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Mr. Anonymous
12-21-2011, 11:33 AM
Early January this year, I queried agents en masse with my fourth novel. A day or two later, my current agent requested a full manuscript. By the end of January, we had exchanged emails and she let me know that she wanted to see revisions.

In early February, she sent me a marked up copy of my manuscript that she and a freelance editor she has an arrangement with went over, in addition to a ten page editorial letter.

I set to work, and submitted my revision to her about a month later. In late March, she offered representation, gave me a small list of minor changes she wanted me to make, and before the month was out we were on sub.

To both our dismay, the novel has not turned out to be an easy sale. Some of the rejections we got were so positive they really should have been acceptances, others not so much. Regardless, throughout all this business she was as prompt and professional as I could have hoped for. She always responded to my emails immediately, offered words of encouragement, etc. When I told her I was trying to figure out which project I should go with for my next novel, she asked to see what I had written so far for all three or so of my ideas, and told me what she thought of each within a matter of a week or so.

In June, we had a teleconference with an editor from a major house. Editor had taken novel to an editorial meeting, and the general consensus was very positive. Not positive enough to make an offer, though. Editor wanted to see a revision.

About a week or so after we spoke on the telephone, editor sent a short email bullet-pointing the three major issues she would like to see addressed.

Again, over the course of a month, I made these revisions. I submitted my revision to my agent in mid July.

She's always been super prompt with responding to emails, and she still is. I asked her (in late August) to write me recommendations for MFA programs, and she's been doing that too.

But she still hasn't finished looking over the revision.

It's been five months.

Five months seems interminably long to me.

To be clear, my agent is legit. There's no question of that.
The editor she hired was top notch, and his input made my work better.

She has never charged me a cent. She paid out of pocket for the freelance editor's services, to ship my manuscript all the way to prague, and when we had lunch in New York City this past summer she paid for that too.

I like her. I trust her. She's responsive, and nice, and it doesn't hurt that she's a big shot either. I got a short story published recently, and she took the time to read it (even though she didn't have to, it didn't have anything to do with my novel.) Plus, she kindly agreed to write grad school recs for me.

Nevertheless, five months seems a long time.

Can someone please tell me if this is normal?

And if it's not normal, any suggestions on how to talk to her about this other than "Why haven't you gotten to my manuscript yet?"

The last of the recommendations will be in by January 15th. I really appreciate her writing the recs for me, so I'm thinking I'll give her 2-4 weeks after January 15th to get back to me about my novel. If she doesn't, then I'm thinking I'll just go right out and ask her.

But what exactly am I going to ask her?

Thoughts/advice would be appreciated. Thanks for reading all this.

Old Hack
12-21-2011, 11:45 AM
That does sound worrying but bearing in mind your agent's usual behaviour I wonder if she hasn't actually received it yet, or if she's sent you her comments and they've not arrived with you.

I'd drop her a quick email asking if she received your latest revisions, and if so, if she's responded to them yet. I doubt she'd find that inappropriate.

Mr. Anonymous
12-21-2011, 05:05 PM
Hi Old Hack,

Sorry for being unclear, I appreciate you taking the time to respond. She's definitely received my revisions. She confirmed she got my email way back in July, and although I've only explicitly asked her about it once, I have found other reasons for which to email (ranging from asking her for a recommendation to telling her I received an acceptance for a short story), and in her responses, she often said something like she's going to get to it, ets, etc. In September, if memory serves right, she said she had one other book to read before mine... In mid-November I did actually ask outright, and she told me she hasn't gotten to it, been very busy, but that she plans to get to it immediately.

It might be that she's just been very busy, and I'm overreacting... But I imagine she won't get back to me about the book until after she's done with the recommendations, and even considering the extra workload I've given her with the recs, six months is still a long time...

Undercover
12-21-2011, 05:24 PM
To me, that seems way too long to be stalling on it. Do you have a yearly contract together? It's almost up right? If she hasn't even read it yet, (inf 5 months) how will she be able to have it in submission? Doesn't sound pro-active to me at all. I would make a move on giving an ultimatum and just say, "I'm sorry, but if you don't forge ahead with my novel and at least read it and get it out there again, I would like to cancel the contract between us" kind of thing.

