Confusing Agent Behavior
Blog reader Laurie wrote:
A friend of mine has an agent interested in her first novel, but the agent has not made an offer of representation. Instead she has asked my friend to hire a book editor (done), beef up her blog and platform (done), and finally get blurbs from famous authors (on an unpublished manuscript, but this is done now too). Today the agent said she has interest from two big-name editors and will hopefully hear back by the end of the week. This seems really unusual to me — don’t most agents offer representation BEFORE going to publishing houses? My friend is too intimidated by the agent to ask these questions.
The agent is certainly behaving as if she represents this author. Asking the writer to edit the book, beef up her platform and get blurbs would not be unusual prior to offering representation; however, the agent shouldn’t be talking with editors about the project if she doesn’t represent it.
It sounds like the agent might be talking it up, trying to get an idea of whether she can get editors interested, before officially committing to representing the project. Understandable, maybe — but it’s not how we do business. Sometimes before offering representation on a certain manuscript, I’ll ask general questions in conversations with editors to determine if they’d even be interested in looking at the genre. But without a representation agreement (verbal or written) ethically I shouldn’t be talking to anyone specifically about the book.
Of course, your friend might be thinking, “What’s the harm if the agent is going to sell my book?” But I think she needs to immediately ask the agent, “Since you’re talking with editors about my book, does that mean you’re representing me?” And she needs to ask questions until she’s satisfied she understands her situation. She should ask that the agent refrain from talking to editors or anyone else about her project without a representation agreement.
I do have to mention that all agents run their businesses their own way and I can’t speak for everyone. This is simply my viewpoint, but it’s only one opinion so don’t take it as gospel.
It seems your friend has an even bigger problem than the confusing agent behavior — and that’s her own behavior. If you’re going to do business and protect yourself from being run over and totally taken advantage of, you simply cannot afford to be intimidated by people. I understand how scary this can be for authors, but if you’re going to play in the big leagues, you’ve got to find your confidence somewhere and don’t be afraid to ask questions and speak up for yourself.
At the very least, ask questions via email — it’s not intimidating like trying to talk to an agent on the phone.
Have you come across any agent practices that confused you or didn’t seem to fit your understanding of what agents do?
I had an experience a few years ago where I began work with an agent (not yet in a contract)for one of my books. We did a lot of great editing work on the first few chapters, and then suddenly, they stopped replying to anything I sent them. I ended up telling them I would be sending out to others again, and they never replied. I found out just this year that the agency had shut down. I understand I wasn’t their priority, with us not yet having a contract, but I still feel like it was rude of them not to inform me what was happening.
I don’t write many comments, however I browsed a few responses here Confusing Agent Behavior | Rachelle Gardner. I do have 2 questions for you if it’s allright. Could it be only me or does it look like some of the remarks look as if they are left by brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites, I would like to follow everything new you have to post. Would you make a list of every one of your social community pages like your Facebook page, twitter feed, or linkedin profile?
I almost never comment, however i did some searching and wound up here Confusing Agent Behavior | Rachelle Gardner. And I actually do have a few questions for you if you tend not to mind. Could it be simply me or does it look as if like a few of the comments come across like they are left by brain dead visitors? 😛 And, if you are writing on additional places, I would like to keep up with anything new you have to post. Could you list of every one of your social sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?
I leave a response when I especially enjoy a post on a website or I have something to contribute to the discussion. It’s caused by the fire displayed in the post I read. And on this article Confusing Agent Behavior | Rachelle Gardner. I was actually excited enough to post a comment 😉 I do have a couple of questions for you if it’s allright. Is it simply me or does it give the impression like some of the remarks appear like they are left by brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional sites, I’d like to keep up with you. Would you list all of all your social pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?
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I tend not to leave a great deal of comments, however i did some searching and wound up here Confusing Agent Behavior | Rachelle Gardner. And I actually do have a few questions for you if it’s allright. Is it just me or does it look like a few of the comments come across like coming from brain dead individuals? 😛 And, if you are posting on other social sites, I’d like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of all of your public sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?
I rarely drop remarks, but i did a few searching and wound up here Confusing Agent Behavior | Rachelle Gardner. And I do have some questions for you if you usually do not mind. Is it just me or does it give the impression like a few of the comments appear as if they are coming from brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are writing on other sites, I’d like to follow anything fresh you have to post. Could you make a list of all of all your community pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?
