Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Agentfail Right Here

In the aftermath of #queryfail, there was some discussion of whether or not authors should start #authorfail, their own Twitter ranting of what agents do that make them fail in an author’s eyes. I’ve heard many times of authors who after having met agents, having corresponded with agents, or just having heard about agents decided to drop them from their list of agents to query.

Janet Reid did a fabulous post on this on her blog. I highly, highly recommend everyone read this if you haven’t already. But I do think it’s possible for authors to do an #agentfail and I think to some degree I’ve allowed you to do it in the past. Wasn’t it just last year that I opened up the blog to all of your complaints about agents? Well, let’s do it again. Here you are, an entire day, on an agent’s blog, devoted to complaining about agents. We all want to hear it (or maybe we don’t): tell us how or why we are failing you or have failed you (and post anonymously, of course, unless you don’t want to).

Jessica

313 comments:

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green ray said...

These comments are fabulous. When I read them this afternoon, they had a surprisingly relaxing effect. Thanks, Jessica...and Janet and Nathan, my 3 faves. I wasn't going to add to this huge list, but couldn't resist being comment #200 at 1 AM.

There's this agent at G, a big film agency too, and she wanted a partial, but I was so honest with her about my situation, doing revisions for another agent. She said she would only look at it if it were "free and clear." So I waited 2 months and finally put some pressure on the agent for a response to my revisions. It was a really nervous time for me. I felt loyal to the agent who made suggestions; but at the same time, if he wasn't interested, I wanted to show my work to the big G. So I put a little pressure on him, saying another agent was interested, and he let me go. Finally I was able to contact the big G agent...and she rejected the partial in 3 days with a very curt note. So I lost everything at the time. Why had I been so honest with her? She would have seen it, rejected it, and perhaps I'd still be with the other agent.

Anyway, I learned from that experience, what Richard Curtis said: Keep your big mouth shut! Me, that is.

Still I don't appreciate this agent who teased me along, making me think she was so interested, only to put pressure on the first agent...and then be left with nothing. I'm not sure if this makes sense, but I'm in a much better place now.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Michael Gavaghen:

Your post is insulting and nonsensical. Your post reeks of ad hominem. Of course we have jobs, or most of us do. We work hard at them; we raise children (and goats); and we write.

Not everyone is impolite, rude and stupid. Those who are should not be welcomed or excused.

I owned an antiquarian book business for years. I did not ridicule my clients or employees. I expected politeness and respect from my employees, and I gave it to them. Many of my clients were professional people, often educators, and sometimes simply educated collectors. A fair amount of new collectors came my way, many of them ill informed and full of questions that might have seemed silly. Answering these silly questions built my business. If I had posted them on a blog and ridiculed them, exactly what do you think would have happened to my business?

It would have been silly for me to assume that collectors and readers needed me because I had the books. There are many other booksellers out there, many of them well informed and honorable.

Not every customer was nice, but it was my business to treat them with courtesy just as surely as it was my business to fill their book-collecting needs. That is professionalism, and it is decency.

I expect the same level of civility from an agent. No matter how rude, silly, ill informed or stupid a writer may be, agents should keep their reaction to themselves. There is a distinct difference between educating new writers and ridiculing someone who’s put their life into the manuscript they wish read.

We have a right to expect kindness and civility. Accepting anything less leaves one with a civilization of sorts but one that is not civilized.

Your conclusion is that writers and agents need each other, so we should tolerate bad behavior. Nonsense! Writers do not need rude and stupid agents. They may need an agent, but certainly not one who enjoys ridiculing and misrepresenting writers who query them for the sake of a blog post.

That you find it acceptable to ridicule and insult those who post here says more about you than it does those you wish to criticize.

Anonymous said...

I just got a rejection from an Agent (not the one I queried in that agency) that said that my work wouldn't sell in this "limited market" and would I allow her to send my information to a self publisher.

EPIC AGENT FAIL

NerdSnark said...

3. Sending your promotional materials back to my in my sase if I sent it snail mail.

Oh, big, fat, huge #agentfail.

Julie Weathers said...

I like to see some kind of response if you say you are going to respond. Even a form rejection lets me know you received it.

Current guidelines.

For the comments about agents blogging or twittering. Yes, some of it is just socializing. However, this also gives you a peek at the agent. The form responses in various venues give you no glimpse at the agent's personality. I can look at stats and guidelines, but they don't really tell me anything about the other side of the agent. Since I am a bit more laid back, I don't want a hyper, obsessive, domineering personality as a business partner.

Aside from that, they quite frequently will answer questions about publishing if you are even remotely polite.

If you think they blog or twitter too much, don't query them.

It's all just another tool to use or not as you see fit.

Nixy Valentine said...

I don't mind Twittering and blogging agents. I know they need downtime.

As to the "no response = no", I blogged about that recently. I understand them doing it when they've gotten back hateful responses to rejections. No one wants to open themselves up to eff-you letters on a daily basis. Although, if you're only doing it because of time issues, check into gmail's "Canned Responses" feature. It will allow you to paste in a pre-written letter in one click. Nothing could be easier.

My agentfail moment recently: I queried an agent and the response said the agent (well actually her college student reader) was *offended* by the sex in the book and I could resubmit if I'd take out all the sex. She said: You're trying to combine erotica and paranormal, and that's never going to work.

Oh really? This person obviously doesn't understand the market. I could list dozens of writers who have sex scenes in paranormal romances! (Plus, my book *wasn't* erotica. I write both and I know the difference. The language was soft and vague.)

