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View Full Version : Terminated the Author-Agent contract, where to go from here?



Erik Thurman
07-25-2015, 05:35 PM
Hey all, I'm a long-time lurker and short-term poster on these forums, and I got a question about how to proceed on getting a book published AFTER having it agented.

So to summarize a very long story shorter, I signed with a very enthusiastic agent and went on submission about a year ago with a graphic memoir [graphic novel] that I had fully written and illustrated, and after about nine months, this agent started to disappear on all of her clients and wasn't responding to any of her emails. After a conversation with her on Skype, we thought we got her back on track, but a month later she went off-the-rails again. Not having any more confidence in having her represent the work, I terminated contract with said agent by email and certified mail (which the agency did receive and sign for). It's been two weeks now, and I still haven't heard anything back from either this agent or agency, and I have a feeling that they probably won't reach out again.

That said, I'm wondering how I can even get a submission list from them at this point. I am keen on getting this book published, especially due to over five years of self-funded research and traveling through multiple countries in order to complete this work, and really don't want to see this thing die because of an inept agent soiling the submission.

Any advice where to go from this point? Do I fly to New York with my best pair of door-kicking boots, or what?

DanielaTorre
07-25-2015, 05:55 PM
Sympathies for your plight.

Does he/she have an assistant or anyone else at her agency that can assist you in getting a submission list?
Did you hear anything from them throughout that year concerning rejections and/or interest? This could indicate whether your book was actually submitted or not. If the answer is no, than there's a good chance that it wasn't subbed at all. (caution. that's a big maybe)

Erik Thurman
07-25-2015, 07:57 PM
Definitely thanks for that, Daniela. I'm still confident in the work getting published at some point, heck the thing recently got shortlisted for an international award, and it hasn't even been signed.

I'm going to start hitting up different agents at the literary agency shortly, but even the head agent of the agency that co-signed the contract with my ex-agent isn't replying. So I'm not quite sure how successful writing to the others will be. Doesn't hurt to try with them, right? haha

For follow-ups and rejections, I only heard updates on that within the first 5 months or so, and I know our first round didn't turn up much at all. We supposedly started round two of submissions, but she was pretty evasive to tell me any response on any of those publishers in that round. I'm hoping they really weren't sent out, because the list of graphic novel publishers is considerably smaller than traditional prose.

Perks
07-25-2015, 08:20 PM
Don't give up. That's first priority. If you got an agent once, you can get an agent again.

Certainly keep trying to get a submissions list (with responses!!) -- from anyone in that agency who might be able to pressure your agent to put together and send the list.

But if she doesn't (she probably will) forge ahead anyway. Requery. If there were other agents who expressed interest, get back in touch with them. When the discussions progress, be honest, but neutral. Just say that it was subbed lightly or that you have not been able to get a submission list. If you can't get the list, it will not reflect poorly on you (or your new agent) if future submissions have some overlap. Everybody would prefer that not to happen, but as they say everywhere - shit happens. No big deal.

Best of luck to you and I'm sorry this has happened to you.

Quickbread
07-25-2015, 08:38 PM
Just my two cents here, but I think you should try to be professional but persistent about getting your submission list before you do anything else. Since graphic memoir is very specific, that means a much smaller publishing universe than, say, a YA novel. If your agent supposedly was on round two, you need to ascertain how much exposure your manuscript has actually had, what the responses were, and how much opportunity still exists for it.

I hope for your sake that the agent slacked and didn't submit to many places, but getting that submission list is your right as a client, and it's going to be critical in getting a new potential agent onboard. Also, have you checked your contract to make sure you don't owe your old agent a commission if a new agent sells it?

And finally, don't despair. The same thing happened to me and I finally got my sub list. I ended up calling my ex-agent via a different phone than my own, and he didn't recognize the number and picked up. Since he was cornered, he coughed it up.

Perks
07-25-2015, 09:02 PM
And finally, don't despair. The same thing happened to me and I finally got my sub list. I ended up calling my ex-agent via a different phone than my own, and he didn't recognize the number and picked up. Since he was cornered, he coughed it up.That is deplorable.