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Hello All –
I’ve written a novel and am preparing to send a query to an Agent. In my (Web) travels, I found a link to a site which charges a fee to evaluate your writing project and come up with a list of Agents appropriate for that book. Anybody know whether this is a worthwhile service to try?
I think that in the rapidly changing world of publishing, we will increasingly run into people who are trying different things in different ways. The question we need to ask is, “Am I comfortable with this new approach?”
In this particular case, I would be very uncomfortable.
It was not too many years ago that writers were being told not to hire an independent editor for just the reason Anon2 cited: “If you’re dependent upon an editor to write a publishable book, how are you going to write your follow-up?”
This industry is changing at lightning speed, so that concern has morphed considerably and should be addressed.
The issue is that all published books were once meticulously edited by the publishers. Bob Gottlieb used to get in shouting matches with his writers over semicolons. However, in recent years many in-house editors were laid off, the publishers focusing the duties of remaining editors upon acquisitions rather than editing. Some publishers’ editors do still edit–generally on their evenings and weekends–but not all of them.
This (and the intense competitiveness of today’s market) puts the burden upon the author and agent to produce a fully-edited and professionally-polished manuscript before it even reaches the publisher, particularly fiction.
It is now perfectly respectable for the writer to hire an indie editor so they can bring their agent the best work that can possibly be produced. If a writer finds an editor they love, they keep using that editor, book after book.
Agents recommend indie editors (multiple–never only one!). Indie editors develop relationships with agents. And all reputable indie editors help their clients understand the job of publishers’ editors so everyone can work together for the good of the book.
It’s always taken two people to polish a manuscript into publishable form. It’s just that now the writer rather than the publisher is often the one who pays the bill.
If an agent asks me to do anything to my novel, at least that means they read it! haha
My hackles would be up if I heard some agent was talking about my book before we’d signed any sort of agreement. Not only would we not have talked about career visions, etc., but it could potentially dry up the pool of buyers.
This very thing happened to me years ago. I did everything he wanted, then notified him when I was done. I was so excited because “he” had shown such enthusiasm for my work. After I emailed to say I was done the rewrites, he sent me a message saying he wasn’t taking on new clients. I wrote back and reminded him who I was. He replied that he wasn’t taken on new clients.
I haven’t queried any agent since.
Joylene, may I respectfully suggest you get back to querying? Don’t let one bad experience ruin it for you.
You’re right, and I will. I tell new writers all the time, not to let rejections stop them. He was my 3rd agent and I think I lost heart. I ended up self-publishing, then I sold my second book to a well-established small publisher. But friends have been encouraging me to get back in the saddle. Soon. It’s bad to encourage to others and not face the fear myself.
Thanks for all you do, Rachelle.
Rachelle, the story sounds a bit fishy, but I do know the value of having a professional editor. I’ve been lucky to work with Alice Peck, and I’ve learned so much from her. Thanks to her notes, I think I’m finally ready to send out my WWII novel and it wouldn’t be half as good if it wasn’t for Alice!
Lets look at this objectively.
Assuming this is a true story (sorry my nose detects a very fishy smell) it’s likely a legal action waiting to happen.
Agent shopping your book before there is a relationship w/ the author?
That’s like me hammering a for sale sign in the front lawn – of my neighbor’s house.
“Go get it edited”? Why the heck would you pay $$ to get something edited that no one is shopping?? Off topic, but I am one of those writers who thinks you are nuts to edit for your agent let alone a ‘maybe’ agent.
I have to agree with the folks who wonder if this story is even legit.
Remember folks – vet your agent before you do ANYTHING. Agent = person with stationery that says ‘Agent’. Nothing more. Make sure the one you hire has real credentials.
“Go get it edited”? Why the heck would you pay $$ to get something edited that no one is shopping?
Pretty sure the idea here is to get it to a state where it could be successfully shopped. Legit agents do make this recommendation sometimes. (I do think this story is fishy, though.)
I once had an agent tell me, “If you don’t want your idea stolen… don’t tell anyone about it!” He then chewed up the better half of forty-five minutes discussing his numerous accolades, and his roster of impeccable talent.
