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Agent Feedback: Steven Malk

I received this e-mail quite awhile ago on Steve Malk and wasn't quite sure what do with it. I've been toying around with the idea of creating a forum where we could discuss the profiled agents, report feedback, response times, etc. but I'm not sure there'd be enough interest, especially with AW and Verla's already in place to provide such outlets. Something to kick around. But in the time being, the author of the e-mail has given me permission to share it with all of you here (as he wanted it shared in some way) and link it to Mr. Malk's profile. Please note: The content and opinions posted below are not my own.

After I had queried countless agents, and gotten just as many rejections, I decided to go for broke and query Steven Malk (who I hadn't considered, because he seemed too "big" to even bother with). A week later I got a request of a full. A few weeks later, his new assistant Alena Gribskov e-mailed me to say that with Lindsay Davis's departure, they were backlogged, and wanted to let me know they were still considering it. Then, one week later, she called me to make sure it was still available. Another week passes, and Steven called me himself. We had a very nice half-hour conversation, discussing my novel, and while he didn't offer representation, he was impressed with my writing and asked for current project ideas. As of now, he likes my idea for a novel, and I am in the process of working on it.

What I've found from my experience, is that (and I'm sure it varies somewhat between agents) but Writers House in general is such a caring, well organized agency. Both Steven and Alena have been helpful, as well as they have encouraged questions and contact--which for me as a college student, who's just starting out, is completely reassuring. The reason he wanted to work with me on creating a different novel, is because he said the first novel sets the tone of the career, and he wanted something to do that a little bit more than my previous one did. This tells me that he truly does care more about the author than the sale, which made me instantly withdraw my other full request (which was to a new agent at Trident--whom I would never recommend because they have such careless policies about never replying).

Just as a moral to this story, that might be helpful to pass on, I think it's important that people don't pass up an agent just because they think they are to hard to "hook." By the same token, it's probably not a good idea to try and get an "easier" agent if they aren't right for you.

Hope my feedback helps somebody,

Ryan [redacted]


Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this Casey. I think that a forum where people could discuss their agent experiences is a great idea!

Caitie F said...

I have heard great things about Writer's House. They seem like a very impressive agency!

Casey Something said...

Thanks Kristi. I've been considering the forum for awhile and have been meaning to put up a poll. I think it'd be nice to have a place to discuss the spotlighted agents and other market news, etc.

I can't do it right now, of course, but I'll definitely keep planning for it.

Hi Caitie! I've heard a lot of great things, too.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I had prompt, professional, and encouraging interactions with Steven Malk last summer. I learned about him here, Casey. Thanks again for all you do.

Jenni Bielicki said...

Thank you for posting this letter from Ryan. His encouragement is right on the money. Why settle for an agent that's not on our "best list" just because they are... the best? Awesome post!!!

Yat-Yee said...

Thanks for posting Ryan's letter. Maybe that's the format that works right now instead of a separate forum, although who knows, this may lead to something big.

Congrats, Ryan!

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent email! Thanks for sharing!

MG Higgins said...

Really appreciate that you shared this, as I've also feared submitting to the "big" agencies. A forum would be great.

Heather Kelly said...

Casey-- I know a forum would go nicely with your agent spotlights. (nothing like adding more work to an already full plate, huh?) I wonder if it would run itself if you started it? You could appoint someone else the forum master to make sure things were appropriate.

I loved that Ryan recounted this experience, since it shows how respectful and kind agents can be.

Thanks for sharing, Ryan, and Casey!

Stephanie J said...

Thanks for sharing!

I haven't yet delved into the agent stuff AT ALL mainly b/c I need to put the the energy into my novel but I am curious about the agent reviews out there and feedback like this.

I recall a website in college that was for students to rank/comment upon their professors. The problem was that students only went out and commented/ranked when they had the fantastic experience or the really cruddy one. Do you find it much the same with agent review forums? I would think you would hear the people who are really happy with an agent, those who are extremely frustrated, but not a lot of middle ground experience which is what I'd think the majority of people would have. Thoughts on the subject?

Lisa Nowak said...

I think Stephanie J has a point. Beyond that, I wonder how wise it is to say negative things about agents online. They're no doubt all signed up for Google Alerts, so word is likely to get back to them. This isn't to say that I don't think the forum is a good idea, I just don't know how comfortable I'd feel about participating. I cringe at some of the stuff I see in the Query Tracker comments. Do people really want agents to base their opinion of them on that snarky feedback?

jdsanc said...

I agree. Don't discount an agent or agency because you think no way are they going to take you, or that they are too big for you. I think you need to put yourself out there a massive number of times to get picked up. The more you do, the better you get at it, the better your writing, the better your query. Hopefully after all that, you get lucky and you find someone compatible. So glad you did!

lotusgirl said...

Great to know. Thanks for sharing this.

Mike Winchell said...

Things rings true for me, as far as Steven Malk and Writers House is concerned. I have been submitting my MG manuscript for some time, and Steven requested a full within minutes of my initial query. It was a dream request, and like "Ryan," I had never really thought Steven Malk would even consider my manuscript. After about a month (great response time in my experience), Mr. Malk sent me a rejection that stated "you are a strong writer and your have a highly commercial concept" but that "he wasn't as enthusiastic as he needed to be" to take on a new project. This rejection came the week after Lindsay Davis left for England. When I heard of her departure, I knew Steven would be very hesitant to take on someone new. I did, though, send a polite request for anything more specific in terms of feedback and he responded within the hour with the fact that with his workload, it is impossible to give a more specific critique but that "I can tell you that your writing was very strong and was a BIG cut above what I normally see...I know, based on your words, that you are headed in the right direction and will be successful." Yes, very tough to be rejected, but I respect the man and the House so much, and it was an honor to be considered. A class act, and coming from a person who is feeling very cynical about agents nowadays, that's something to take to the bank. Ahhh...maybe one day. :(

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

I'm just starting to research agents and have worried about querying someone who is "big." Your post made me realize I just need to look for the person I feel connected to, regardless of their status in the industry.

Thanks for sharing!

Dare said...

Thank you both for sharing. I've heard nothing but good comments about WH. That letter confirms their already established reputation.

Unknown said...

I have nothing but good things to say so far. I contacted Mr. Malk in the morning and received a response from Alena at 7:45pm my time (5:45 there) the same day requesting a full. The fact that the response was sent so late in the day shows the dedication they show. The contact has been courteous and professional. They allowed a .pdf submission, which was nice. I find that a large novel saved as a .doc has a tendency to mess up easily. No sense in sending them a file that they can't open. how dreadful would that be?! They have it exclusive now, so it's the waiting game.

I'll keep everyone apprised as the process continues.

-S. Kyle Davis

Casey Something said...

Thanks everyone for the great feedback.

Good luck, S. Kyle!

Anonymous said...

Hi, today I'll be sending a query to writers house (to Steve Malk in San Diego). This forum is good, it gives me confidence on writers house's attitude in their clients. i'm just wondering... they said it should be send on an exclusive basis, does that include posting a chapter in the internet?

-J. Carl Raphael

Casey McCormick said...

Hi Anon,

An exclusive is meant to allow an agent exclusive consideration of a work for representation. I don't think having one chapter up will be a problem at this point.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine is a writer and represented by Steven Malk. As discussed above, Steven was responsive and helpful and got her a great deal for a first-time author. However, when her book didn't preform well, Steven cut off all communication and doesn't even bother to respond to her emails -- it's as if she never had an agent. Be careful, Writer's House is only invested in you if you're making them money. Don't be fooled into believing they will give you the time of day if you aren't commercially successful very quickly in your career.