Agent Disaster

I was thinking the other day about literary agents and how badly so many writers wish they could have one, and I thought to myself, “I can blog about that!”

Of course, Myself was being her usual pain in the butt self so she asked, “what would you know about agents? As if you have one yourself! Ha!”

Then a deep, dark memory surfaced and I realized I could blog about agents quite well, thankyouverymuch.

Myself even agreed. Grudgingly.

See, I don’t currently have an agent, no, but I have had an agent in the past. Some may gasp at this and feel a sudden rush of jealousy, but hang on for a second… just a moment… while I explain just exactly why he and I parted ways long, long ago and why I’m more apt to be jealous of you for never having crossed his path.

I can’t remember his name, so don’t bother asking. It doesn’t matter anyway. I’ll explain why in a sec.

I was very young and excited about my manuscript, The Veiling Society (yes it’s now published, but I’m not proud of it anymore and if you happen to buy it, please remember I did not recommend it), and looking for agents to represent me. Like every young new writer, I was rejected more times than I care to count. Then the amazing happened: I met an agent who wanted to represent me!

Read: I met an agent. Not queried and not met at a conference. He simply e-mailed me and told me he wanted to represent me. This should have been a huge red flag. But I was young and dumb and excited. So I accepted his “offer” without doing any research on his background whatsoever.

Myself wants to point out how completely moronic I was then. Thank-you for that, Myself. I had no idea.

He asked for $50 for expenses. Also not something a reputable agent does. Did I pay attention to how wrong this was? Nope. I paid him instead.

*Facepalm*

Then I didn’t hear from him for months. Finally I e-mailed him and asked what was up. He told me I hadn’t paid the $50 so he wasn’t working for me until I did.

Uhh… what? 0.O

Only problem was I had paid it, and I had a receipt for the money order. I showed it to him. He said it could have been any money order. Since I hadn’t paid by check because I didn’t have a bank account, I couldn’t prove it had gone to him.

It was then that I started to wise up.

Started to.

I didn’t pay him again, which was the first smart thing I did. But I didn’t tell him where to shove his $50, either. Nope. I tried to reason with him. I figured he was really a good person and it was a misunderstanding (young Morgan was a bit naive, to say the least). Finally, he agreed to talk to some editors on my behalf.

It was many more months before I heard from him again. Then he e-mailed me, telling me I owed him $200 for services rendered and he would take me to court if I didn’t pay.

Uhhh… what?

I asked what services, and he said none of the editors he spoke to wanted my cruddy book and that he had wasted a ton of time and money on me. I asked, what editors? He wouldn’t say. I freaked out, worried that he could actually take me to court. I dug out the contract I had signed with him; it said nothing about a $200 service fee, though it did say that he had to prove he had worked for me. So I decided to dump him. I wrote him an e-mail saying that I saw no reason to pay him any more money, and that I was, as per our contract, terminating our business relationship.

I never wrote to him again. However, he continued to write me many more scathing, abusive e-mails threatening to take me to court.

He never did take me to court, by the way. He knew he would lose.

Still, it was a scary experience for someone as young and naive as I was then. He stopped e-mailing me after a few months and I never heard from him again, but from this terrible experience I took away some very important lessons about agents. Please heed them more than I did if you are just starting out, and don’t forget them even if you are an old vet like I now am:

  • Never sign a contract with anyone without researching who they are first. Predators and Editors is a wonderful tool that I have used religiously ever since my terrible experience. It lists hundreds of thousands of agents and editors: the good, the bad and the ugly. Remember how I said knowing the name of my monster agent didn’t matter? It’s because I found him on P&E, listed as a scam artist. So as long as you use P&E you’ll never have to deal with him. Or any other scam artists, for that matter. And if your agent isn’t listed, don’t take a chance. Just leave them be.
  • Never, EVER pay a fee to an agent. They make their money by making you money. That’s why they’re so picky, and why you get so many rejections. But it’s worth it to land a real agent… one that won’t ask you for a dime because they know they can make their own money because they’re good at what they do.
  • Look for agents who are members of the Association of Authors’ Representatives and/or adhere to their tenets and openly say so on their websites. These are good people.
  • Look into an agent’s recent sales and other media before signing. What have they done lately? Are they known in the industry? Do they have a positive reputation or a negative one?
  • Don’t get too excited. We all want to be published and seen, but it’s not worth it to get scammed. It is worth it to be careful and land a real agent who will work for and with you because they believe in your manuscript.
  • Repeat after me and hereever on: “I am a professional writer. I deserve a professional agent. I can and will be patient. Amen.”

OK, so you can nix the “amen” if you wish, but you get the point. I’m currently working harder than I have ever worked on my writing so that I can show a real agent that I’m a real writer. That’s how you succeed — through hard work and talent…

… and patience. Lots and lots of patience.

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