I really think that was a one-off situation and not an industry-wide problem. When I get a rejection like that, it's very easy for me to shrug and move on.

Would like to see more: Agent websites with *current* guidelines/wants.

Anonymous said...

I must say that I'm new to this agent business, having just got well into a manuscript and started looking around. And I am quite shocked. I never dreamed I would have to deal with a bunch of misfits.

And there is one of you -- "you know who" -- who is, frankly, giving all agents a bad name with her rudeness, unprofessionalism and childishness.

God knows how she ever makes a living or ever gets a query.

It will not be too long before an anonymous blog starts up that names names: "Agent Black" perhaps?

Anonymous said...

At the tailish end of such interesting comments, I'm not sure mine will be much read but I offer it anyway.

It seems to me, in summary, that what writers are mostly asking for is for agents to be promptly courteous in replying to queries or requests for partials and fulls.

Am I right? Can this be achieved? One would hope so, but I think most folks responding to this post, if given a week at an reputable agency, would realize how not easy this is (and no, I am not an agent, but have a bit of inside knowledge).

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a response! Good on you for taking it on.

My two cents as an editor, at risk of repeating what others have said...

I agree that we should all treat one another professionally, and that it isn't fair to have higher standards for authors than for agents/editors. Demanding personalized queries while sending out decades-old photocopied rejection letters is a much-cited example of hypocrisy. Anyone can learn to use mail-merge, so there's really no excuse for this.

Likewise, endless twittering etc does seem unprofessional. If you have time to twitter several times a day, you have time to deal with your slushpile. If you really only have time for one of the other and choose twitter over slush, maybe you should examine your own priorities.

That said... I'm surprised by the level of anger against agents, especially from authors who, it seems, don't actually have one. ie, would-be authors whose experience with agents is limited to sending them unrequested queries and then receiving (or not) form rejection letters. Does this really qualify a writer to judge an agent's skill, professionalism, decency etc? An agent's first responsibility is to his or her signed-up authors. I think it's entirely possible that an agent who's slow to reply to unpublishable slush-pile queries might all the while be doing a fantastic job advocating the interests of his or her signed-up clients. In fact, a good agent WILL prioritize signed-up clients over the countless unreadable submissions he/she receives. That may sound harsh to anyone who hasn't dipped into a slush-pile, but so be it.
Unpublished, unagented authors, please take a minute to reflect on this question: once you do find an agent, would you want him or her to spend all day sending thoughtful, personalized rejection letters to books he/she knows are awful? Or would you prefer him/her to earn his/her 15% by devoting his/her day to your book?

Yes, politeness and professionalism should be a given. It is unprofessional and lazy to waste hours indulging in online cattiness, gossip and profile-building. As an editor, I am regularly irritated by a few agents who do this while taking weeks to respond to questions that affect their own authors. But I also know, from dealing with the soul-destroying slushpile, that sometimes you have to choose: timely, attentive care for your talented signed-up authors, or timely responses to god-awful slush.

So... yes, authors should expect common courtesy of agents. But no, don't expect them to do more than is necessary for the gazillions of slushpile queries they receive.

Lastly, I'll echo what others have said about the publishing industry's version of the theory of relativity. If your book is as brilliant as you say it is, it'll more than likely provoke super-quick responses. We (agents, editors) DO skim queries and manuscripts as they arrive, and we WILL respond asap to things that look at all promising. It's the clearly unreadable rejections that we put off, because the act of rejecting them is so depressing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with some the complaints listed. Namely the 'no response means no'. The reason behind it is, to a point, understandable. Agents don't want backlash for rejecting a manuscript. The thing is, the people who are going to do that, I imagine, will still do that with or without a form rejection. At least, that's my opinion.

Maybe I'm alone here, but I don't need a personal rejection that outlines exactly what is wrong with a project. Opinions vary from agent to agent, reader to reader, writer to writer. I think getting a personalized rejection would just be a step in the wrong direction. Do you really want to change your project based on one agent's (not to say their opinion isn't valid)--one person's opinion--when another agents opinion could, and likely would, vary? I wouldn't.

As for twittering or blogging, I'm torn on this one. If they're posting all the time and the only thing they're saying is how busy they are, then yeah, I'll agree. But, if they're posting about random topics, their lives, tips/advice, etc., I think this is a good thing. 1) It gives you insight into that agent, into that person, and 2) everyone needs, wants, gets and deserves time to blow off some steam. We all do it.

I'm on board with wanting websites being updated regularly, especially with any big changes. We understand rejection, but to comment that we should have read your guidelines when we had, or to tell us in a rejection that you're not accepting such-n-such when YOUR websites/blogs say just that, is, in my opinion, rude. I don't think it's right to point that out as a failure on our part, or a lack of research, when clearly the fault lies with you.

Anonymous said...

I don't think people are saying agents shouldn't blog or twitter. I think they're just frustrated by the appearance of certain agents to not balance and set priorities, that's all.

(Sorry. But yes, some of us see agents notoriously unable to get their day job done, even closing submissions to catch up--but are avid bloggers and tweeters. Um...shouldn't they also suspend blogging/tweeting...cause it doesn't pay the bills and that 30 mins might be better spent? It makes us wary of that agent, you know?)

About blogs and twitters written under your professional umbrella being 99% personal (and we all know who they are)--no one begrudges agents a personal life--but accts 99% personal make one wonder if you're only 1% professional. Again, it's about balance. Balance.

Kelley said...

