I have the worst luck with agents.
The first time, I had an agent for about a month. I’d recently taken second in a writing contest, sent that manuscript off Harlequin and figured it was just a matter of time until I got The Call. I needed an agent! At least five published authors in my RWA chapter recommended their agent and let me use their names. I queried her and she called right away. She took me on, then passed me off to her junior associate who handled category romance. My first hint that things weren’t going well was when I realized I knew more about the industry than the junior agent did. She kept talking about opportunities at publishers who didn’t publish what I wrote. My second hint was when all my colleagues who recommended her suddenly had new agents. When Harlequin rejected the manuscript I forwarded the letter to my agent. Days later, my agent fired me because of “all my rejections” – the one rejection that her office had nothing to do with. A few years later, this agent was banned for financial misappropriation. So I guess getting fired was good for me.
My next brush with an agent was when I won a consultation with a Really Big Name agent. This guy is big. He’s often thanked by big authors in the acknowledgements. I sent him a thriller manuscript, which I had been developing in a novel-writing workshop. The workshop was run by a multipublished thriller writer and the manuscript received lots of praise. I sent it off to the agent and waited for his praise. Instead, he said he read my prologue and found it so outrageous and implausible that he couldn’t bring himself to read the rest of my manuscript. He offered a suggested reading list of CIA books. Not only had I read them, but the incident in my prologue was based on an incident I read in one of those books.
After this, I gave up on the idea of finding an agent. Then a couple of years ago an RWA chapter meeting featured a really big author. She’s big – no, not Nora Roberts, but this author’s books always hit The New York Times bestseller lists. Her agent showed up, and during our fundraising raffle, she offered a free critique. Yup, I won it. I chatted with her after the meeting to get the submission instructions. I sent off my currently manuscript, thanking her for contributing to our fundraising, and waited for her critique. This agent is huge. She’s had ads in writing magazines featuring authors touting her critiques they won at auction as extremely helpful. Yeah, gimme some of that. My manuscript returns a few weeks later with a form letter from an assistant. It wasn’t signed by the assistant, nor did it even say “Dear TheJuliaNelson”! Just a standard “your manuscript isn’t right for us” message. Thank you, big agent, I can get that for free on my own.