Erik Thurman
07-26-2015, 01:59 PM
Don't give up. That's first priority. If you got an agent once, you can get an agent again.

Certainly keep trying to get a submissions list (with responses!!) -- from anyone in that agency who might be able to pressure your agent to put together and send the list.

But if she doesn't (she probably will) forge ahead anyway. Requery. If there were other agents who expressed interest, get back in touch with them. When the discussions progress, be honest, but neutral. Just say that it was subbed lightly or that you have not been able to get a submission list. If you can't get the list, it will not reflect poorly on you (or your new agent) if future submissions have some overlap. Everybody would prefer that not to happen, but as they say everywhere - shit happens. No big deal.

Best of luck to you and I'm sorry this has happened to you.

Thanks for the support on this, Perks and Quickbread!

Re: Perks-- Thanks for that note from earlier that you sent, and I think we covered a lot of things that you posted here. As I said, I'm definitely not going to tank this amount of work and research because of one person, so there should be no worries about giving up. :)

Agreed that something like this shouldn't reflect too poorly on any overlapping submissions, and I feel most editors and agents would be understanding if there was. I'll keep working on getting that submission list, though, since that's going to be helping tremendously to get the next agent on board.

Erik Thurman
07-26-2015, 02:11 PM
Just my two cents here, but I think you should try to be professional but persistent about getting your submission list before you do anything else. Since graphic memoir is very specific, that means a much smaller publishing universe than, say, a YA novel. If your agent supposedly was on round two, you need to ascertain how much exposure your manuscript has actually had, what the responses were, and how much opportunity still exists for it.

I hope for your sake that the agent slacked and didn't submit to many places, but getting that submission list is your right as a client, and it's going to be critical in getting a new potential agent onboard. Also, have you checked your contract to make sure you don't owe your old agent a commission if a new agent sells it?

And finally, don't despair. The same thing happened to me and I finally got my sub list. I ended up calling my ex-agent via a different phone than my own, and he didn't recognize the number and picked up. Since he was cornered, he coughed it up.

You're definitely right about graphic novels and the amount of available publishers to us--we got something like only 30 mid-large publishing houses within the English market, so every one of them counts! You are right about the part that the agent is obligated to provide that submission list as a client, at the very least, and I do intend to get that back.

There is a clause in the contract that, once the contract is terminated, the agent is entitled to the 15% commission if the book is to sell within the six following months.

Also, really slimy about your past agent not coughing up the sub list and forcing you to have to fake your number...

Perks
07-26-2015, 07:54 PM
Agreed that something like this shouldn't reflect too poorly on any overlapping submissions, and I feel most editors and agents would be understanding if there was. I'll keep working on getting that submission list, though, since that's going to be helping tremendously to get the next agent on board.

Getting past my first agent kerfluffle shed light on how things work and I found the whole process more relaxed and reasonable than I'd imagined it was. Strange how good things can come out of a scrambled mess.

Writers Choice
07-26-2015, 08:25 PM
All I can say is WOW!

All that hard work, finally to get an agent and then to have them ignore you? An literary agent is supposed to be a professional who should have the guts to say they can not represent you after all. Either he/she is lazy or just a horrible agent who should get out of the business.

I am extremely steamed that you had to go through this! I am not really sure why I am this mad right now, since it didn't happened to me; perhaps it's because I am sick and tired of bad customer service!

Okay, I'm through ranting about something that I can't do anything about. I'm sorry you went through the aggravation. I hope the next one, if you choose that route again, will do you right!!

Jamesaritchie
07-26-2015, 11:09 PM
You have to keep being a pest until someone gives you a list. Learn from this. When you find another agent, make darned certain she gives you an ongoing submission list. As soon as the agent submits your work somewhere, you should know about it.

Quickbread
07-27-2015, 09:26 AM
There is a clause in the contract that, once the contract is terminated, the agent is entitled to the 15% commission if the book is to sell within the six following months.