After a great deal of due diligence, I determined that aside from his obvious narcissism, and the tacky second-hand watercolors adorning his office walls, I might actually be able to stomach even his ego’s ego! Maybe I’d even ask him for a few pointers on proper back-patting technique? Who the hell knows?
Anyway, everything seemed legit, until… he called me later that night asking me where he had parked his “Benz?” First of all, I found this odd because I wasn’t with him. Secondly, I found this odd because I wasn’t even in the same damn state!
So, is this an example of a confusing agent practice? I don’t know. Let’s just say this is the type of guy I wouldn’t trust to mow my lawn, let alone representing me!
Bret, do you have any idea where I set my coffee cup? I could’ve sworn it was right here on my desk…
No worries, I took the liberty of installing a Lojack anti-theft security system on your mug. Any future instances of misplaced café au lait should be easily remedied. I know… I’m a real giver!
Thank you for more enlightenment. It isn’t always easy to navigate the business side of writing and being published – and it seems sometimes that these waters are shark infested.
Sounds pretty darned crazy to me. When my time comes, I’ll be champing at the bit with loads of questions for my dream agent and if she/he is evasive or has bizarre requirements…well, I’ll hit the road and start looking elsewhere. I hope that is exactly what this author does!
I guess you could also say it’s the last sentence of pgh. 4. I wasn’t including the question pgh. at the beginning.
As an agent, perhaps I could shed a bit of light on when an agent might ask for some work to be done on your proposal or manuscript before representation is offered. That’s when an agent likes your project, thinks it has good potential to be published, but also sees more work needs to be done for the manuscript to be ready to submit. The big question for the agent at this point is whether the writer is willing and able to adjust the manuscript. If the writer can deliver the goods, representation is highly likely to follow.
Remarkable and scary! Thanks!
Rachelle, I’m having trouble getting my head around the last sentence in paragraph 3. Is there a typo?: with/without a representation agreement. On the other hand, I’m feeling very tired, so maybe it’s just me.
Marion, try replacing “without” with the words “until she has” and see if that makes more sense to you.
It’s a bad idea to tell unpublished writers that they need to be asking published authors for blurbs for their manuscripts before they’ve been sold to a publisher.
Every author I’ve talked to thinks this is a terrible idea. It is not the responsibility of published authors to vet the slush pile.
Asking an author you don’t know for a blurb for an unsold book puts them on the spot. Reading a manuscript will take hours and the odds are strong that the manuscript is nowhere near ready to go.
There is one exception to this rule. If you happen to know a published author and they are already familiar with your work and if they volunteer to write you a blurb, then that’s acceptable.
But it’s never a good idea to ask for a blurb for a novel you haven’t sold to a publisher yet.
The situation is of course very different when you’ve sold the book and it’s on the road to publication. Then it’s perfectly fine to ask a published author to write an endorsement. Most authors will at least consider this, because they know that if you’ve sold the book to a legitimate publisher, then it’s passed a certain standard of excellence.
It’s generally better to have the publisher ask for the endorsement to avoid putting an author on the spot.
I absolutely agree with you, Randy, and I’ve never asked an unpubbed author to get blurbs from published authors. However, I talk to a lot of general market agents (non CBA) and I’ve heard several talk about doing this. I’ve also seen reputable sources advising non-fiction authors to get some blurbs in their proposals if they can. So I know in some circles, this is done.
In fact, I seem to recall famous editor Alan Rinzler talking about how advance blurbs can really help him get projects through his pub board.
It can make sense to get a blurb from an expert in a given field. Usually a writer would do this for nonfiction, but sometimes even a novel can benefit from something like that. For example, if I were writing a novel about time travel, it could help to get a blurb from a famous physicist.
The problem that all published novelists have is that they’re constantly getting emails like this: “We’ve never met, but I wonder if you could read my 800 page novel which I whipped out last week? My mother says it’s the best thing she’s ever read, even though I’ve never taken a writing course or even read a novel in this category, which by the way, defies categorization and therefore is sure to be a bestseller. Also, can you refer me to your agent?”
The only possible response to this kind of email is, “Gee, I wish I could but my agent would kill me if I spend 2 working days reading your novel instead of earning him money. And yes, feel free to query my agent. His name is Rachelle Gardner.”