I'd buy the whole no time and we're too inundated thing--if there weren't agents who DO manage to always be responsive, gracious etc. and who are just as popular, if not more so, as some of those agents crying no time. So I'd also love to see a day where we could acknowledge those who do it right.

Anonymous said...

Kelley, I agree.

All this negativity makes the professionals really shine in comparison.

P.S. Agents aren't necessary to achieve paying publication. They're only necessary to publish with most of the large New York publishers. There's no law which requires aspiring authors to query every single person who calls him or herself an agent.

michael gavaghen said...

Sha'el,

Ad hominem, really? I didn't think I'd attacked anybody.

But allow me to make this disclaimer: I'm not on Twitter, so it's possible that the tone of the tweets getting so many writers riled up is considerably more vicious than the sometimes acerbic posts I've read at various agent blogs.

I had inferred from the context of these posts that the tweets in question (A) were comments about query letters, and not the manuscripts themselves, and (B) did not mention the author by name. If those assumptions are wrong, then I agree that the agents are exhibiting a gross lack of professionalism, and I apologize for not keeping my mouth shut.

But if these assumptions are correct, why is everyone so thin-skinned? Query letters are marketing tools, and I don't know anyone who pours heart and soul into marketing copy. Wordsmith the hell out of it, sure. Take pride in its cleverness, absolutely. But why be insulted when someone rips into your marketing material -- especially when they don't attach your name to it?

I'm sorry you took my comment, "Don't you people work?" as an insult. In my experience, people frequently resort to humor when commiserating with their peers about the necessary evils in the workplace. Clueless and unreasonable bosses, employees who come down with food poisoning nine times a year (and always on Monday), clients or customers who make demands that are quite literally impossible to meet . . . If I shake my head and laugh about them with someone who is similarly afficted, does that make me "impolite, rude and stupid?"

And if an agent does his or her head-shaking in cyberspace, but doesn't identify who triggered the laughter, and attacks cover letters but not manuscripts, does that make them unprofessional dolts? Really?

I didn't mean to "ridicule and insult those who post here." I meant to say, "Come on, guys. Lighten up."

Regards to the goat.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Gracious!

Some of you might think I'm playing devil's advocate here, or brown-nosing...but I'm not. I'd be pretty ticked off if agents quit some (not all) of the things people complain about. So please let another aspiring author be honest. Like I'll say again, I believe in being transparent, hence posting with my name.

I totally understand about the lack of communication on partials and fulls...although I would like to hesitantly mention something to authors. ***If you aren't using a separate email address with no spam filter, ONLY for agents, then there's a slight chance their replies are getting lost or caught in spam filters. This isn't giving agents deferential treatment, this is giving emails you don't want to lose deferential treatment. I do this for my own clients, for agents, for important friends, etc. It is the ONLY way to make sure that lost emails aren't your fault. Agents do moan about those, because they know they're getting a bad name because of it, but there's nothing they can do about it. If you have already done this...then complain away, I guess!

I also totally understand some of gripes about agents who aren't doing their best to sell the books they've taken on.

BUT...I'm glad I'm not the only one who believes that agents should be allowed to have a life. Personally...I don't care how much they twitter or blog about the cheese they like. Do you all realize what would happen if those agents cut out everything in their life that wasn't query-letter reading? Honestly? They'd burn out and quit the business!

So...all of you (who complain about tweets, etc.) do you all never stop to chat with a co-worker in the hallway? Are you one of the few people who absolutely never talks about anything other than work, never does anything other than work while at work, never gossips, never tells another coworker she looks nice today, never checks personal email, never stops for a snack, smoke, or lunch break, never accepts phone calls from home or anywhere else that's not work related, etc.? Are you? And do you manage this for 13 hour days? Day in and day out? Have you ever felt burnt out and known that you simply could not give your next project your best effort without a break first?

Who do you want to represent you? A burnt-out agent doing things half-heartedly? (Well, those have already been complained about here.) Or one who knows when she's had enough and knows when to take a break so she can be enthusiastic on YOUR project? Me...I want the second!

All I'm saying is, I want an agent who enjoys her job and who's sane. That said, I WANT my agent to have a life, to twitter if that's what she feels like, to work only 1/2 days if that's what she has to do to keep her sanity. Note...I fully expect her to make sure she doesn't take on more clients than she can take care of in a professional manner in those half days...but as long as she's doing that, BE A HUMAN! :-)

(Those agents who don't respond are #agentfails, and who cares whether they didn't respond 'cause they're too busy tweeting or too busy with 186 other clients.)

I'm also one of the few who like it when agents post personal things to blogs and so forth. If they never posted anything but industry stuff, then all their blogs would be the same, and I still would have no idea if the agent was a human or a robot. And if they post things that I'm not comfortable with...GOOD! At least I know that I might be uncomfortable working with them. That's better than signing on and wasting months before I discovered this. Heck...I wish ALL agents posted personal stuff all over their websites. It would really help me know which agents were compatible with me.

I guess it all comes down to this. I see agents as regular human beings. Humans who fail and screw up just as often as I do...who need breaks from work to keep their sanity...who have personal preferences and likes. All I expect from them is honesty, transparency, and to give it their best. Do what you say you'll do, and if you're backed up, or like my MS but need to think on it for a few weeks before you'll know if you think you can sell it, simply say so. That is what will help me know if an agent is the right fit for me, and that's what will keep our working relationship going well.

Okay...I'll get off my soapbox.

Kathleen MacIver said...

