Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Agents Behaving Badly?

I’ve been very nice recently, and my soapbox is getting dusty. Time to vent.

At the 2006 Atlanta RWA conference, I experienced something that really ticked me off. I volunteered to usher at the RITA/Golden Heart ceremony and was assigned to work the “gate” to the VIP section where the nominees and their guests would sit. Somewhere along the line, a wire got crossed and the hotel didn’t have enough chairs set up in this section. It got a bit chaotic, as I tried to keep out the folks without VIP passes and deal with the folks who had passes but couldn’t find a place to sit. No one was terribly happy. At one point, an author (whom I adore) and her editor (whom I find slightly intimidating) came to me to ask about the seating problem. The best I could do was point them in the direction of someone who might be able to get the hotel to bring in more chairs.

It wasn’t the best of situations, plus my feet were hurting due to my fabu Drag Queen shoes I chose to wear.

In the midst of this, an agent — who has a high enough visibility that I could recognize her on sight without a name tag — gets upset because she can’t find a seat with her author. Of the options available in this situation, this agent decided the proper course of action would be to shout at and berate me.

Yes, she took out her frustrations on me at the top of her lungs in front of oh, several hundred people. Now remember, this situation is A) not my fault, and B) not something I could do anything about — even if I was inclined to after being berated like that. (Remember how I couldn’t help adored author and her editor?) Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I turned my back on her and went back to work. But it bothered me all night. I told the Playfriends and the Mavens about it, but kept it to myself otherwise.

My feelings were hurt from being shouted at, but the more I thought about it, the madder I got. What kind of person acts that way in public? I was dressed to the nines — obviously an RWA volunteer, not a hotel employee (i.e., someone who could have done something about the chair situation — not that she should have shouted at a hotel employee.) Although this agent had been on my list of agents to query one day, I immediately struck her from that list. If she’d act that way to me — not having a clue who I was — why would I want this person to represent me in a professional situation? Was this how she spoke to editorial assistants or other “underlings?” What would happen if she went after an editor like that?

Okay, so she probably won’t be missing out on much because I decline to query her or let her represent me one day, but we can hope that one day, like Susan Elizabeth Phillips said, this will be a “big mistake” on her part. But that was just for me. I never went out and “warned” folks away from her or anything like that. Maybe it was a once-off — just someone having a bad day, but I wasn’t going to risk it with my career.

Then, just recently, I hear of this same agent doing something very similar at the RWA conference in Dallas this year. A little later, another report trickles in. Hmmm, seems this behavior wasn’t just a once off. My estimation of this agent has sunk to an all-time low.

Now, I’m not saying the agent in question isn’t a good agent. She has some well-known (but not necessarily superstar) clients, and I assume they are happy with the services she provides. But every time I hear her name, I think of the hissy fits and I lose all respect.

Sadly, because I’ve listened to the lectures on Good Behavior for a Newbie Writer, I can’t (won’t) name her on the blog or publicly call her out for her behavior. All I can do is wait until someone privately asks my opinion about this agent, then tell them how uncomfortable I’d be about having her represent me based on her behavior at RWA conferences.

What unpubbed author hasn’t been lectured on the importance of acting professionally because you don’t want to sink your career (before it’s even started) because you acted like a raving bitch in public? (Ironically, this particular agent has even blogged about this particular topic. Seems she can’t take her own advice.)

So riddle me this, Honorary Playfriends: Would you — knowing what I know — query this agent? Would you feel comfortable having her represent you? Would you trust her to not berate secretaries and assistants? I’ve heard about agents making enemies of editors due to their behavior, and the stories never end well for the authors. If no agent is better than a bad agent, is a possibly-rude agent worth the risk? Seriously, inquiring minds want to know your thoughts.


Edited to add: No, I'm not planning on querying this agent. She's off my short list. I'm just curious to know if *other* folks would query her, knowing this information.

***Please, no speculating about the agent’s identity in the comments tail. In other words — don’t use any agent’s name, good or bad. I’d hate to have to delete your comment and have you miss out on a chance to win a prize this week in our Birthday giveaways.

You still have time to vote for Maven LJ's RAINTREE: HAUNTED as Amazon's Best for 2007. Click here. Vote early; vote often. She's only a couple of percentage points off the lead...


Playground Monitor's Mother said...