This is good. By the time you get all set up with someone new, some of that time will have gone by at least. Six months is manageable. Is there a period of time you need to wait before you seek a new agent? Some contracts have a clause about that, too.

It doesn't say in your post whether you emailed the other agents at the agency or called. If you haven't yet, calling may do the trick and it's a perfectly acceptable reason for calling (as long as you're professional, which it sounds like you've been). Email is so easy to ignore or rank low on the priority list. It might also get blocked by spam filters.

Once you're ready to start querying again, you'll need to decide whether to mention your previous representation in your query or wait until you have an offer before you bring it up. This forum has a few threads by other authors in similar situations. It kind of depends on the specifics of your situation, but the people around here are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, so ask for advice if you're unsure.

Erik Thurman
07-28-2015, 08:20 PM
I'm definitely going to be having more reasonable expectations on what a future agent should and should not be doing during submission, that's for sure.


This is good. By the time you get all set up with someone new, some of that time will have gone by at least. Six months is manageable. Is there a period of time you need to wait before you seek a new agent? Some contracts have a clause about that, too.

It doesn't say in your post whether you emailed the other agents at the agency or called. If you haven't yet, calling may do the trick and it's a perfectly acceptable reason for calling (as long as you're professional, which it sounds like you've been). Email is so easy to ignore or rank low on the priority list. It might also get blocked by spam filters.

Once you're ready to start querying again, you'll need to decide whether to mention your previous representation in your query or wait until you have an offer before you bring it up. This forum has a few threads by other authors in similar situations. It kind of depends on the specifics of your situation, but the people around here are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, so ask for advice if you're unsure.

Yeah, actually I should give a 30-day notice for termination, and then six months after that to resubmit and make a sell. It's fine since my sequel is going to take another two years to draw, so time isn't too much of a factor. The first book is done and ready to submit whenever.

I agree with you that getting someone on the phone might be the best option for something like this. I'll have to figure something out with this, as I'm all the way in Asia and phone calls can be a bit tricky.

Well mentioning that a book has been previously shopped should be something that comes up fairly early in the conversation of agenting, though I think it could honestly wait after the query letter (but before the agent reads any substantial amount of the manuscript). I will be checking out these resources for sure--AW has been a great resource for years for me.

Erik Thurman
08-03-2015, 07:38 PM
Well, after all of the clients sent out a joint email to the head of the agency, we finally got a response. Will keep things updated here if need be.

Erik Thurman
08-06-2015, 07:26 PM
Alright, so our head agent gave our ex-agent the chance to contact us all to make things right, and only two of the clients thus far were given fairly short emails from said agent. My 30-day notice for termination takes full effect, and the former agent nor the head of the agency has addressed or responded to the termination notice specifically. Any options you think need to be garnished?

DanielaTorre
08-06-2015, 07:31 PM
Any mention of your submission list?

Erik Thurman
08-06-2015, 07:54 PM
Any mention of your submission list?

No mention of it yet, so that's presenting a whole can of worms.

Sarah Scott
08-13-2015, 09:10 PM
So sorry you had so much trouble, Erik. I had a similar problem with a non-responding agent, and so did a few of my friends who had the same agent. She just wouldn't return calls or emails. As dar as trying to get another agent at the same agency... well, if they let her get away with this behavior, is the rest of the agency going to be any more professional? Good luck, though.

MandyHubbard
08-13-2015, 10:02 PM
Erik,

just FYI I'd be surprised if another agent will take on a shopped manuscript with no sub list, so don't let that go. Even WITH The list, it'll be challenging. But without it, I personally would not shop a project. A "little overlap" DOES make you look like an incompotent agent, but beyond that, I have no idea if the first agent already exhausted everywhere I would plan to take it. I wouldn't be willing to take on the hours and hours of work (and add a client to my list) knowing that I could discover that the project was dead before I began.

Filigree
08-13-2015, 10:42 PM
Another reason to consider agents very, very carefully. Through no fault of the author, the whole project can die to commercial publication, just because of poor submissions record-keeping. It may not be endemic to a whole agency. But it is a problem if the senior agent won't respond and make things right quickly.