There is no harm in that and finding another to do the work you need and derserve. Sounds to me like she's putting you on the back burner, why? Cause she has bigger and better subs out there? Shouldn't be that way. You shouldn't have to be competing with her own work. She took your work on, wanting to rep it the same way she is repping other clients. It should be equal.

My former agent lost steam on me novel too. I felt it, I knew it. Then finally she let me go because of it. If you sense she lost interest somewhat, you should be pro-active about your own work and start looking for other outlets to pursue publication.

Oh, and just because she might be a sweetheart of a person, doesn't mean you shouldn't step on her toes. This is all a profession. You aren't in it to make friends. You're in it to make money and so is she. That's why she's concentrating on what's working for her right now.

Do what works for you. Good luck, hope things get better for you, whatever you decide.

Mr. Anonymous
12-21-2011, 06:17 PM
Undercover,

Thanks so much for your response.

I don't want to speculate about what's going on in my agent's head, but I will say that if I let her go or deliver an ultimatum that leads to us parting ways, this will probably be the end for the book's chances of publication.

Yeah, the editor wanted to see a revision, but I don't have her contact info, and even if I somehow managed to get that, I'm not sure she'd deal with me.

As for the book's chances of landing me another agent. This book has racked up--not sure--probably 12-13 rejections. Sure, there are plenty more editors out there. That said, I feel like very few agents would be willing to go out on a limb and take that risk.

EDIT - Regarding the question of a contract, we don't have one. The only thing binding us is our agreement to work together.

Jolly-Boo
12-21-2011, 06:39 PM
If she's your agent, then I see no problem giving her a nudge, or downright asking what the hell. I'm surprised you've waited five months. She's your client after all.

Mr. Anonymous
12-21-2011, 07:17 PM
Jolly Boo,

well, i heard 3 months wasn't out of the norm for a busy agent, and 4 was only 1 month more than 3, 5 only 1 more than 4... Plus I did nudge (sort of) in November, when I basically asked her, very nicely, whether she had read it and wasn't sure what to do with it/if it was a step in the right direction.

Thanks for your response. I think I'll send her a very nice "What the Hell" email if I haven't heard back by early February.

Theo81
12-21-2011, 07:35 PM
Mr Anonymous,

I think you should contact your agent and just ask how it's going, where she's at and when she expects to get to it. Let her know you'd like to be kept in the loop.

It shouldn't be a big deal from her end. It's not like you're asking for the moon on a stick, just to be kept in touch with her end of things a little more.

Mr. Anonymous
12-21-2011, 08:02 PM
Theo,

You're right, I think, I just don't want to bring it up now what with all the grad school rec business hanging over us. Once we're in the clear and I've given her a bit of a grace period I think I'll ask. Thanks for your response. It helps to get this out there and off my chest, been stressing over it for a while.

jclarkdawe
12-21-2011, 10:17 PM
I'm assuming we're talking about SOCRATES here. From both the query and the manuscript, I'd wondered about how I would market it, but figured since I'm not an agent or editor, I wouldn't worry about that issue. It is what it is.

First reality is other than the editor who asked for the revision, it's probably going to be dead with major publishers. You may be able to get it published with smaller publishers on your own, but it's unlikely another agent will touch it.

Second reality is it sounds like your present agent shopped the crap out of it.

But your question is sort of simple. One of three things has probably happened:


Something external to you has happened in your agent's life. Illness, death, and kids can do wonderful things to your life. And as this situation starts causing the rest of your life to spin out of control, it's hard to figure out how to do damage control. And it's a while before you tell people.
She's lost interest in your book. It happens, and you need to find out if that's the case. But this doesn't seem to be a strong possibility since you're working on an editor's suggested revisions. If it's accurate, then the question becomes do you want to use her for your next book.
The one that seems most likely to me is that she's seeing a problem that your revisions aren't addressing, but she's not seeing it clearly enough to articulate what's wrong. I don't know if you've ever had a car that drove just not quite right, but you couldn't identify what was wrong with it. That can happen with writing. And the closer you are to identifying the reason, yet not being able to quite do it, the longer you stall, hoping for the answer.

