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Author Topic: Some way to rate legitimate agents who give poor service?  (Read 146 times)
Munley
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« on: May 18, 2018, 03:34:24 AM »

Seems that there have been a number of threads about authors who were thrilled to get an agent, but found themselves stranded in no-submission and no-contact limbo, as if the agent simply forgot about them. Now they're having to decide whether to dump the agent.

If these are agents found on QueryTracker, then they have been well-vetted in terms of whether they are running a legitimate business, don't have kickback schemes to book doctors, don't charge reading fees, or engage in anything you would normally consider a scam. It's good to know that we can take that for granted.

It would be great to have some sort of rating system based on specific service criteria that  writers could could contribute to. For example: on a scale of 1- 5, how prompt is this agent in returning your calls? Or some time-frame scale, where appropriate, such as when your ms. went out on sub, once revisions were finalized. And various other criteria. Writers could help generate the criteria.

This could be for agents who do a good job, not just ones who let writers down, and it could be kept as a top thread here on the forum. It should be anonymous. The agent is named, but not the author doing the rating, so that the author doesn't end up disadvantaged on their next query round simply for helping other writers avoid an agent who didn't do a good job.

It doesn't seem to be enough, when deciding who to query, to go by an agent's timeline or by data on how many requests they've made or some of the other criteria the statistics keep track of during the query phase. Could be that an agent who gives a lot of positive responses is simply casting a wide net, and if turns out that they take on more authors than they have time to bother with, or that they're really not that enthusiastic about, they tie up the author's book for ages and even spoil the author's chances with the few editors they might have submitted to in a halfhearted way.

Every time I see a post by a neglected author, I want to know who this agent is so that I and other query writers don't fall into to same trap. Yet I can see that the risk that naming names can pose for the author, who'll have to start querying again, and who can unfairly be regarded as just a bad-mouther other agents will avoid. That's why an author rating an agent should be anonymous.

People rate service providers in many industries. Looking for a sort of Angie's List for writers.

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NextChapter
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« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2018, 06:38:26 AM »

I love this idea! I read in agent comments about how this one or that one is a "dream agent", but I need specific information. An agent who promotes recognized authors is not necessarily the best choice for a debut author. I would propose these questions/ratings:

1. debut author or already published
2. author's genre
3. level of editorial support
4. level of communication to author about submissions activity
5. response to emails or phone calls from author

What else would anyone want to know?
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Tabris
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« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2018, 10:13:51 AM »

What else I'd want to know?

1) Time it takes for the agent to read your manuscript after you're already her client
2) Level of enthusiasm on second project if the first didn't sell
3) Quality of revision suggestions
4) Creativity of the excuses when the agent drops the ball (it's going to happen with even the best agents -- that's the nature of the business) and whether the agent makes it seem as though the client is the problem when the agent is very late, doesn't follow up, or whatever.

I've had a nice roster of bad agents in my history, and #4 was a constant. You can't be arsed to answer my email for three weeks? It's my fault. You haven't looked at the manuscript in six months? My fault. Your comments reflect a skim-level of reading? My fault. "I don't get paid until this book sells, you know!" from a frustrated agent who apparently never read his own contract and discovered that yes, he was paid on commission. "You just aren't a priority," as though I'm a lunatic for expecting an agent to uphold the terms of the agency contract. Things like that.

And in my experience, if the manuscript languishes with the agent for more than three months (remember, you're a signed client at this point) then the revision suggestions are going to be crap because the agent just wants to get it done.

Here's the problem with a rating system for legit-but-bad agents: if you do that, your chance of publishing traditionally is now nil. Even without your name attached to the review, the agent probably knows darn well who you are based on your complaints. (Unless you're that agent a friend of mine dumped, where 50% of her clients dropped her in a three-month timeperiod.)  The agent will remember exactly which manuscript she didn't look at until you threatened to leave, and he'll remember which client he whined at about his mortgage. He'll remember which client he threatened to drop and the client said, "That's fine," and then the agent had to backpedal because he meant to reduce the writer to a cowering puddle of goo. And they'll tell other agents about your unprofessionalism while simultaneously forgetting about their own.

I'm indie now and I love it, and I can't see a scenario in which I'd want an agent ever again. But for others? It'd be risky.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 10:16:39 AM by Tabris » Logged


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NextChapter
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« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2018, 11:53:21 AM »

Hmmm . . . I hate the idea that agents might be eavesdropping here. Still, a non-anecdotal rating systems might allow for anonymity. Tabris's #1 - 3 would be great questions.
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JBeachum
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« Reply #4 on: May 18, 2018, 01:30:21 PM »

It's an intriguing idea, but as Tabris said, there is a real risk for authors when it comes to voicing complaints, even if the complaints are justified. No one wants to be blacklisted, as unfair as it would be. I think that's why it's important for writers to do their homework when an agent offers them - really take the chance to talk to current or previous clients and check their references. A lot of writers with offers don't take that step; they understandably are just relieved that they got an offer at all. I was the same way.

If a system can be devised that doesn't out authors and result in them being identified, I'd be for it.
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Munley
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« Reply #5 on: May 18, 2018, 04:13:36 PM »

What I find disheartening in trying to find an agent is demands that that writers should know the market almost as well as agents. Like this agent's statement on why she requires comp titles (while guffawing on her blog about some of the ones writers have come up with, or presuming a grandiose ego on the part of authors who don't see a comparison to another book):

"Because that’s really why agents want to see comparable titles. If they are good, nay great, comps, then they will give us an instant idea of who and where to send it to."

Shouldn't an agent, from their daily job of marketing books, and being in contact with editors, be able to think of some editor or publishing house for a book whose query they find interesting? Maybe they'll need a little more information, like a plot summary and sample chapters. I'm willing to provide more information and pay 15% commission to someone with insider market knowledge to get my book out there. Yes, I do learn what I can about the market, but why even look for an agent if I can't expect one to know a lot more about it than I do?

There are other hoops writers are expected to jump through these days to "prove that they know the market."  I can see where such an expectation could lead to blaming the writer if the book never goes out on submission.

JBeachum, I agree with checking with an agent's current and previous clients, when possible. Not sure how much they'd be willing to reveal, though.
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Tabris
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« Reply #6 on: May 18, 2018, 09:47:00 PM »

When an agent is asked for references, who do you think she's going to name? The client whose first book didn't sell and whose second book she's had in her inbox, untouched, for six months? Or the one she signed two months ago who just went on submission?

What you really want for references are the ones who LEFT the agent, so you can find out why. "I kept moving away from romance and into westerns, and my agent agreed he didn't have the contacts for that." Awesome reason. "My agent ghosted me." Awful reason. Yanno. But how do you find those people? Especially the ones whose projects didn't sell?
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