Erik Thurman
08-14-2015, 04:59 AM
Our head of the agency finally contacted us back to release us completely of all obligations to the agency, along with waived the 30-day notice required for termination for all the other clients. So at least there's that; I don't owe the agency a 15% commission on any sales at this point forward.

Our only major roadblock now is to get that submission list! I just very recently joined the Authors Guild, which provides free/low-cost legal services, and they would be willing to get a hold of this agent to try to get it.

Erik Thurman
08-14-2015, 05:12 AM
So sorry you had so much trouble, Erik. I had a similar problem with a non-responding agent, and so did a few of my friends who had the same agent. She just wouldn't return calls or emails. As dar as trying to get another agent at the same agency... well, if they let her get away with this behavior, is the rest of the agency going to be any more professional? Good luck, though.

Really sorry to hear about that about your non-responding agent. Don't they understand that they are under a legally-binding contract? Did you ever end up getting your submission list back at all?

Also, I have no interest in getting another agent at this agency.

Erik Thurman
08-14-2015, 05:20 AM
Erik,

just FYI I'd be surprised if another agent will take on a shopped manuscript with no sub list, so don't let that go. Even WITH The list, it'll be challenging. But without it, I personally would not shop a project. A "little overlap" DOES make you look like an incompotent agent, but beyond that, I have no idea if the first agent already exhausted everywhere I would plan to take it. I wouldn't be willing to take on the hours and hours of work (and add a client to my list) knowing that I could discover that the project was dead before I began.

I'm definitely considering having that attorney press the agent about the submission list, so I'm gaining her contact info now. Any other advice to press forward?

Erik Thurman
08-14-2015, 05:22 AM
Another reason to consider agents very, very carefully. Through no fault of the author, the whole project can die to commercial publication, just because of poor submissions record-keeping. It may not be endemic to a whole agency. But it is a problem if the senior agent won't respond and make things right quickly.

Thanks for comments here, and elsewhere on the website, Filigree. Sad thing is that this agent's background and references checked out pretty well, even with the research I did before signing.

Any advice how to proceed?

Filigree
08-14-2015, 06:45 AM
There were several reasons (which I won't go into here because RYFW) why I didn't even query this particular agency a couple of years ago. I suspect I read things a little deeper than the average new author, so these might not have been things you would have known to research.

Get a publishing-experienced attorney involved right now. Band together with the other disgruntled clients if you have to, but get that submissions list. Your genre is a bit scarce on great publishers as it is, so you need all the leverage you can get.

MandyHubbard
08-14-2015, 09:05 PM
There were several reasons (which I won't go into here because RYFW) why I didn't even query this particular agency a couple of years ago. I suspect I read things a little deeper than the average new author, so these might not have been things you would have known to research.



On the surface the agency passes the check-- founder previously worked at another agency. However it appears to have been brief (1 or 2 years) before she launched her own agency and brought in A LOT of people. (What is it now, 8 or 9?). The agency also has spawned quite a number of other agencies, wherein those founders briefly worked under this agency before launching their own.

I find it troublesome.

Punkin
01-17-2016, 02:03 AM
Gotta get that submission list, before you sub the same places and embarrass yourself.

It should be noted: If you should eventually get a deal with a publisher that the agent originally queried, you will (probably) still have to pay commissions to the agent.

This clause began appearing in agency contracts years ago, because lots of writers tried to defraud their agents by accepting offers post-separation.

eqb
01-17-2016, 08:51 PM
That depends on the contract you have. Good agencies include a time limit on that clause, usually six months or so. After that, you are free to approach those same publishers without having to pay your ex-agent the commission.

Punkin
01-18-2016, 01:34 AM
You might be surprised, EQB. A "good agency," as you say, will have solid relationships with publishers. And said publishers won't be eager to help you go around your agent.

You wouldn't have an offer with this publisher without the agent. Why exclude him now? Very bad faith.

Punkin
01-18-2016, 01:38 AM
Mandy, your website is very impressive. Fifteen titles released in less than a month? That's fast work.

eqb
01-18-2016, 01:43 AM
Since I've been through this situation before, I can happily say I was not surprised, nor was I dealing in bad faith.