Personally I'd send her an email along the lines of this: I haven't heard from you for a while on my revisions. I hope this means that you've just got too many other things going on, but being a paranoid-writer type, I'm beginning to worry it means that somehow I'm missing on the revisions and you can't figure out how to tell me.

Basically, keep it light, and use it to open doors, not close them. It's reasonable to do, and she might very well be hoping for a lead-in to talk with you.

Meanwhile, how is your next book going?

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Mr. Anonymous
12-21-2011, 10:29 PM
Jim, it's very nice to hear from you. Yeah, we're talking about Socrates. She has shopped it around quite a bit, but it was still out to a decent number of editors before we pulled it back to work on revisions. Nevertheless, you're right, I think. Another agent probably won't touch it.

I think her losing interest or being unsure of the direction I took with the revisions are the most likely reasons for her delay.

However, in November, at the fourth month mark, I sent her an email in which I said, "...I just wanted to know, have you read it and find yourself unsure of whether it's an improvement/step in the right direction or not? If you haven't gotten to it that's fine, but I just keep worrying that you've read it and you don't like it/aren't sure what to do with it."

She responded by telling me "Don't panic about SOCRATES! I've not had a chance to finish reading the revision. It's just been crazy with contracts and nutty publishers losing their minds about digital rights. I plan to READ, READ, READ now."

And that completely set me at ease... I was hoping to hear back relatively soon... Blah, I dunno.

Regarding the next book, the first draft is coming along... I hope to finish by the end of winter break but I don't know if that will happen. The sucky part is that this book will be even harder to place than Socrates, I know it. It's also harder to write, and heavier, and probably more New Adult than Young Adult, which wouldn't be a problem if more pubs recognized New Adult as a genre. I started writing next book with the hope that by the time I finished I'd have a two-book deal for somewhere or other. Obviously that didn't happen.

I'm even starting to wonder if self-pubbing would be so crazy. Problem is I don't have the money to make a serious go of it, really. Professional cover, paying for reviews (Kirkus Reviews does indy reviews, but they charge f-ing 425 dollars...) Blah. Blah blah blah.

EDIT:

By the way, how is Morton's Fork?

jclarkdawe
12-21-2011, 11:35 PM
However, in November, at the fourth month mark, I sent her an email in which I said, "...I just wanted to know, have you read it and find yourself unsure of whether it's an improvement/step in the right direction or not? If you haven't gotten to it that's fine, but I just keep worrying that you've read it and you don't like it/aren't sure what to do with it."

She responded by telling me "Don't panic about SOCRATES! I've not had a chance to finish reading the revision. It's just been crazy with contracts and nutty publishers losing their minds about digital rights. I plan to READ, READ, READ now."

And that completely set me at ease... I was hoping to hear back relatively soon... Blah, I dunno.

H'mm. Let's see, Thanksgiving, Christmas (have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?) and a life that's on overload. I don't care how well you schedule, anybody that's good will overload on occasion. You take on a project, and all of a sudden it's a lot bigger than you originally thought and there's no good way to deal with it other than to cut back on somethings you want to do and hunker down and hope you come through the other end.

Last spring my father's leach field died. I'm cheap, don't mind the work, and envisioned moving about a 100 cubic yards of material. Finally got the surveyor to come up with the plans and send them off for approval. And the plan involves moving about 500 cubic yards of material.

Finally get approval and start putting the shovel to the ground. Where the new septic tank is has water about a foot into the ground. Ever run a backhoe underwater? With each scoop being filled with mud immediately. And should I mention the rocks I found in the leach field that no one anticipated finding. And how about the damn beavers that blocked up the culvert that drains the lake next to my father's house that determines the water level in the ground. (A septic tank that's completely underwater makes for some challenges.)

Yesterday I found I didn't respond to something from my son. I've heard that he figures my computer is down. Whoops.

Take her statement for it is what it is, and sit back and enjoy the holidays. If she's good she's worth waiting for.