This was my exact thought. Anyone could claim this story and bombard an author with emails. I’m sure it happens anyway without agents’ suggestions.
Randy… OT, are you Randy *Snowflake* Ingermanson?
Oh wow! I use your snowflake all the time, and have shared it with all my writerly friends, and they use it to. I used it on the last two books I sold.
It is the coolest thing ever!
oops– I mean “they use it toO”
I had an agent I met with at a conference say “I am too busy now, but if you want to edit your proposal with the suggestions I mentioned and resubmit it to me I will look at it. I haven’t actually looked at your current proposal though…” Is this just a polite no or does she really want me to re-submit or what? It feels wishy-washy.
Angela, I think this agent genuinely wants to look at the proposal. Sounds like she made some suggestions based on your pitch or your verbal interaction, and she already knew she couldn’t consider it without some revisions, but wanted a chance to take a look when you’d revised. I’d do it, and send it, if I were you.
Something odd happened to me recently with an agent. I was querying my novel and an agent offered representation. I asked for some time to speak with one of her current clients and to follow up with my other submissions still out. In the next week I received another offer and proceeded to research between the two agencies to make my decision.
Two weeks after the first agent made her offer, she called to check on me and when I told her I had another offer and that I was trying to make a final decision, this first agent withdrew her offer, saying “Why don’t I just make this easy for you since you’re clearly not excited about us?” I tried to explain that I was new to this process and just trying to make the right decision, but the agent stood by her withdrawal. In the end I was fine with it because I was already leaning toward the other agent, and this behavior revealed to me that this is was not someone I wanted to work with. But it seemed really unusual to me that this first agent would respond this way. Is it normal for agents to withdraw an offer if they know you are considering multiple offers?
JR, if both agents are reputable, that is NOT normal. I found myself in the same situation where I’d received offers to be represented by two very reputable agents. I let them both know that upfront and began researching and asking writer friends about their knowledge of each. When I had decided on Rachelle, the other agent was gracious, kind, and wished me the best. And knowing Rachelle now, she would have been just as gracious and kind had I chosen the other agent. That’s class. That’s integrity. Don’t settle for less.
Thanks, Donna. That’s what I sensed. I’m glad this agent, who is actually reputable, displayed this type of behavior before I agreed to work with her. The agent I now have is absolutely wonderful, so I know I made the right decision.
JR, Donna is right, that’s not normal. I think you avoided a problem here!
Thanks Rachelle. I have referenced your blog throughout the process from writing to receiving representation. I’m grateful for such wonderful guidance.
JR, I actually had a similar experience, though at an earlier stage. The agent requested a full and I sent it to her along with an email saying several other agents had requested fulls. She said well, then they were ahead of her, so she would withdraw her request for a full.
I thought it was odd. But there was no question of her not being a reputable agent. It was someone pretty well-known.
Yeah. Unless your weird Aunt Gladys is a writer. Or Lee Child is my dad.
Laurie at least tested the waters for us. If an agent was interested in my manuscript I can see how easy it is to be like a young Bruce Springsteen signing away his life in the dark on the hood of a car.
When I was searching for an agent, one sent made me an offer for representation after only reading a partial. After spending years trying to get an agent, that struck me as odd. How did she know I’d even completed the novel?
Turns out she was trying to break into agenting with NY publishers (had only repped ebooks,) but I could be her first!
I thanked her for her interest, and passed.
I recently had a brief conversation with an agent with no commitment of any kind. She then immediately called several major publishers with the great news that she was representing me. I was already in discussions with two of the publishers who were then confused.
I think sometimes authors are so eager to have some “represent” them that they forget to interview the agent. We have to remember that anyone can call themselves an agent. Then need to be interviewed and screened to determine their real value.
Well, she could always check out the Writers Beware web site. I think I’d do that. Anyone can call herself an agent, but it behooves writers to make sure she’s on the up and up.
You’re write. She’s got to have the guts to stand up and (politely but firmly) ask the questions that need to be asked and tell the agent that without a signed agreement, she doesn’t represent her.
In my editorial career, I’ve run across a few agents who want to “gauge the interest” of editors with a specific book project. Though at first blush this seems reasonable, I’ve since come to believe it’s unfair to the author. An agent who doesn’t want to represent an author before going through this phase has serious hesitations about investing in the project. Authors beware. I’ve never seen this end well.
