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Howland Literary, LLC (Carrie Howland)

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Editing for authors: because every writer needs a good editor.

SavvySharky

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I first shared this on querytracker, where it was taken down.

I am in regular contact with 12 or so of Carrie's former clients (from when she was at Donadio and Olson and at Empire and recently at her own agency.) I've tried to compile what our experiences are. There are more details to each of these, and I will invite her other former clients to comment on this thread.

I've been struggling with how to add information to this forum to help writers who aren't familiar with this agent and who don't have access to the "whisper network"
I would strongly discourage anyone from putting their career in Carrie's hands. The following are either my own personal experiences or those of former clients that I am still in close contact with. (There are about twelve of us who talk with regularity.)
1. Carrie was often very opaque about to which editors she was submitting work. Sometimes when asked where a project had been sent she would dodge the question. She was caught in lies by clients who knew editors she had claimed to query, and they had not received submissions from her.
2. Upon breaking ties with Carrie, one client asked for a sub list so they could disclose it to a new agent, Carrie refused to give the sub list because they were no longer working together. This goes against AAR ethics of transparency.
3. Many authors were kept in multiple rounds of revisions, seemingly endlessly, without a real reason not to submit the book to publishers. We are talking sometimes *years*
4. When one author emailed her to say "these revisions have gone on long enough" Carrie promptly dropped them as a client.
5. She would say disparaging remarks about her other clients to some clients.
6. When many of us signed with her, there was no agency agreement. When one client asked for one, the agreement produced was unethical and raised many red flags. Namely, the agreement stated that the author would not share work with anyone but her, specifically meaning no beta readers or critique partners. And if Carrie felt like the work needed revisions past her capabilities, we would be asked to work with a freelance editor of her choice on the author's expense. (It was noted that around this time, she had a close friendship with one freelance editor in particular.)
7. Please, if able, research her sales through publisher's marketplace. Many of us were convinced when signing with her that she had a lot of industry connections, but in reality, she had made very few sales.

ETA Many former clients also made the choice to sign with her because of excessive flattery and promise of other projects (including write for hire work.) that never came to fruition. Many of us felt an instant connection on the phone that wasn't backed up by action.
 

UglyDucksFly

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I can also unfortunately say the above is true. She’s also been blacklisted from certain pitching contests for her poor behavior. I don’t know many agents whose former clients actually have a support group to discuss the damage she’s done to their careers or self confidences, but Carrie Howland does. And the amount of members is in the double digits. What’s even more amazing about her is that most of us genuinely liked her as a person... but whenever we broached anything about our careers that concerned us, she turned on us, dropped us immediately, or insulted us. I remember deciding to move on because I just didn’t think our working arrangement was the best for my book, but all upset because I genuinely liked her as a person and thought we had some semblance of friendliness between us so I didn’t want to hurt her. I consulted a NYT best selling author friend of mine who had also switched agents before and she assured me that switching agents when people don’t work well together was normal and that if I write a respectful email, Carrie would understand and things would be amicable. Let’s just say that was not the case. Please don’t fall for her excessive flattery or career claims that have no proof to back them up. Just go on publishers marketplace and read her stats.
 

Kensi99

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Thanks for sharing. So few understand the real damage that can be done to a project/career with a spotty, half-assed submission plan. And unfortunately it's one of those things you don't know until you sign with someone, as so few are willing to share toxic experiences out of fear of getting a "troublesome" reputation. I'd queried Carrie awhile ago and received what seemed to be a personal note, thanking me for thinking of her and looking forward to reading. She then disappeared. I never followed up because I find the red flags of a bad communicator are there from the get-go. Sorry for everyone who was affected by this.
 
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SavvySharky

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Thanks for sharing. So few understand the real damage that can be done to a project/career with a spotty, half-assed submission plan. And unfortunately it's one of those things you don't know until you sign with someone, as so few are willing to share toxic experiences out of fear of getting a "troublesome" reputation.