(Just read another comment or two that threw me back on my soapbox.)

If an agent's blog or tweet is 99% personal, and you're left wondering if their work time is really 99% personal... aren't you glad their tweets show you that? Are you seriously wanting them to hide that fact so you'll query them?

That's what I don't get about some of these complaints. It's like you're asking agents to hide who they really are. Why would anyone want that?

And if you're asking them to change who they are...to work harder, etc. so they can take you on... isn't it rather obvious that the publishing market can only support so many books? It doesn't matter if it's 10 good agents and 1000 bad ones trying to sell, or 1010 fantastic agents. Our chances of selling our book are the same, regardless. The whole point in finding an agent is finding one who is right for me. And the more personal and revealing stuff I discover online about them, the more possible it is for me to do exactly that!

So, agents...don't quit twittering personal stuff! Whenever you feel like it! If it bothers me, then thanks for showing me that I won't want to query you. And if it doesn't bother me, then thanks for showing me a little of who you are so I'll know that I WILL enjoy working with you!

(Apparently my POV is totally different than a lot of other aspiring authors out there.)

Anonymous said...

As an agent, this was humbling to read. I'm taking it all to heart, and remember that we're people, too. Even when we try our best, we sometimes #agentfail.

Keri Ford said...

Michael Gavaghen, I totally get what you're saying. I think anyone who works/has worked with large masses of the public EVERY DAY (200-300+people everyday, 5+days a week) completely understand what you're saying.

Many would be surprised at how frustrating the simple act of paying for items can be for a cashier. Some customers are complete idiots and don’t have a care for anyone waiting in line behind them. How many times have you found yourself waiting in line, wanting to pay, but the person in front of you left their wallet in the car? Or maybe the person is picking around their keys, lint, gum, and god only knows what else for a dime so they can get a whole dollar back? Or—oh, my fav, the person who doesn’t bathe but thinks he/she is so attractive that flirts with everything that walks by, or stands there forever chatting and talking while the cashier is trying to work and get you checked and out the door.

Some days are hard and you just need a break to laugh and shake off the idiots of the world.

Does that mean *I* want to see myself at the ridicule of someone on a blog or twitter, nope, not really. But if done anonymously, then it's only me who knows that I was an idiot that day and the opportunity to learn what I've done wrong--to get that blessed feedback—is RIGHT THERE. For EVERYONE to learn from.

There are some valid complaints in here, as some as stated above. Not responding to queries sucks, but not responding to requested materials just makes me feel helpless. Those who complain for getting a ‘Dear Author’ letter instead of having their name typed in—I’m jealous! At least you have your yes or no and can move on! Same for those getting typos in a rejection—be glad you got one!

I can’t imagine getting personalized feedback on every query/partial/full I sent out. Agents would never have time for anything but that! Someone way back on the list has their favorite rejection. It was something like: ‘Barb, this wasn’t for me.’ I LOVED that and laughed out loud when I read it.

I also make the request for a day where we can brag on agents we’ve had positive dealings with.

Edward G. Talbot said...

Out of a whole lot of submissions and responses (or lack of responses), only a single agent correspondence has ever come close to a fail for me.

The agent SPECIFICALLY on his web site said that if authors had questions about whether their book fit his genres, they should email him before querying and ask. So I did. I told him my book was most like Clive Cussler and Robert Ludlum and I wanted to know if he considered it a thriller (which is what most people consider it and which he wanted) or action/adventure (which he didn't).

He responded with a scathing and sarcastic diatribe about authors not doing research. At the end he said he was being rude on purpose because he hoped to make me angry enough to take action to do things differently. He said a google search for Clive Cussler turned up a first entry that said action/adventure and "I'm sure RObert Ludlum will be the same. See how easy it is?"

Well, here's the thing. If one does a google search, the first entry does indeed say action-adventure in the search results. But if you actually take the extra time to click the link instead of just looking at the summary, it says he's a techno-thriller writer. Other links indicate that he is the father of the maritime thriller. And if you search for Robert Ludlum, it all refers to him as a thriller novelist.

So, not only was the agent unnecessarily rude, he was totally and utterly wrong. The reason I queried him was because I suspected that someone who didn't want action adventure wouldn't be a good fit for my book, even though my book is a thriller. No sense submitting if he doesn't want it. I kept my initial email short, just asked his opinion rather than going into all the research I had already done. I wanted to take up a minimum of his time and get a simple yes or no answer. Again, he specifically said writers should send such an inquiry if they were unsure.

I did not bother to respond to his email - what would have been the point. This is a guy I am going to stay far away from. Every single other correspondence I have had with an agent has shown them to be very professional.

WriterResearcher said...

Thanks for allowing us to do this!

I might be the odd one out here, but I like reading agents' blogs. Even when they talk about their dogs/cats/husbands/wives/movies, etc.

It gives a greater insight into what that agent might like.

Now, onto the beefs:

I've had six agents in the last year use this exact line:

"I find your project intriguing but I'm just not excited enough about it".

That's an oxymoron I do not understand.

I do wish more agents would accept e-queries. Most of the time, I am sending material overseas. It gets very costly, especially for a "no thanks."

As others have said, submission guidelines not being up to date, or being different all over the web...

Anonymous said...

I had an agent send me a glowing email requesting a copy of my manuscript. I sent it, heart all aflutter. After eight months, I had heard nothing. Hadn't even received my manuscript back in the mail. I finally called the agent, and was told "no response means no". They didn't bother to send my manuscript back, didn't even bother with a form letter - I honestly would have expected more than that after they specifically requested I send my manuscript to them.