Regarding the next book, the first draft is coming along... I hope to finish by the end of winter break but I don't know if that will happen. The sucky part is that this book will be even harder to place than Socrates, I know it. It's also harder to write, and heavier, and probably more New Adult than Young Adult, which wouldn't be a problem if more pubs recognized New Adult as a genre. I started writing next book with the hope that by the time I finished I'd have a two-book deal for somewhere or other. Obviously that didn't happen.

I'm even starting to wonder if self-pubbing would be so crazy. Problem is I don't have the money to make a serious go of it, really. Professional cover, paying for reviews (Kirkus Reviews does indy reviews, but they charge f-ing 425 dollars...) Blah. Blah blah blah. If SOCRATES doesn't make it, then your next one will. Why waste your first time on self-pubbing?

EDIT:

By the way, how is Morton's Fork? See above. Guess which is one of the things that hasn't been moving the way I anticipated in the past few months.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

Mr. Anonymous
12-22-2011, 12:37 AM
Jim, you're right, I think. It's just hard not to be impatient. Time seems to move so slow when you're waiting, waiting, waiting for news. This is really the only "big" thing going on in my life. And even so, it's not really "going" at the moment.

I'm sorry to hear about your father's leach field dying, and how much work that's turned out to be for you. I hope you manage to sort everything out soon...

Hope you have a great holiday. Thanks for dropping in. You've calmed me down somewhat. Just because the only thing I have to worry about in my life is school doesn't mean everyone is so lucky. I'll give her till early-mid February, then inquire.

If SOCRATES doesn't make it, then your next one will. Why waste your first time on self-pubbing?

It's a horrible answer, I know, but because Socrates is good! I can't speak for the marketing/sales side, but in terms of quality, in terms of voice, I think it really is just as good as a lot of the YA stuff out there. And, I'm biased here, but I think it's original. Different. Editors/agents have said likewise, so it's not just me.

After all the work and hope I put into it, it would be a real pity to drop a manuscript I really believe in. But the logistics...

suki
12-22-2011, 12:43 AM
Jim, you're right, I think. It's just hard not to be impatient. Time seems to move so slow when you're waiting, waiting, waiting for news. This is really the only "big" thing going on in my life. And even so, it's not really "going" at the moment.

I'm sorry to hear about your father's leach field dying, and how much work that's turned out to be for you. I hope you manage to sort everything out soon...

Hope you have a great holiday. Thanks for dropping in. You've calmed me down somewhat. Just because the only thing I have to worry about in my life is school doesn't mean everyone is so lucky. I'll give her till early-mid February, then inquire.

If SOCRATES doesn't make it, then your next one will. Why waste your first time on self-pubbing?

It's a horrible answer, I know, but because Socrates is good! I can't speak for the marketing/sales side, but in terms of quality, in terms of voice, I think it really is just as good as a lot of the YA stuff out there. And, I'm biased here, but I think it's original. Different. Editors/agents have said likewise, so it's not just me.

After all the work and hope I put into it, it would be a real pity to drop a manuscript I really believe in. But the logistics...

Just as a fly-by...if it's good, but having trouble finding a home due to being hard to shelve, then it might be an excellent second published book, or even third. Just because it doesn't sell now, doesn't mean it won't.

Of course, if you decide you do have the means and skills and deisre to self-publish, go for it. But too often writers think the only options with a shopped book that didn't sell is to self-pub or kill it. And there is a third: wait. If another book sells, and sells well, that hard to place book that was hard to place because it's different, might be a fantastic second or third book for an established author.

And I think Jim has offered some good advice - I'd be wanting some answers in February, if it were me. And maybe ask for a call. But I wouldn't panic...yet. (Though, I'd have the same fears and concerns raised up thread).

Good luck!

~suki

Mr. Anonymous
12-22-2011, 12:50 AM
Suki,

Thanks for taking the time to read through all this and comment, I really appreciate it. I think you're right, it could be a great second/third published novel. I just worry that

1. It's more pertinent/relevant now than it will be, say, five years from now. I make a decent amount of cultural references to things I grew up with...