To reiterate, yes, it's important to get that list of submissions. And it's important to see what your particular contract says about owing commissions after you part ways with your agent.

Punkin
01-18-2016, 01:46 AM
Yup. And it might not be within your power, to exclude the agent from the deal.

eqb
01-18-2016, 01:49 AM
Yup. And it might not be within your power, to exclude the agent from the deal.

If the contract says no commissions after X months, you do.

I'm intrigued that your experience is so different not only from mine, but from everything I've heard from established authors. Could you share the situations you've come across, where an author MUST include the agent, in spite of what the contract says?

Old Hack
01-18-2016, 02:09 AM
If the contract says no commissions after X months, you do.

This is my experience too.

Punkin, what experience do you have in working in publishing, and in dealing with agent contracts? Specifically?

Punkin
01-18-2016, 02:37 AM
42 deals at last count.

If the agent and the publisher have a decent relationship (and even sometimes of they don't, just on principle), the publisher will draw up the contract to include the agent who brought the deal to them.

You wouldn't have this deal without the agent. To cut him out now, is very bad form. Publishing is a very small world, and your reputation will follow you everywhere.

eqb
01-18-2016, 02:49 AM
Are you claiming that publishers will blithely ignore agency contracts?

Because if you are saying that, you are dead wrong.

Punkin
01-18-2016, 03:00 AM
eqb, I can't speak for all. But as a rule, I'm saying the exact opposite: The publishers will include the agent who brought the deal to them.

eqb
01-18-2016, 04:22 AM
What genres and which publishers are you talking about?

Because my experience with SF/F publishers directly contradicts what you say.

Punkin
01-18-2016, 09:46 AM
This week, that I know firsthand? Tor and Voyager. They don't allow authors to ditch the agents who brought the deals to them.

Ketzel
01-18-2016, 10:05 AM
You are saying that, although the author-agent relationship has been terminated, publishers will routinely insist that authors pay agents, even where the contract between the agent and the author specifies that the agent isn't entitled to payment under the circumstances? I think this is what eqb meant when asking if publishers routinely ignore agency contracts.

Old Hack
01-18-2016, 11:19 AM
eqb, I can't speak for all. But as a rule, I'm saying the exact opposite: The publishers will include the agent who brought the deal to them.

Punkin has left the building now but this does need to be addressed.

Briefly: agent contracts usually specify that if an agent introduces a book to a publisher, and then the author terminates the agent-author agreement, the agent will still be agent-of-record on any deal which results. So the agent will still be paid her commission on the deal, even though she is no longer the author's agent. However, agent contracts also usually limit this clause to a specific period: six months is common, from the contracts I've seen, and according to three different agents I've asked in the last twelve hours. So if a deal is made seven months after the agent-author agreement was terminated the agent gets nothing, and the publisher will not think twice about that.

If anyone has any further questions on this, do feel free to ask.

Cyia
01-18-2016, 05:14 PM
Just adding my voice to what Old Hack said. Six months was exactly the time frame when I switched agents.

If, in the six months after transition, any editor approached by the first agent had made an offer, and I had agreed to that offer, then first agent would have been entitled to their commission. Had it been a situation where second agent also had a part in the deal, then both would have been entitled to their commissions.

There's also generally a one month waiting period between termination and the time you can start finding a new agent, however if the split is amicable (as mine was), then your original agent can wave that period so you can get a new agent as soon as possible. Just make sure everything's documented so the folks who handle the legal stuff on both sides don't get protocol headaches.

eqb
01-18-2016, 05:28 PM
To add a specific data point: I parted ways with my first agent several months after she had subbed my ms. to Tor. A couple years later, my new agent subbed to Tor, who made an offer. No one said anything about including my first agent in the deal.

This was back in 2007, but from what I've heard from other authors, nothing has changed.

Ketzel
01-18-2016, 07:18 PM
Thanks to all for the clarification. As a lawyer, it boggled my mind that any business would actually behave as Punkin described.