I absolutely agree with Erin here. Like I said, I might ask around to editors whether they’re interested in “middle grade fiction with a male protagonist” or some similar designation. But an agent shouldn’t be shopping a project without actually repping it.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
I’ve had numerous experiences with editors or agents asking for rewrites… not one experience of being asked to hire an editor. I’m assuming the agent also recommended an editor to be hired. Handy.
I wonder how many other little things the agent will suggest your friend hire somebody for.
You can tell whether an agent is representing you by whether or not you’ve signed a contract. No contract? No representation.
The blurbs from famous writers come after the sale. Usually (but not always) the publisher takes care of that.
But yeah, if the writer is, gack, “too intimidated by the agent to ask these questions,” then she needs to run, not walk, away from this agent.
Actually, she needs to do that anyway.
And before she messes around with any another agent, she needs to google said agent’s name with the word “scam” and see what comes up.
You’re right, Else, if the agent suggested the writer hire one specific editor, then that would be a serious breach of ethics and could be masking an even deeper issue with this agent, who may or may not even be legitimate.
Interesting post and discussion. I agree that the bigger issue is ‘the friend’s’ behavior. Perhaps the lesson for ‘the friend’ and for us is in what Rachelle said – that we must find the confidence to respect ourselves and our work when interacting in a business environment – and anywhere else for that matter. Furthermore, we want to deal with people who share similar values. By asking the tough questions who’ll find out who you are dealing with.
As for the agent’s requests, if she was indeed representing ‘the friend’, I didn’t find them off-putting. Hiring an editor is not out-of-line or ridiculously expensive. True, this wasn’t something that was done in the past, however, the highly competitive nature of the industry now means we have to produce manuscripts that are of outstanding quality. Gone are the days of publishers who will embrace emerging writers and assign and editor to mold their work – at least to the extent that they’ve done in the past.
As for the blubs from well-known authors, get out there and meet people. I’ve corresponded with a couple of writers I’ve met through conferences and courses. Join writing group – several in my group are published authors. When the time comes, I’ll ask (no guarantees of course) for an endorsement.
Thanks, Rachelle and others who commented. It’s great to debate and learn more about the industry we love.
I think we hear so many rules and dos and don’ts about agents, we give them super-human status.
It’s one of the reasons down-to-earth blogs like yours Rachelle are so helpful for writers.
Hi Rachelle, thanks for a great post. It’s very interesting, as are some of the responses. It’s so helpful to know how some agents do business, your world seems so mysterious to a writer, maybe that’s why we feel so intimidated. But forewarned is forearmed 🙂 I don’t think I would want to pay up front for an agent’s advice other than through the usual way (ie if the agent represented me) but be happy to consider advice if it were given for free. In my limited experience, agents have been very helpful, even when they didn’t take me on. One question: I know of one agent here in the UK who simply posts the work of their authors on their website and invites publishers to browse. It doesn’t seem very proactive. Is this really acceptable behaviour for an agent?
Is that a secure website with access limited to publishers or is it open to all?
Hi Timothy, it’s open to everyone. I’ve also heard of authors being asked by an agent to pay for the printing of the copies of the manuscripts that the agent sends on spec to potential publishers, which seems petty and somehow unprofessional. What do you think?
My concern with an agency putting a manuscript on a public website is that since anyone can read it, publishers have reason to fear that people who would buy the book will just download the book from the website. Even if they just posted a small portion of it, there is the risk that a self-publisher will grab the story idea and saturate the market before the publisher can produce the book.
As for agents asking clients to pay for printing costs, it may not be standard practice with agents, but I wouldn’t call it unprofessional because it is standard practice in other fields that the client will pay certain expenses.
Thanks. This all makes good sense.
Marianne, just when I think nothing can shock me anymore… something shocks me. Posting clients’ work on a website for publishers (or anyone else) to browse??!! You’re kidding me, right?
I’d never sign with an agent who does that. At the very least, that agent needs to get written permission from each author to post their material online.
But still, I think it’s horrendous.
While I strive to become a published author, my day job finds me in the law enforcement community. Within this community is a widely agreed upon saying: ninety-nine percent of what people tell you is B.S., the remaining one percent is sh*t! So, from my perspective… it’s just one more in a series of ridiculous things people do to get over on their brethren.
