Author Topic: Surprised by agent's harsh reaction to other agents already reading manuscript  (Read 826 times)

Offline Munley

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This is a panel discussion that includes 1 editor and 4 agents. Generally very informative.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZbm4shGkmc

Scroll ahead to the the Q & A section at 105:30 to hear agent's rant about learning other agents are already reading the manuscript and one agent has already asked to a call to discuss representation. To give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe her complaint is the author not saying upfront that in the query letter that this call has been scheduled. If so, I agree that the author should have made that clear. Apart from this segment of the interview, this agent sounds like a great advocate for a writer, very competent, and very experienced. Yet this part bothered me enough to think twice about querying her.

It sounds like, before even requesting the manuscript, this agent routinely asks for specifics about how much it has been been shopped around to other agents and then gets indignant to learn how many have been queried ahead of her and that some other agents are reading a partial or full. As an author, I feel no obligation to specify to an agent the number of agents I've queried or whether others are reading the manuscript --- unless I have an offer. In that case, I'd still say only that I have an offer. It also sounds unusual for an author to be sending out new queries with an offer already on the table, rather than just contacting agents already reading the manuscript -- and maybe also agents already queried -- to inform them of the offer. But this agents says this happens to her all the time.

My understanding is that agents expect authors to do simultaneous submissions and probably do them in batches. It would be foolish for an author to stop querying when they get a few requests to read the manuscript, when it takes weeks or months to get a yes or no response, and they can all turn out to be NO. Then what?

Offline MegTravelz

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Yikes, thanks for sharing Munley. I could also understand being upset if an agent is queried AFTER the writer has an offer, but that wasn't the scenario she initially set up. (At the very very end she does add in "someone already has a meeting with you", but she starts the rant by just saying it's been shopped around before getting to her). She seems legitimately mad that a writer submitted to other people before her. Which is.... seriously unreasonable. It's incredibly hard to get representation. OF COURSE writers are going to submit to multiple places-- sorry you're not always in the top 10, but maybe a writer didn't know you'd be a good fit-- or you were closed for a while-- or you're actually their dream agent and they wanted to make sure their query and pages were working before querying you. Yikes yikes yikes.




Offline MKWrites_318

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Quote
sorry you're not always in the top 10, but maybe a writer didn't know you'd be a good fit-- or you were closed for a while-- or you're actually their dream agent and they wanted to make sure their query and pages were working before querying you.

Or they literally didn't know you existed, because finding agents/agencies involves research and information slips through the cracks, but then they stumbled upon you and went "ooh! I'll query her too!" There are so, so many reasons why an agent doesn't end up in the first batches.

I mean, to me, it didn't sound like "when a writer doesn't mention that there's been an offer of rep." To me, it sounded like, "I better be your first choice, and if I'm not your first choice, don't write a query that sounds like I am." And that's really unfair to writers. We're told to personalize our letters if we can. We're told to do our research. There's limited advice on how many queries to send in a batch. We're told to query 100 agents and just keep pushing until we find that special one who's the soulmate for our novel. Those last two bits of advice are awful, imo, but anyway. I try very hard not to listen to agents with an ungenerous ear. I really, really do, but that sounded like "You better be all about me, and if you're not, don't let the door hit you on the way out." And that's, to be very polite with my word choice, obnoxious and alarming.

The other agents looked...uncomfortable with what she was saying. I think they all thought her comments were going to go in another direction. Because saying "I've queried 80 agents" can be detrimental to an author, because it can tip an agent off that there's something either deeply wrong with the book or with the writer. But she didn't go that route with it, and she seemed to lose the others on the panel. There was no nodding as the rant went on. There were only tight half-smiles. That was comforting. If they'd all been agreeing with her, I would be bummed out and stressed.

Offline MegTravelz

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I really, really do, but that sounded like "You better be all about me, and if you're not, don't let the door hit you on the way out." And that's, to be very polite with my word choice, obnoxious and alarming.

The other agents looked...uncomfortable with what she was saying.

Yup, this. She also literally said the author should "drop dead". I know being an agent is hard and stressful, but it's never appropriate to say that to someone. Ever. I hadn't heard of her or her agency before this, but now I'm def not querying her  :)

Offline Tabris

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An author should drop dead? Because the author followed standard industry practice? Molly Friedrich, please, get over yourself.

Authors are told over and over again to behave like professionals when we query. Then we get an agent all butthurt because she wasn't queried in the first batch--enough to wish death on someone because of a business letter? How is that professional?

Offline raktinope

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This is insane rationale.

