doesn't serve anyone to sign someone when you haven't read enough to know whether their style is something you can, or want to, work with.

Of course, this is all in my humble opinion. Thank you for allowing me to vent. ;)

Giant Baby
07-28-2008, 12:43 AM
ETA: Hey, you've just answered my fic or no fic question as I was typing. Never mind the below! Sounds WAY irresponsible on the agent's part. Ready to send to pubs and NOW is reading and asking for revisions? No, no, no. Sorry that happened.

Well... You didn't mention if this was fiction.

I agree (hoping it's true) with the above opinions for fic (excluding the super successful author looking or receptive, for whatever reason).

For non-fic, it can vary. A friend of mine has a high profile job. He's lectured extensively and a number of agents have approached him. He did ultimately sign with one and has since published two books. He'd never considered writing.

He signed before he'd ever written a single word, so yes, with a hell of a platform, sure.

We, um, don't talk writing much. He's an awesome guy, though, and doesn't pretend to understand the process, so no uber-platform-toting-"you're-an-agent?-what's-an-agent?"-hottetots were harmed in the filming of this post.

Book three, and I'm sending him rejection letters for fun. I'm just sayin'.

07-28-2008, 12:52 AM
Yeah, I would understand if it were NF. It's fiction. :)

07-28-2008, 02:54 AM
That scenario is all kinds of wrong, especially for fiction. Be sure to check out our B&BC Index (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=792). If the agent isn't listed, feel free to start a thread asking if anyone's had a similar experience with him/her (or PM me and I'll see what I can find for you).

07-28-2008, 03:22 AM
Contact me at Writer Beware if you want--I may have gotten similar reports about whoever this agent is. My email is beware@sfwa.org.

This sounds very unprofessional. Not only that, but authors aren't expected to have marketing plans for fiction. Fiction publishers certainly appreciate pro-active authors, and most authors do self-promote, but publishers know far more about marketing fiction than authors do, and having a marketing plan for a novel would not be a selling point with a commercial publisher.

If you're talking adult fiction, 110,000 words should not be a problem.

What you describe suggests to me that this agent is not just new, she's inexperienced. I could be wrong, but what you describe really is not what one would expect from a knowledgeable fiction agent.

- Victoria

Stacia Kane
07-28-2008, 03:16 PM
IMO, being "new"--without addendums like "bein a new agent at a well-established agency"--is a bit of a red flag. Doesn't mean anyone's a scammer, but it also doesn't mean they know what they're doing.

07-28-2008, 10:20 PM
As everyone has said, something is definitely wrong. I never heard of an agent not reading a manuscript before making submission to publishers -- always the complete work when it's fiction.

07-29-2008, 08:04 PM
I just found out who the agent is, and as I suspected, she is inexperienced--she had no publishing or agenting background before she set up in business as an agent. She has made a couple of nonfiction sales to smaller publishers, but no fiction sales at all. Apart from any other issues, fiction and nonfiction are different markets, so even a very successful nonfiction agent wouldn't necessarily be a good choice for a novelist.

- Victoria