Thursday, December 15, 2011

1/2 A Beer for the Shower

[This has been one of those weeks... you know the ones, where all of your time just sort of gets sucked away into a deep, dark abyss, swirling away into nothingness. Okay, well, it might not have been quite that bad, but it sure has felt like it. Today is the day of the Bah Humbug Blahgfest over at Grumpy Bulldog's, but my entry into that will be one day late, so make sure you come back tomorrow to find it. Also, being Thursday, today is the day for the new Tiberius chapter; it's the introduction of the man with no eyes. My wife says it's freaky, so make sure you click that little Tiberius tab up there and give it a read (and let me know what you think).

However, the big news today is that I have 1/2 of the A Beer for the Shower team over here for a guest post. We've been doing some chatting about writing and discovered that we have similar views about agents. His story is one of the reasons I have the views I do. Yes, I know this is not a representative sampling of agents, but it is a good example of why I don't like to have to put myself in a position of being dependent upon someone else. At any rate, Beer is one of those blogs of which I make sure I read every post. They're funny, irreverent, and offer a unique look at the world around us. Plus, they use pictures. Pretty colors. Oh, and they're totally not PC, which is kind of nice. If you don't already follow them, drop by and check them out. I'll see you in a few days... you know, once you've managed to drag yourself away from their archives of comics. And, with that, I'll turn you all over to Bryan (I do want them back in one piece, though, please :).]

Hi all, I’m Bryan, one half of A Beer for the Shower, and, in a recent post I put up, I mentioned how I got royally screwed over by an agent. The comics showed a brief, joking glimpse, but our friend Andrew wanted me to come here to tell the full story… so here I am.

Before I do, though, let me introduce myself. I’m a full time writer, in which I mean that I’m unemployed. In my free time, I draw crappy MSPaint comics in my “unemployment uniform” (aka my underwear) and post them up on Blogger for laughs.

I do all of this on a $200 netbook that’s way too slow for its own good. I like to call it my “Jewish laptop” because it’s so Jewish with its resources.

So now that you know a little bit about me, let’s begin. About 3 years ago, I had just finished my first novel, Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship, a dark but funny comedy/drama (dramedy?) about a frugal slacker taking care of his autistic sister in a yuppie neighborhood where everyone hates his guts. I brought it with me to a writer’s conference, and got it in the hands of a prominent agent from a very prestigious literary agency. The agent, who I’ll call Bob, told me that my book was amazing; it made him laugh, it made him smile, and the ending even moved him to tears. He wanted to represent me, and he wanted to make sure that I never had to work at a regular job again. “You are a writer,” he told me, “and I’m going to make sure you do what you were put on this earth to do.”

These were heavy words from a well-respected man, and it lifted me to a high I’d never imagined; I was sold. I had achieved the most difficult part of writing, which was to find an agent. From then on, all that was left was for him to sell my book and me to start thinking about book tours, right…?

Not quite.

He flew back to New York and told me he’d start pushing out my book immediately. Months flew by, and I heard nothing from him. Something started feeling wrong, so I dropped him a quick e-mail just to ask what was going on.

He replied—one month later. He had pushed my novel out to only one small publishing house, and they said that they loved the novel, and were huge fans of the unique style of writing, but weren’t looking to buy anything at the moment. He said we’d keep trying, and he’d push out more submissions this time.

More time went by. One month became four, then five, then six. I began to e-mail him again, but got no response. I tried to call his office, and even his cellphone—numbers he gave me personally and said to use at any time—but he was always away at lunch (no matter what time of day I called). I had all but given up.

And then, after not hearing from him for 8 and a half months (and 1 year after he’d initially promised to sell my book), I magically got an e-mail from Bob the agent. It was a huge apology. “I’m sorry,” he wrote. “The past year has been so chaotic, and I’ve had a lot of personal problems. My father suffered a stroke and I went to be with him. I truly believe in your novel, and I want to get it out there, which I plan to do immediately.”

I wrote back and told him that I accepted his apology, and that I was happy to hear he was ready to pitch the novel. I told him to keep me updated of his progress. I was uplifted again, and in high spirits that I was going to finally get published…

That was a year and a half ago. I haven’t heard from him since. Believe me, I’ve e-mailed. I’ve called. I’ve left voice messages. …I’ve given up.

In the end, this agent’s empty promises have wasted almost 3 years of my time that I could have spent shopping my novel around somewhere else. What’s more, he screwed me over because no one knows who he actually submitted it to. Because of this, agents are afraid to touch my book, because let's say, for example, Bob sent it to Random House under his name. If another agent sends Random House that same book, then the new agent looks like a jackass. "Why are you sending me the same book twice, but from a different agent?" I can't win.

About 6 months ago I Googled Bob’s name to see what I could find, and sure enough, in the last year, a slew of people complained about him promising them publication, getting their hopes up, and then completely falling off the face of the earth. He is a flake, through and through, with a short attention span and a penchant for laziness; in the past 6 months the only thing he’s sold was that twat Bristol Palin’s ex-boyfriend’s tell-all-book, which, let’s face it, was already a guaranteed sell since everyone was all fighting over it anyway.

So what should you take away from this? For starters, I’m not saying to avoid agents all together. What I’m saying is that before you invest your time, and more importantly, your faith in an agent, research them heavily. Make sure they’re the right agent for you. Make sure they have a clean track record with clients; make sure they have open communication. Because just like there are bad writers out there, there are also plenty of bad agents who will ignore you, or forget about you, or jerk you around.

As for me, hope is not lost. Sometime soon I want to release Demetri and the Banana Flavored Rocketship as an ebook, and hey, even if it only sells 10 copies, at least it’ll get a chance to be read by someone that’ll enjoy it. That’s more than I can say about the promises I got from Bob the flaky agent.

Cheers, friends,



  1. I know someone on Facebook (and from an old writing group) who got an agent three times and still hasn't sold anything. It's hard for us to remember that getting an agent is only the first of many, many hurdles to publication.

  2. I know Bryan's site!
    And that is really crappy. Wonder if he's listed on Preditors and Editors now with a lot of red warnings?
    Don't give up on your book!

  3. Grumpy: I'd be okay with that if agents were actually doing their jobs. And working for the author, as their supposed to, not the the publishers.

    Alex: Hmm... I haven't been over in that site since I decided to self-pub...

  4. Not good at all! A great reminder to do your homework ahead of time. Hard to remember when you've got someone right there willing to shop your work and building you up. I hope you find plenty of success and show this guy.

    And on the writer's uniform, I have twice weekly appointments with a physical therapist and show up in sweats (what the hell else should you wear to physical therapy??). It seems to really bother the guy and he keeps asking me if that's what I wear to work. I remind him that I'm a writer and work from home. I guess next time I'll just have to tell him about the official writer's uniform... Maybe that will shut him up? He's lucky I don't show up in pj's.

  5. Shannon: Unfortunately, I have to get up early and actually get dressed -every- morning, so I don't get to lounge around and write in my PJs or underwear. It kind of sucks.

    And, seriously, what's wrong with your therapist? Does he expect you to show up in a business suit?