Having an experience with a bad, meaning unscrupulous, agent, can be completely debilitating for an author. I get it, you have searched long and hard and the minute you finally find the agent who is going to take your career to the next level you find out, probably too late, that the agent was never really working to take your career to the next level.
This comment from a reader broke my heart because I know that any author who has ever dealt with an unscrupulous agent has felt all of these things and more.
I was approached by an agent after I self published my first book. I was ecstatic, and had no grasp of the relationship. I didn’t understand “no agent is better than the wrong agent” – and what’s actually happened is I’ve been “gaslit” – (term suggested to me by another agent). I’ve terminated the contract but it’s hell. I can’t go into specifics as it’s ongoing.
There is nowhere to complain to, we don’t have a voice, there’s a serious power imbalance and we are too often manipulated and exploited. There is no way to speak out on social media as the ramifications would be huge. There is nowhere to go with this to warn other authors.
As a result I don’t feel I have a way forward with my writing career in this genre because he is so appallingly duplicitous verbally. Who is going to pick up a MS by an author that an agent has bad-mouthed?!
While I can’t tell you it will be easy to trust another agent again, or even get back out there into the query trenches, what I can tell you is that no agent will judge you based on what someone else did.
Authors are often lead to believe that all agents talk and we will all believe the unscrupulous over what authors tell us, but that is patently untrue. In fact, our closest business partners are authors and believe it or not, we are often likely to believe them before we will believe the word of an agent we don’t usually know nearly as well.
So of all the feelings you’re feeling, don’t get sucked into the one that tells you no agent will ever take you on. Write another terrific book and do the work and good things will happen.