Anonymous said...

You know this bit:

"2) reply with more than one freaking line via email that says something like, "i didn't really care for the male characters".

I mean, a rejection is OK, but, after all that time (and $$$ in postage for 300 plus pages!!!), I thought I deserved a bit more. i won't be querying her again."

Is equivalent to a guy saying, "I bought you dinner, you should put out."

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I guess we have been given permission to rant. But an agent does not owe us line edits. If we do get them it is an honor.

No wonder some writers are getting rejected.

Grandma Sharon

Anonymous said...

Going anon, yeah...

As everyone else has said, "no response means no"... doesn't really work well. Set up an autoresponder, please, so we know the email got there! (Or the snailmail, for that matter, though I can forgive it more with dead trees.) I know how much stuff can get lost (I think a publishing company lost my full manuscript for... 3 years, was it? 5?), and I can cope with "We got it; you'll hear from us by X if we like it, but otherwise no."

I didn't mind queryfail. I've done the editor thing and after the umpty-zillionth instance of a particular issue, I get pretty darn snarky as well. Learning what the hot-buttons are is useful to me. (Also, I can congratulate myself on some of them that *I* haven't done anything like that since I was 12.)

I also agree that there needs to be at *least* a quarterly summary to a signed author. "Sent to X, sent to Y, sent to Z, waiting on responses from Q, R, and Z." Something to show that it's not sitting in the drawer being ignored (as an acquaintance's agent apparently did).

Be gentle when dealing with honest mistakes -- if there's a website out there that says X about the queries you want, and it's wrong... How are people going to realize that, necessarily? Point people at your up-to-date webpage (even if it's just a livejournal page!) and tell them that's your canonical submission guidelines. (You can have the link in your autoresponder! Or in some other form-letter style.)

Anonymous said...

One agent requested my full, knew of me from a past life, asked if there were any other agents reading it...and then never responded. That one still hurts.

Anonymous said...

Can't help but notice that the "brave" writers signing their names are all sucking up and defending agents...let's hear them complain and then see who signs Anon? It's not cowardice, it's smart.

TrixieLox said...

My general experience when querying agents was actually quite good and I have a wonderful agent now. BUT I must give one big #agentfail callout on behalf of unagented UK writers: for the love of God, please please UK agents, step out of the Middle Ages and start accepting email queries! Did you know that in the children / YA area here in the UK, there's less than 10 good agents who accept e-queries? The rest ask you to POST queries? Utter madness in this day and age (sorry, bit of a green crusader and cyber junkie).

O and just a small one from my unagented days - if you request a full, just one line of personalised feedback wouldn't go amiss. I think it's beyond odd when an agent sends a standard rejection after reading a full after enthusiastically requesting it. But each to their own ;-) Agents aren't there to be a member of our critique group (unless they become your agent) so we shouldn't expect it but still...

DeadlyAccurate said...

For anyone who wants to use the Canned Responses feature of Gmail that NixyValentine mentioned:

Click on Settings | Labs and enabled Canned Responses. Save Changes.

Once Gmail has reloaded, Compose a new email.

In the body of the email, put everything you want in the canned response (including your signature).

Click on Canned Responses (it's on the same line as Attach A File and Add Event Invitation). Under the Save heading, select New Canned Response and give it a name like Form Rejection Letter.

Now when you want to use the response, just click on the Canned Response link, and select the title under the Insert heading.

Anonymous said...

I really don't understand the people who want rejections. Back when I was agentless and querying, I detested getting rejection emails. It wasn't like I learned anything from them - they were mostly generic rejections. The only time I ever appreciated a negative response was when the agent liked it but it wasn't for her, for whatever reason. Maybe I was/am way too sensitive, but I don't see the point in collecting rejections. Soul sucking. If you don't hear back, they didn't like it. Period.

I have no complaints about my current agent, other than wishing she'd get a new assistant. My editor on the other hand...

Janet said...

Yes, please host an agentwin day now. I'd like to hear which agents communicate well with clients, are proactive with editors, stay on top of their accounting and accountability, and so on. I could populate that list a little by reputation, but I'd like to know who gets the props from writers who are actually represented.

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to think that many agents don't have a real clue in terms of what America wants to read. They often play the elitist card by saying that Americans don't read anymore.

But I don't think it's ever occurred to most of them that maybe America is just saying "no" to their offerings.

I've heard WAY too many agents with guidelines that say something to the effect of, "I rep what I like."

Who cares what YOU like?

I don't say that with bitterness, but it does confuse one when agents continually expect writers to show a level of objectivity and professionalism that they refuse to show themselves.

Pimlicokid said...

As an aspiring writer, I hoover up advice wherever I can find it. Among the most valuable sources are agent/publisher websites. Thanks to their good counsel, I have enough information to avoid irritating them and/or humiliating myself when I send off my query letter, synopsis and sample chapters. After all, the rules of submission mean ‘You do it their way’.

I accept, too, that with aspiration comes disappointment. Before sending off my work, I will inoculate myself with large doses of realism about the talent I may, or may not have (goodness knows, there is enough advice out there urging me to do this). And if I’ve learned anything about contacting agents and publishers, it’s that whatever reply I get, no matter how I feel about it, my response will be:
• to be grateful
• to take on board, seriously and thoroughly, what has been said
• to get back to improving the writing and to making the next approach better

And if there is no reply, I'll cleave to the last point.

