Many writers jump, head first, at the first offer for representation they receive from a literary agent. It is an understandable reaction. Most authors get beat down by many rejections before someone shows an interest in their work. Therefore, when someone tells them they think them can sell the author’s labor of love, the author is too happy to think about anything else once the good news arrives. Yet repeatedly, I hear horror stories from authors that did not look before they took the leap and signed a contract with a literary agent.
Just like with any other endeavor, it is very important that you, as a writer, interview your perspective agent just as the perspective agent is giving you scrutiny. I have mentioned this a couple of times to other writers I know and the general response has been shock that I would even suggest it. I don’t know why. I think it is only logical, especially considering the many horror stories I have heard from other authors about how bad either their current or former literary agent was.
I do not know about you, but I do not want to experience the following:
• Signing with an agent who does not return my phone calls for up to six months.
• Having an agent who repeatedly “looses” my manuscript.
• Landing an agent who insists on meeting with me face-to-face multiple times a year, and, worse, that I come to see her in New York, spending oodles of money on plane tickets when she has yet to sell my manuscript and secure at least an advance for it.
• Having an agent who repeatedly sends me emails intended for another client, discussing confidential contract and project information and then quickly having to send another saying, “OOPS! Ignore that!”
• Signing with an agent who constantly calls me “John” rather than my real name.
• Signing with an agent who feels the need to send me every humorous spam email he receives, which is upwards of twenty a day
• Landing an agent who argues with me over the clearly detailed commission she is supposed to receive based on our contract, complaining that it was a typo, and that she is really entitled to twice as much.
• Having an agent who does not send out commission checks until months after they are received or not at all until gently reminded to do so.
• Signing with an agent who pitches my novel to an imprint that has never published a Fantasy novel in its entire existence and has no interest in ever printing such things.
• Having an agent who tells me what my next novel “must” be about because XYZ publishing house is looking for yet another cheesy vampire tale to sell to teens and preteens and who then gets into a shouting match with me when I say no.
• An agent who insists on calling me at 2:00AM because he is a night owl, another author he represents is also a night owl and he just wants to see how things are going with me and when he can expect my next manuscript.
Yes, these are all real stories other authors have shared with me. And yes, most, if not all of them could have avoided these problems if they would have done some do diligence about who they were signing to represent them.