2. I might not have a "first" published novel for a long time, if Socrates doesn't sell...

I guess I've also been a bit stressed because I was kind of hoping that maybe if we got this done quickly, I could have had an offer on the table from a publishing house before I applied to MFA programs, which I think would have significantly increased my chances of getting in... But anyway, too late for that now.

I'll definitely talk to her about it in February, if I still haven't heard. And I'll let you know what happens. Thanks for the advice and support guys!

leahzero
12-23-2011, 12:13 AM
Mr. A, I've had many of the same thoughts you've had, especially in your last post.

Regarding the timeliness of the book and self-pub, SP isn't going anywhere. You can do it any time, in any way you want. But once you SP, the chances of traditionally publishing that book drop to near zero.

It sounds like you'd prefer to be traditionally published, and the book sounds solid and commercial enough to make it. You owe that book a sporting chance to find a traditional publisher.

If it helps, set goals/deadlines for yourself. If the book is no closer to being published in X months, then you'll let yourself start getting serious about SP.

Is your agent subbing to small presses also? If the big houses are turning you down because it's good but too experimental or whatever, a small press would probably love it. There are pros and cons there, obviously. See other threads.

I know how frustrating it can be, but your options are still wide open at this point. Hang in there.

IceCreamEmpress
12-23-2011, 12:51 AM
Regarding the timeliness of the book and self-pub, SP isn't going anywhere. You can do it any time, in any way you want.


This is very well put. You can always pull the plug on submissions to trade publishers and decide to self-publish; you can't un-self-publish and decide to go back to submitting to trade publishers.

I think nudging the agent in the New Year is important. I would actually ask for a brief phone meeting (if that's possible) rather than an email exchange. A ten or fifteen-minute conversation might be more productive than an exchange of several emails.

Best of luck to you!

Velcro
12-23-2011, 01:36 AM
EDIT - Regarding the question of a contract, we don't have one. The only thing binding us is our agreement to work together.

Because you don't have a signed contract, I'd give this agent a little more lee way. Like others said before, contact this person after the New Year. Don't burn any bridges yet.

But I feel your pain...I'd be nervously biting my nails and wondering what to do and overanalyzing the entire situation.

Best of luck with this project!

Toothpaste
12-23-2011, 01:46 AM
Personally I think this is a ridiculously long wait and I'd schedule a phone conversation to get a sense of the agent's timeline. If you have an editor interested, no agent should be holding up the process (even if in the end the editor doesn't go for it, your agent should still be very enthusiastic about the possibility of a sale). It's not even like she's taking time to edit, she hasn't got to it yet. Also it affects your reputation with the editor, it might make it look like you take a long time to do edits and make the editor wary about deadlines and working with you. It might not, after all you had no deadline, but I still can't get over an agent wasting this much time when a major house wants to see a revision. The fact that you don't have a contract with your agent is immaterial, many agents these days don't have signed contracts. You are still working with her, are still partners, and she is holding things up substantially. I'd at least want to know if she was concerned about how long it was taking to get back to the editor (though clearly she's not).

Sorry, this might sound harsh, and you by no means are to blame for this situation and maybe it's best you listen to others in this thread and not passionate Toothpaste. But that's not how I work, and I'd be very angry with my agent if she did this to me.

Mr. Anonymous
12-24-2011, 08:42 PM
Leah - We're not subbing to anyone at the moment, as we pulled the book back to work on revisions. But no, we weren't really targeting small presses. I feel like on one hand the book is original but on the other, there's nothing about it that's so crazy that it *couldn't* get pubbed with a big publisher. But maybe that's an avenue worth exploring. The book isn't experimental at all though, as far as writing style goes.

You make a good point about self-publishing. Sometimes I feel the lure of it, because instead of waiting, waiting, and getting rejected, ha, I could just upload and voila! But there's a catch there--always a catch.

Icecreamempress - Yeah, I agree. And maybe a phone call would be better. I dunno. I'm hesitant though, because I'm rather shy, and I can speak my mind more plainly in an email than on the phone...

Velcro - Thanks for your thoughts! Yeah, I don't want to burn any bridges.

Toothpaste - Everything you said makes perfect sense. It does seem a rather long time. I guess I just feel very vulnerable. The chances of the book getting published feel so precarious...