However, a wearisome feature of some websites is the regular ‘screamer’ of the “I’m surrounded by idiots” variety, when referring to contact with writer wannabees. Authentic examples are publicly (although anonymously) posted about writers who have sent in inappropriate, illiterate, inconsiderate, ignorant, impolite or downright rude letters. The rather patronising, “can you believe this?” rant is usually rounded off with some finger-wagging advice. This can be funny but – and I hesitate to say this about arbiters of originality and talent – it’s becoming boringly samey.

More often than not, the ‘Comments’ sections for these tirades are packed with “Right ons," or “Can you believe its?”and other messages of mutual solidarity/sympathy from fellow professionals and, worse, from sycophantic writers, who line up with teacher to say ‘good post (you couldn’t possibly mean me)!’

Good agent/publisher websites provide invaluable help and encouragement. However, for most didactic efforts there will always be too many pupils ‘who just don’t listen'. When this happens, it’s a tad too easy to play it for laughs in yet another “How not to do it” story of hapless writers getting it wrong.

Of course, it’s not one-way traffic. Writers have myriad ways of letting themselves and fellow writers down, not least by behaving badly when their wonderful talent isn’t appreciated. Nevertheless, most of us read and take professional advice; it’s only completely in our own interest.

So, for the advice offered – without charge – sincere thanks. But how about just a little less scorn?

Anonymous said...

Regarding agents twittering and blogging personal stuff, I think... Well, *I* have a twitter and a blog and I use them to keep in touch with people and to write about what interests me that day. I don't write much about my day job, because it's just a job, albeit one I love. So while there are agents who run Agent Blogs, there are also a lot of agents who just *happen* to blog, and sometimes they share about agenting, how to query, etc. I appreciate that, and it's often *why* I read that particular blog, but I don't think the agents are *obligated* to blog about such things. Services like google reader/bloglines make it very easy to just skip entries that aren't of interest. As for twitter, you can turn off @replies to people you aren't following, so you see way less random chatter, and a lot of what's left *is* relevent.

So what's the problem? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Querying is hard and frustrating and soul-crushing. I can understand the bitterness here.

That being said, I love my agent. She's great. She gets back to me promptly and is always on the ball with my submissions and following up. Has she read my new manuscripts the minute I send them to her? No. Do I expect her to? Absolutely not. I have three books. She has a dozen clients. You do the math ; )

Anonymous said...

"I've heard WAY too many agents with guidelines that say something to the effect of, "I rep what I like."

Who cares what YOU like?"

Because you want someone to sell your book that's passionate about it, that's going to fight for every last ounce of your vision.

That's why agents say things like "I rep what I like." Because if they read something that gets them passionate, that's something they want to sell. And a lot of them will move heaven and earth to do so.

Anonymous said...

I posted as anon 12:14. I could have named names, but Jessica would have been wise to delete my post for fear of getting sued, so what's the point?

And hang my real name out there? Why don't I take a knitting needle instead and just poke out each of my eyes?

We're blowing off steam here. Not committing professional suicide.

Miss Lily said...

I just wanted to say thank you to some of the comments. I posted anon. first off (just one post though - not the constant one) and was just hoping that the professionalism (or lack there of) was not the case with most agents, as I haven't started the query process just reading. It was something I really didn't want to believe and was a bit disheartening.

I wanted to say thank you to those who posted with positives and responses that most agents don't do some of the things I keep hearing about. It's really heartening to read that some people haven't experience the negative side. As an aspiring author, I would like to read the agent win day as well, because I think those agents who do awesome by their clients should be celebrated.

I have to say, I disagree with some of the really negative comments. I like reading the blogs and hearing the personal side of agents (Especially the kitties as I have 2 myself and they are so entertaining). It also helps me figure out if I want to query this agent when I'm ready cause I think personalities would mesh.

However, when e-mail is so easy to lose, I do think a simple form rejection would be nice and professional. Personalized though, is a bit much. I haven't even done this yet and I can't imagine demanding something personalized from someone I'm not even working with. That's just a little demandy, don't you think?

I also think it's unreasonable to ask an agent not to have a personal life, and personally I've learned so much reading blogs. However, I think politness should be expected. If your rude on your journal, or constantly bringing down new writers, you shouldn't be suprised that that's what people expect you to be like. It's why most journals invented a private feature. I know when I vent about friends or something, I use that feature, I don't make it public. Why? Cause maybe I'm feeling frustrated that day and it's not really what I think of them.

I know there's one agent I won't query because of this. It lacks professionalism, and if they're that unprofessional on their blog their using to showcase/promote their agency, I know my personality won't mesh with them. However, this is ONE agent I've seen. And I don't go around making rude comments about that. I just don't query or read it anymore. If I'm going to hold them to a professional standard, I better sure as hell act the same way.

I think this is why unpublished writers are given a bad name. It's the few who ruin it for the majority. It's the same with agents and editors I think.

I did also want to say thank you to Jenny Rapport (And her awesome asst. Jodi), Janet(and Queryshark), Bookends, and Nathan as I have learned the most about publishing (Aside from Ms. Snark) from these blogs and look forward to reading them every day. From an unpublished author stand point, I give all these the win. It's awesome that ya'll take the time out of your day to give people a glimpse into the agent (and asst.) world. You don't have to, and some of us appreciate it.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear michael gavaghen,

So ... umm ... you're saying i grew my pixie hunt teeth and bit your butt when i should not have?