I don’t think its off-kilter to believe their motivation is simply helping author’s further develop their “platform?” And yes, that’s sarcasm!
How on Earth would one “go get blurbs from famous authors”? Am I supposed to just knock on John Irving’s door? That’s ridiculous, if you ask me, but what do I know.
Getting blurbs is easy. Just have John Grisham say he liked your book. No one said it had to be the one from Mississippi. Surely there’s some other woman named Jane Austin. Although finding another Bodie Thoene might be a bit tricky! LOL (No I wouldn’t, either! :-P)
I agree with what the earlier “Anon” said. 🙂
Also, I’d like to point to this part of the original post: “Instead she has asked my friend to hire a book editor (done), …”
That brings up a whole bunch of red flags.
1) What is the friend going to do for her next book, hire a book editor again? There goes the advance money.
2) And what is the friend going to do when a house editor requests substantial re-editing or revisioning of her first manuscript? Rehire a book doctor again? How expensive will that get to be?
3) Hopefully, that “agent” didn’t recommend that book doctor to your friend.
And hopefully that friend had first verified that the “agent” is legit. The original poster could check the P&E Blog or the Writer Beware Blog to look up the reputation of that “agent” for her friend.
re: #2–Once a book is under contract with a traditional publisher (i.e., not a self-publisher) THE AUTHOR SHOULD NEVER PAY FOR EDITORIAL ASSISTANCE. This is part of the publisher’s cost of publishing. I bring this up because I know of at least one royalty-paying CBA house that requires its authors to pay for editorial services above and beyond a certain fixed cost, as if the author can control the editorial fees. Don’t ever sign that kind of a contract. It’s unethical.
Thank you for that tip. I feel so overwhelmed by all this information. I am no where near this stage and I keep making notes so that when I get to this stage (God willing) I won’t fall into these pitfalls. I can only pray I remember all this and can find all my notes!
There would be a HUGE issue here if the agent had the writer hire a specific editor or book doctor. That would indicate a kickback, or the agent owning the editorial service, a big ethical violation for agents.
I’ve worked with plenty of authors who had tremendous potential but I just couldn’t do anything with their manuscript until they worked with someone to shine it up. If it’s more work than I can reasonably take on, I’ll suggest they do the work (hire an editor if necessary), then bring it back to me so I can assess whether it’s marketable.
I have one client who’s writing is wonderful but her manuscript needed to be cut by more than 25%. It was way too much work for me, and she couldn’t accomplish it on her own, so she hired a book doctor. The manuscript is much better now and currently being shopped. So this isn’t unusual.
Interesting when we want something so badly and we’ve waited for so long, that maybe we don’t trust our instincts and ask the questions that need to be asked. We just cross our fingers and hope everything will fall into place! But, I agree that we have to keep our focus, remain objective and take care of business. If an agent’s behavior is suspect, call them on it. You have to keep the paths of communication clear.
Thanks for the post.
How about Writers’ Relief?
Jodi, it looks from their website like they’re trying to tell you there’s some way besides the hard way.
There’s no way but the hard way.
Query and submission services just spam agents and editors, and we all know what you do with spam.
One of the questions I had when I was actually pursuing an agent concerned those who charged to find an agent. Here’s an example: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorOneStop . I’m confused as to whether or not this type of service is simply a way of taking money from desperate authors. Rachelle, I’m not asking for your opinion of the person in the example, but I would like your opinion of these broker services in general.
I think you had it right when you said “taking money from desperate authors.”
1st, I find this account suspect. “Famous writers” DO NOT usually blurb unpublished manuscripts by unknown writers for those writers to put on their blogs. That’s a whole nasty mess of potential land mines for all considered.
2nd, if by some odd happenstance, it is legit, then the writer needs to tell the agent to stop preemptively shopping her work unless the agent is for sure representing her. It may seem like a few harmless feelers being put out, but depending on the size of the author’s potential submission pool/market, this agent could burn out all of her potential buyers.
It’s true that published authors don’t typically blurb the “slush pile.” I’ve never once asked a writer to solicit blurbs for a proposal. But some agents do. And further, some writers are able to get them.