That said, I do have an update to my story. After posting this thread and also getting a PM from another member, I finally said, "f it" and, since I was emailing her anyway about something else, I also briefly asked her to give me an idea of when I'll be hearing back from her/when we'll be sending that requested revision back out to the editor.

She told me she'll be working on the book over the holidays so it'll go out after the first of the new year. So that's that! Cross your fingers for me guys.

Filigree
12-24-2011, 09:11 PM
Fingers are crossed, Mr. Anonymous. I've been following this since you first announced. My sympathies for the roller-coaster ride.

Mr. Anonymous
12-25-2011, 10:51 AM
Thanks Filigree, that means a lot.

Graz
12-25-2011, 07:44 PM
Good luck Mr. Anonymous. The new year would seem to be a good time to reach out to your agent. "Happy New Year, how were your holidays, etc. and by the way..."

aruna
12-25-2011, 08:42 PM
You must be so relieved to get some definite news. May the new year bring you the contract you long for!

wheelwriter
12-25-2011, 08:57 PM
I'm rooting for you and Socrates. I hope it all works out.

Toothpaste
12-25-2011, 09:19 PM
Toothpaste - Everything you said makes perfect sense. It does seem a rather long time. I guess I just feel very vulnerable. The chances of the book getting published feel so precarious...


Even more so when your agent is holding up the process. You shouldn't feel precarious in your relationship with your agent, nor about your book being published. Not at this stage. You are waiting on thoughts from your agent, not editor. If this was an editor who had your work and you were waiting to hear back that would be entirely different. But this is your teammate. This is someone who is refusing to pass you the ball even though you have a clear shot at the net.

At any rate, I'm glad you have some idea of when she'll be getting back to you, but if she starts putting things off into the new year I hope you take the reigns and have a real conversation with her. She should not be holding up these opportunities for you.

trickywoo
12-27-2011, 09:35 AM
I think you should feel completely comfortable nudging and asking for a definite timeline.

You can do this by phone or e-mail, but I would ask a concrete question that requires a concrete answer, for example: Do you think we can have the manuscript ready for Editor X by the beginning of February?

I don't think you need to couch it in writerly insecurity at all. It sounds like you have a good working relationship with your agent, and, if you approach the timing issue professionally, you should feel free to give input or ask questions about when she plans to approach the editor. She may very well have a reason for waiting - maybe said editor is out of the office or on maternity leave or something that makes timing less important - but you won't know unless you ask. Try not to be intimidated! Remember that it's a mutually beneficial business relationship. Good luck!

trickywoo
12-27-2011, 09:37 AM
Oops! Just saw that you got a response from your agent. Good luck with the submission! And don't be nervous about checking in and nudging if things seem to drag.

Mr. Anonymous
12-30-2011, 04:06 AM
Sorry I haven't responded till now guys, been busy. Hope everyone's been having great holidays. Graz, that's what I'm thinking. Would be great to start the new year off with a book contract... :) I know, I know, I dream...

Aruna, it's definitely good to have a concrete date. Thanks very much, appreciate your support.

wheelwriter, you've been rooting for a while. I'm starting to wonder if maybe you should've bet on a different horse, ha.

Toothpaste, I agree with you. Hopefully I'll hear back in early Jan and we can get the ball rolling... Thanks very much for taking the time to give me your thoughts, I really appreciate it.

Trickywoo - Thanks for your advice, no need to apologize. I really appreciate you taking the time to read through my epic-length post. I'll try not to be nervous, ha. I just really dislike any kind of confrontation, lol.

Mr. Anonymous
01-23-2012, 05:10 AM
Heard back from agent! Seems like she thinks it was a solid revision, and that the book is stronger for it! She wants me to do a little clean-up work, mostly minor stuff, but once that's done, we'll hopefully be out on sub again. I'm glad I was patient and am so relieved to have this off my chest/know she's still interested in working with me. Thanks for all the advice and support guys, you're great.

MysteryRiter
01-23-2012, 05:46 AM
Congrats and good luck! :hooray:

kaitie
01-23-2012, 05:50 AM
Good luck. :)