Consider yourself unbit. I stand by my agent crits though. In fairness to agents, there are some great ones. I have a list of those two. Those I can name, and at the top are Janet Reid and Rachel Vater. Nice (notice the capital 'n.')There are others on it too. The number of "bad" and "thoughtless" agents is not as large as some of these posts might suggest. And ... allowing for the wicked fairies that creep into everyone's life ... those who we might exeriance as less than stellar might be exeptional in another setting.

But ... yes, clients can be really nasty or just nicely frustrating.

Sorry about the bite. Hope it doesn't fester.

Those who wish us to name names? Are you insane!? Besides, it doesn't take much for new writers to figure out who is good at what they do and who is not.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

umm pad pixie! two = too. I knew that!

Anonymous said...

AgentFail is when an agent takes the time to send a lengthy reply with all that's wrong with a book, but it's frighteningly clear the agent never read the book but is relying on a grossly inaccurate report from an intern or the cleaning lady, or the subway shop guy, or the freelance editor who plays the steel drums in the subway who was asked to read the submission for the agent.
And yes, that is one long sentence!

Anonymous said...

Agent fail? The agent who got my query, requested a partial, kept it for six months, requested, a full, and a YEAR LATER, offered representation. A YEAR later. What the?!! (I mean - don't even REQUEST the full if you don't have time to read it for a full YEAR. What's the point?)

I responded letting her know that I'd found representation, and she seemed quite put out. Gee, I'm so sorry I didn't WAIT FOR YOU. (Bangs head against desk.)

My current agent is a dream to work with. Love her.

Anonymous said...

1) Taking eleven months to get back to me. I get a lot of email too, I understand life is tough. But come on.

2) Requesting a partial or full and then not responding, AND not responding to requests for updates.

3) I'm glad that your form rejection letter is not "I hate you, pls die." But seriously, some of them come across as pretty condescending. Who is going to be happy to receive something that essentially says, "I have very high standards, but keep trying, because you might meet someone who doesn't"?

jimnduncan said...

So many responses here, I don't know that it got mentioned, but I do wonder sometimes why writers presume that they are owed a reply. Does any other industry do this? If I send in a resume for a job opening, I don't expect to get a reply that they're not interested. I assume it by the lack of response. Is there some level of professional courtesy in publishing that doesn't exist in other places because we somehow deserve more? Don't think so.

I have a product I want to sell or at least I believe it's good enough to sell. I send it off to the professionals who I believe know what they are doing with regard to being able to sell it. If they think so to, they'll tell me. They want to find products like mine to sell. It's in their best interest to get those products. It's not in my best interest to bitch at them for not liking my product or to even whine that they fail to tell me they don't want it. I'm only interested when they do. If they don't want my product, I will likely and hopefully have a better one for them down the road. Whining and bitching only makes that less likely.

It would be rather amusing to see all agents band together and set a standard, "I'll reply if I want more," policy. It's sensible. It makes sense. And it's not disrespectful. Writers just need to chill. Agents and editors have insanely time consuming jobs. They're also allowed to tweet, go eat lunch, raise kids, and do things completely unreleated to dealing with writers. To whine that it doesn't take much time to reply to a query (all 30 f'ing thousand a year) is pretty much slapping them in the face. So again, writers complaining about this...chill out.

Anonymous said...

Wow. It was certainly interesting to read some of these comments, but at the same time, as a writer currently querying agents, I am getting depressed reading all this! I gotta stop and just query and take the bad with the good. It's all we can really do anyway, right?

Anonymous said...

ok ok ok...

What about the stupid things we do to agents? I seriously think that if a "funny response, rude response, no response, form response..." all comes from how we deal with an agent initially.

For example, I submitted an exclusive query to an agent. He requested the full. I missed the one month deadline, basically chickened out, and never sent it to the guy. No explaniation. No nothing. I seriously have no idea what to do, but I am pretty sure my no response sucks, and my manuscript is asking me "what the f?" from my sock drawer.

I really think it is stupid stuff like this that gets us into our own niave messes with agents. Also if one researches and has great communication skills... I am not sure how things get so desperate.

And I really think agents shouldn't worry about popping our bubbles. It's just best to blow us away because until we're ready to take things seriously... how are they supposed to take us seriously? ~"annonanauthoryet"

Anonymous said...

Jim,

When you give someone your resume do you send it over the internet? Mail it? or hand it to them personally? Which method do you have the most faith in? Wouldn't you like to know it got there, even if it was a robot that told you?

Anonymous said...

Even with all the anger and frustration in here, the most galling comments (imo) are the ones attempting to call to task those who are posting as anonymous. Um, grow up. Not only was it suggested, it was encouraged. How brave are those who boldly post their names, and then go on to gush about agents? Isn't this AgentFail?

Removing the possibility of retribution insures comments will be honest.

People want to feel as though they can speak freely. Guess what--speak freely in the real world, and it will come back to bite you in the butt. That's reality. Gotta love that segment of the population eager to usurp others' right to decide their own course of action and then make pariahs of those who choose a different path. Have the balls to let others choose their own tack. I assure you, we won't lose a hundred acres of Brazilian rain forest in the process, if posters choose to go anonymous. If you'd like to post your name and then leave negative comments, you have every right in the world to shoot yourself in the foot.

On the flip side, a couple of people (or perhaps just the one, over and over and over) are suggesting 'outing' agents who have committed sins in our eyes. Um, no. The purpose of this blog idea seems to be for us to vent, and hopefully for agents to see what issues are most on the minds of writers when querying or dealing with them. I don't think vengeance is one of the goals of AgentFail. And will those outed agents be given notice they're being lambasted over here and then have the opportunity to defend themselves?