Agents accept conservatively request 10% of the queries they receive. So and author has to mystically know that YOU are the agent that will make a request in their first round of queries? Unbelievable. I can't tell you how many agents MSWLs have matched up perfectly with my MS and I get a form rejection. It is literally impossible to know who is and is not going to request. Period.

Marking her as someone never to query.

Offline Viddiest

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It’s weird how she seemed to imply that the author was almost deceptive by personalising a query to her and doing the same with others. I was so put off by her whole mannerism. Definitely taking her off my list (and she was actually on it). I never think of the agents I query as having personalities. They are all the same in my head. Now seeing this, I actually get what people mean when they say a good fit is important. I could not work with someone with this kind of attitude.

Offline Munley

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It’s weird how she seemed to imply that the author was almost deceptive by personalising a query to her and doing the same with others. I was so put off by her whole mannerism. Definitely taking her off my list (and she was actually on it). I never think of the agents I query as having personalities. They are all the same in my head. Now seeing this, I actually get what people mean when they say a good fit is important. I could not work with someone with this kind of attitude.

Yes, she does seem to imply that the author was being deceptive. Crass, too, I'd say. I've actually been looking for live interviews recently in order to gauge whether an agent would be a good fit personality-wise. This is the third agent I've nixed after seeing them in an interview.

Panel discussions are even more informative than a one-on-one interview. Looking at this video again, I can see more reasons I'm turned off by her annoying behavior even when she isn't saying anything or interrupting the other agents. She keeps drawing attention to herself, doing distracting things like mouthing her comments in the background. I make generous allowances for people possibly being a bit nervous on camera, etc., since I've screwed up a bit myself when in the spotlight with an audience, but this was too much.

I saw a 2-agent interview where the host introduced them in broad terms and then, without posing any questions at all to them, offered to let them discuss in an open-ended way things they thought were important to convey to a querying author. I'll refer to the one on the left as Agent A. Agent B spoke first about a certain topic. When she finished speaking at length, she asked Agent A to speak to that same topic, which he did, briefly.  She immediately spoke again at length on a topic of her choice and asked him what he had to say about that topic. He answered briefly. Without allowing a second for him initiate a topic particularly important to him, she jumped right in with the next topic of her choice. . . This pattern continued through the whole conversation.

I imagined being very frustrated with her as my agent if I only ever got to speak about topics she put on the table. As for him, I wondered how good an advocate he would be to an editor if he was so easily steamrolled in a discussion. But he's been an agent for a long time and has successfully marketed many books, so he must be skillful, I thought.

So this is an example of what I get out watching agent panel discussions. It isn't so much to condemn a particular agent, but to see how I feel in their presence. What bothers me about an agent's personality might not bother another author. And I might love to be around an agent whose personality others couldn't stand. As agents like to remind us, there's a lot of subjectivity in the publishing business. In Molly F's case, though, I can't imagine too many authors feeling comfortable with her drop-dead rant. That's objectively awful.               

Offline 217mom

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Panel discussions are even more informative than a one-on-one interview. Looking at this video again, I can see more reasons I'm turned off by her annoying behavior even when she isn't saying anything or interrupting the other agents. She keeps drawing attention to herself, doing distracting things like mouthing her comments in the background.

I saw this years ago when I began querying. As one with training in psychology, I recognize a histrionic personality when I see one.
Please note that other agents are NOT in her camp when she makes the statement that everyone else on the panel feels the same. Nope, they do not.

But there is something worth taking from her comment besides not querying her. It is never in the writer's interest to share how many they have queried already. We are, in effect , selling something (the manuscript, our career management, etc.) to the agent. No one wants to feel they are not the first choice when being pitched to. An agent prefers to imagine they are at the very least one of your top choices. So don't go telling them you are now on query number eighty, to use the number this agent mentioned. A confident top-of-your-list agent wouldn't ask you about that anyway, but don't offer such, either. :zip:

Offline jonny_555

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That was great and informative Munley. I would love to know what this agent's rejection letter reads like  ;D

"Drop dead."

« Last Edit: May 23, 2021, 01:53:15 AM by jonny_555 »
Find the blessing in your curse

Offline jcwrites

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It's quite nice, actually.

Offline Tabris

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An agent prefers to imagine they are at the very least one of your top choices. So don't go telling them you are now on query number eighty, to use the number this agent mentioned. A confident top-of-your-list agent wouldn't ask you about that anyway, but don't offer such, either. :zip:

This. It's easy enough to kind of answer the question without giving a number. "I do have other agents reading the manuscript at present, but I assure you I will let you know immediately if I receive an offer, that way you will have an opportunity to review the requested material."