Yeah. In my instance, I spent 6 months revising a book, then that book was subbed (I don't know where or to whom exactly) to crickets. I saw one pass from an editor. Now there's no way of knowing where that book--which I LOVE--has been seen, so it's shelved for now. And, yeah, I don't want to be troublesome. I genuinely just want more transparency all around.
 

Emily Byrd Starr

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Just want to add that although my experience wasn't as scammy as what others are describing (I know at least one round of sub really took place, because she forwarded a couple of rejections), I eventually left due to excessive turnaround times and unresponsiveness, sometimes after promises like "I'll start calling editors Monday morning!", and sometimes with excuses that seemed hard to believe ("I still don't see your earlier emails. I need to get my IT guy in here!"). And in some cases, promised feedback that never came. I fully expect this business to involve a lot of waiting, but this was more than that. Toward the end, I screwed up my courage and said I was concerned about response times, and things improved very briefly and then slipped back into old patterns; I left soon after.
 

justpat

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Savvy,
I'm sorry your post was removed, but it did violate QT's comment policy due to the hearsay nature of many of your points. You are more than welcome to repost with a description of your own experiences with this agent. I'm not saying what you posted wasn't true. But there have been other situations where people have posted 2nd or 3rd hand information about agents that turned out to be false. So, for that reason, first-hand experiences are preferred.

There have been situations where authors, unhappy with rejections, start smear campaigns against agents because they took the rejection personally. I doubt that is the situation here, but standards have been created to avoid that sort of thing. And exceptions can't be made to the policy. I hope you understand, protecting agents from false accusations is just as important as protecting authors from bad agents. And it often puts me in a difficult position.

Where I went wrong was to not contact you first about it. It was a hectic day, but that is no excuse. For that I apologize.

[I forgot to mention, I will investigate this agent and determine if her profile should be pulled from QT completely.]
 
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SavvySharky

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Thank you for letting me know! I figured this was it. I was just trying to get the collected info out there, which I've done here. I'll rethink how and what to share on querytracker.
 

Anne_B

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"No matching records found" currently when searching on QT for "Howland Literary Agency" or "Howland."
 

meeks

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I have a question about number 6 on here... I know a literary agent who recommends a freelance editor by telling #amquerying writers "she is great because she is an editor for a big 5" etc. But later on I come to find out they are really close friends outside of publishing. Is this considered unethical?
 

writera

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Any updates on this agent/agency? Had queried (I think, can't find an email sent but I have it written down - maybe I only had them listed as someone to consider querying) before I read this thread and wondering now if I should withdraw my query. Haven't heard back yet but not sure what to do if I get a request. Is it definitely one to be written off?
 
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Kat M

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I have a question about number 6 on here... I know a literary agent who recommends a freelance editor by telling #amquerying writers "she is great because she is an editor for a big 5" etc. But later on I come to find out they are really close friends outside of publishing. Is this considered unethical?

Janet Reid did this post on it a few years ago: https://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2015/06/query-question-should-agent-recc.html The comments section is fascinating but completely inconclusive. I'm curious to hear what other people have to say. Thanks for asking!
 

CaoPaux

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I have a question about number 6 on here... I know a literary agent who recommends a freelance editor by telling #amquerying writers "she is great because she is an editor for a big 5" etc. But later on I come to find out they are really close friends outside of publishing. Is this considered unethical?
That the agent doesn't disclose the relationship? Definitely.

Janet Reid did this post on it a few years ago: https://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/2015/06/query-question-should-agent-recc.html The comments section is fascinating but completely inconclusive. I'm curious to hear what other people have to say. Thanks for asking!
Setting aside why an agent would recommend their client pay for editing, so long as they don't insist on a particular editor -- and are completely open about their relationship with the one(s) they do recommend -- it's generally okay. Don't be afraid to get a second opinion during any part of the process, though. It's your book and your money.
 

SavvySharky

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Aside from her being gone from Query Tracker, I don't think there's been an update. You never need to send along requested materials. Probably no need to withdraw your query, but if you do get a request you can just leave it at "I am pursuing other agents at this time"
 

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