That’s right. Another post immediately after the car rant. I started to make this one yesterday and pulled back. I hate to make it. I hate to risk looking unprofessional myself. And I hate to publicly condemn somebody I think is basically a nice person but who I believe to be totally incompetent. But dammit, other writers need to know about this kind of stuff.
This is a rant about my previous literary agent. I’m going to call her Ruth here. If you know her real name, fine. If not and you want to so you can avoid her, e-mail me.
I got hooked up with Ruth back in the spring on the recommendation of a mutual friend who may or may not still be represented by her. Things were good at first. A buyer for Dimension Films had expressed an interest in Shara at Horrorfind 3, so Ruth did the follow-up, sending him a copy of the book, which he rejected. When I began asking Ruth about submitting Shara to a different publisher — because, ya know, I’d like to get paid and so far the current publisher hasn’t paid me anything for the book — communication began to get sparodic. Then Ruth went on hiatus because, she said, she was about to burn out.
Time went by. I began searching for Ruth’s past sales. Couldn’t find anything online. At Horrorfind in Phoenix I began asking other authors represented by her what she’d sold for them. The unanimous answer? Nothing. What was she burning out from? I asked myself.
I finished the new book, which also was my graduate thesis, so it went through the approving fires of three professors. It’s a good book. I sent numerous e-mails to Ruth asking about sending the book to her. Our contract only allowed her to sell dramatic rights to Shara, by the way. Weeks go by with no answer. Finally I send another e-mail telling her the manuscript will be mailed that weekend and that I’d like to talk to her about her track record. She finally sends an e-mail saying we need to talk and that she’ll call on a certain date. Then she tells me to send only a synopsis, chapter outline and the first five pages of Amara’s Prayer. That pissed me off. That’s what an unknown author submits to an agent he hopes will represent him. It is not what a contracted client sends to his agent. I send what she asks for. On the day she’s supposed to call, the phone doesn’t ring. Late that day I get an e-mail sent to all her clients saying that something’s come up and she’ll be out of touch for a while. Again. That’s when I began looking for a new agent and told Ruth to ignore everything I’d sent about Amara’s Prayer because I was withdrawing it from her consideration.
Yesterday Ruth posts on a public message board a note about a death in her family. But the last paragraphs are about the agency. She states that she dissolved all contracts when she reopened the agency under a different name. That happened on Sept. 25. I was never sent any formal communication to that effect. And hey, you can’t just change your company name and consider all legally binding contracts null and void. And you sure as hell can’t make that announcement in a public online forum. In her post, Ruth said she was going offline for a while. Again.
So I grit my teeth and e-mail one of the HWA attack squad members who recently began helping Ruth with her agency. This is one of the people who constantly attack new writers to tell them they are not acting in a professional manner by submitting to no- or low-pay markets. Yeah, having this person on Ruth’s staff would have driven me to finding another agent all by itself. This person first claims that Ruth sent letters announcing the cancellation of contracts. Bullshit. The contract states those letters have to be sent by certified mail. I never got one. I tell the attack squad member that. Her response? Since I have a new agent, the onus is on me to send the letter.
Well you can bet your ass that letter’s going in the mail el pronto. I was going to wait and let Ruth grieve over her recent loss before sending her the termination letter. It’s not like she could do anything with Shara. She doesn’t even have a copy any more and she told me she considered it a dead project.
The lesson here boys and girls? Always, always always do your homework and never, never never sign a contract with somebody you haven’t checked out thoroughly.
Another shining example of the kind of professionalism the HWA attack squad supports? Apparently so. Like I keep telling them, there’s more to being a pro than making 5 cents per word for every sale. Professionalism is an attitude more than a paycheck. Ruth and her goon do not represent my view of professionalism and that’s why I’ve moved on and up.