You can always make a doll in the misbehaving agent's likeness and stick pins it it. It probably won't affect her, but it will make you feel better. Hmmmmm, that's devious!

Stacy S said...

That would be hard. I don't think I could send her anything. She might be good, but you know she's probably going to treat you like crap.

Rhonda Nelson said...

Rude and unprofessional--two qualities I *wouldn't* want my agent to have and she's just demonstrated both. Would I query her? No.

Anonymous said...

Not just no, but hell no! In fact, I will beat you when I see you if you do that and I don't want to beat you, I'd much rather have a drink together. Please, save us both from me having to box your ears!

Jen said...

Not just no, but hell no! In fact, I will beat you when I see you if you do that and I don't want to beat you, I'd much rather have a drink together. Please, save us both from me having to box your ears!

(that previous post was me but my phone rang and I can't talk and post at the same time so I sent it through as anon by mistake but I wanted PC to know it was me so she'd be suitably cowed at the prospect of me whupping her.;))

Barbara Vey said...

Thank goodness I'll never need an agent. :g: But I have to say that there are too many good people out there doing great jobs as agents, so to pick a meanie must mean you like to be abused.

There is no excuse for poor behavior in any situation and they say Karma is a B. I'm sure word of this agent is already going around and will bite her in the end. (Cue visual)

Problem Child said...

I don't know, Jen. The thought of an anonymous stranger wanting to kick my butt did kind of scare me there for a minute! :-)

But consider me cowed...

Playground Monitor said...

Now y'all know why I behave. If you had a mother who advocated making voodoo dolls, you'd behave too!

This behavior sounds like someone trying to make herself look important at the expense of someone else, which is wrong, wrong, wrong, and it's a quality I'd never want in an agent. If she's done it twice, it's a good guess she's done it plenty more times. Life's just too short to affiliate yourself with such an unprofessional person.

Please allow me to join the "whup yer butt" line along with Jen. *g*

And on a different note -- look at Barbara's cute new icon!


Smarty Pants said...

I wouldn't query her even if every other agent in town had laughed in my face. You're better off without one than to have one that could potentially alienate the editors and publishers you want to impress. Nevermind how she might treat her authors when things aren't going well.

Let me take that back. I might sign with her just so I could fire her and wiggle my fanny at her.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

I would not query her. I might have at one time, but once I learned something like this about her, I'd not do it. But, like you said, maybe it was a bad day kind of thing. And see, I'd have told myself that if I wanted to query her. But more than once? Not an accident. Obviously a rude, temperamental person with more self-importance than decency.

Instigator said...

Nope. No agent is better than one who might alienate the very people I'm trying to impress. And besides, she was nasty to one of my friends. This business is just too small to be nasty to anyone. You never know who that person knows.


Maven Linda said...

Just my jet-lagged opinion (got back from San Francisco late last night) but you're better off with no agent than an agent who's making enemies left and right. Life's too short to voluntarily take on a psycho-bitch.


The verification word is tlnaukga, which I can almost guarantee Blogger won't take.

PS: I was right. The second verification word is tmuneb.

robynl said...

I for sure would not even consider her. I choose my family doctor, dentist etc. by how comfortable I feel with them. They must be a good dr. etc., but I need to feel that they are personable also.

catslady said...

When hell freezes over or over someone's dead body are the first thoughts to come to mind but I sure like that voodoo doll comment lol. Personally, you're being a lot nicer than she deserves! There is never an excuse for such rudeness.

Kathy said...

First impressions are everlasting! Granted there are things that go on in our lives that can make us appear angry, but we all must remember to treat others as we want to be treated and not take our unhappiness out on anyone else. That philosophy goes all the way up to the highest office anywhere. No one is immune from being expected to behave in public.

Carol said...

No one wants an agent like that! Word is going to get out about her in time and no one, writer or editor is going to want to work with her. You shouldn't feel bad. She only embarrassed herself with that kind of behavior.

Lis said...

You know, I totally wouldn't query her. I wouldn't want someone that unprofessional to represent me in any way.

I had an unprofessional dealing with an agent once. Queried in November. December 23rd, her assistant rejects the query, by putting my name and email along with a good 50+ unfortunate individuals who were getting the exact same letter at the exact same time. I figure the assistant was in a rush out to some holiday party, but its struck that big name agent off my list forever.