What if a Literary Agent Doesn't Return Your Calls?

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Q. I've browsed your site thoroughly and wonder if you could direct me to an article/bit of advice: What do you do when an agent who's been representing and submitting your manuscript suddenly stops returning your calls and e-mails? I am in this unfortunate predicament. I have reason to believe the agent is still active (appearing at conferences, etc.), but I've had no response to reasonable requests for updates on submissions.
- Sarah

A. Eek. This is a tough situation. Well ... you'd want to keep trying and get them on the phone. Perhaps they are just busy in the middle of several big projects and just don't have time. If you go a super-long amount of time without an update or call back (2-3 months?), then it may be time to start thinking about moving on. Check your contract. What is the termination clause like? Even then, if you decide to part ways, you still want to get the agent on the phone. That's because you can tell them, "Listen, I just think you are too busy for me and maybe it's best if we went our separate ways. That way, I wouldn't keep pestering you for updates, etc." (If the agent has any desire to keep you, that would be the time to apologize for delays in communication and ask you to stay.) Also - you need to know who they submitted your manuscript to, if anybody. You need that information to snag Agent No. 2.
Of course, you need to make sure that you agent is still "active." Perhaps they're going through a family emergency.