When the Agent still had my full, I did some research on them (I do that sometimes; part of the Crazy) and discovered two things. (1) The agency was listed as Not Recommended on Preditors & Editors. I don't know if I just didn't check P&E when I queried, or if I didn't care. After some Googling, it seemed the rating was based on something that happened years ago. Also, I'd heard of instances where the Not Recommended label was possibly applied unfairly, so it wasn't an immediate "no" for me.
(2) I discovered the Agent was not at the agency anymore. I looked at the full request e-mail again and noticed that it was from someone else "on behalf of the agency." Again, not a definite "no," but since they didn't say anything about it, I was concerned.
So they were red flags, but I didn't think much of it -- most of my manuscripts got rejected, right? When I got an offer though, I had to face them, and the offer itself came with a couple more red flags: (3) The offer came from yet another person (not the Agent, nor the person who requested the full), who I discovered was an intern who'd been with the agency no more than 3 months. (4) It was just a straight out offer, with no mentions of revisions or wanting to talk first or anything.
Again, these were just flags. They didn't necessarily mean the offer was a scam. It's possible the agency was just taking care of the original agent's queries after she had left. It's possible they liked my story so much they didn't need to talk. It's possible the intern was a new agent (like, I don't know, my agent).
But the biggest problem was that, even before I'd talked to them, I didn't trust them. The agent-author relationship is, well, a relationship, and those require trust in order to work. These people weren't telling me much, so I didn't trust them.
But I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I e-mailed them direct questions: Who are your clients? Can I talk to them? Who are you thinking of submitting to? Will we do revisions first? etc. Instead of hearing back from the Intern, I heard back from a fourth person: the Head of the Agency. Unfortunately, the Head answered very few of my questions. The only definite answer I got was that we would submit right away. To who? I have no idea.
I wasn't even clear on who would be representing me.
I talked to a friend about it, and she said, "You can do better." It confirmed what I already felt -- not that I could do better (at the time, I thought that was the only offer I'd get), but that it wasn't the kind of offer I wanted. I walked away.
I'm glad I did, and not just because I got a better offer. Really, the two offers are very similar: they both came from someone I didn't query, who had been an agent only a very short time.
But the differences are telling:
|Good Offer||Sketchy Offer|
|Joan told me she'd passed the manuscript on and that Tricia would be e-mailing me about it herself.||A different person e-mailed me each time, with no acknowledgement of that fact. No one even mentioned the Agent until I said something.|
|Tricia didn't offer representation until we'd had a chance to talk.||The Intern offered without talking at all.|
|Tricia answered all my questions (most before I even had a chance to ask them).||I only got vague answers, where I got answers at all.|
|Tricia's other client and fellow agents went into detail about how awesome she was.||The Head told me his client list "speaks for itself," but never told me who they were, let alone how to contact them. Nobody said anything about The Intern.|
|Tricia had specific revision ideas and told me the name of at least one editor she was thinking of submitting to. Talking to her, I got the strong impression she really gets my book.||Nobody mentioned my book at all except the title and that we'd be "submitting right away."|
The lesson here? Think about what you're being offered. It's easy for the Quest for an Agent to slip into desperation, when we just want someone, ANYONE to represent us.
Trust me. You don't want just anyone.
Does anyone else have stories like this? Got any warnings for the rest of us?