All that being said, I agree with the "no response, no interest" complaint. I have no problem with the policy, but send an auto-response with each query so we know the query was received. That's the biggest snag with that policy. Do I then keep status-checking and re-subbing my query? Send an auto response, and I will never both you again if I get no rejection/request from the initial query. Just tell me you got it. Auto response, once set up, requires you do nothing else from that point on. See? It's just like ignoring queries you don't want. It's automatic.

Agents who refuse to accept email queries: um, how long's the internet been up and running, and saving trees and landfills?? And agent fighting against technology is likely not going to be able to do anything for me. See, I hear all these editors and publishers are using what? Email. What can you do for me in the world of publishing by desperately clinging to your Fred and Barney ways? Want me to send you my ms handwritten or typed (and corrected, ack) on a typewriter? Join the planet, please.

Again, as others have said, keep your submission requirements current on all sites in which your policy appears. If I check three different sites and come up with three different policies on the same agent, I'm going to be confused, and likely query you in a manner which annoys you. If you have listings at AgentQuery, LitMatch, and PublishersMarketPlace, they should all match.

Along those same lines, publishing is a very old, established industry. Why are submissions policies not standardized? What other industry works like that? Standardize submission requirements. Variations between one agent/agency and another are usually minor, but damn--I've seen some weird ones. If I'd try to come up with a standardized policy based on the most frequent requirements of most of the agencies I've researched so far, I'd come up with query, 1-3 page synopsis, plus first chapter. Who says an agent has to read all that if they hate the query? No one. Times New Roman in 12 pt font, one-inch margins all the way around, left justified text. They could standardize submission requirements.

Speaking of standardizing, what about the manner in which the query shows up in your email boxes? One agent (and for the life of me, I can't remember who, though I wouldn't name them if I did--it's a good agent) requires the writer's name and email address match. I know of no one who has their name as their email address except teachers at the local college. It's easy--if you have an email in your spam folder with a subject line that starts out 'QUERY,' it's not spam. Move it to your inbox. Set filters to automatically put email with subject lines beginning 'QUERY' to your inbox. Easy-peasy. Standardize that. How about subject lines like "QUERY-TITLE-GENRE" ? "QUERY-Billy's Pet Unicorn-Middle Grade Fantasy," or "QUERY-Felicia and the Werewolf-YA Paranormal," or "QUERY-The Night George Washington Rode into the Everglades-Historical Fiction" ?

If you don't have hundreds of people each week sending you queries with subject lines constructed a hundred different ways, it makes it infinitely easier to pick all the non-spam out of your spam folders. Just a thought.

And they keep saying how busy they all are. Um, sorry. Thanx to temp agencies, I've worked a lot of different jobs, and have also worked a lot of desk jobs, staring into a computer for hours. I'll take the desk jobs. I worked at a steel factory for $5.10 an hour, wherein I lifted a ton of steel beams every hour onto pallets--hot beams directly off the paint line. I also worked in a bag factory where I operated a machine that was about twice as long as your office is wide. No dieting, no changing the way I ate, and I lost 6 lbs the first week I worked there. Yeah, I'll take the desk job. If you can blog and tweet, you can auto-respond to let writers know their queries have landed in your inbox.

As to my desk job, I worked several years in copy/production/traffic in radio broadcasting. I had to write ad copy all day, in addition to entering contracts into the computer and plotting spots on all daily logs for 3 and finally 5 radio stations every day.

I'm not saying agents don't work or that they're not busy--but they say it like we're not. We have full-time day jobs in addition to families, and have to work our writing, querying, and endless waiting around all of that. Um, hello?

There are a lot of things about publishing as an industry that I don't like. Agents aren't one of them, but that doesn't mean we can't tweak the system a tad, or that agents we're querying can't show a little consideration and respect.

Anonymous said...

One agent (and for the life of me, I can't remember who, though I wouldn't name them if I did--it's a good agent) requires the writer's name and email address match. I know of no one who has their name as their email address except teachers at the local college.

While I agree with most of your points, if you're talking about the agent I'm thinking of, you've mistaken what she said. She was simply saying that if your query ends up in her spam filter, if she isn't positive it's an actual query, she doesn't bother to open it. Spammers very often have different display names than email addresses (an example in my current spam filter is the display name "William" but the email address "bastionp@" + the domain.com). So to avoid getting treated like a spammer, make sure the display name and email address bear enough similarities to one another that she doesn't think it's spam.

Anonymous said...

My frustration with the "no response means no" policy is that there are still some agents and small publishers who don't take simultaneous submissions. How the heck is a writer to know it's okay to move on if the agent hasn't been clear? If someone wants to say that "no answer means no," they should say clearly on their website or in their auto-response that "if you haven't heard back from us in x weeks, you may assume the project isn't right for us." Thankfully, some do just that, but others leave writers hanging.

It would be nice if exclusives went completely away, too. Then it wouldn't matter if an agent replied or not because they wouldn't be holding up the process. As things stand now, it takes so long to query widely (as writers are often advised) that it's no wonder many become discouraged.

At least when one is hunting for a conventional 8-5 job, no employer says that if you submit a resume with them, you'll damage your chances of employment by applying at other places as well.

Exclusives should be for fulls only, and agents should always give a response on fulls, just like a professional employer sends a follow-up letter on candidates they took the time to call in for an interview.

Anonymous said...

I know it's been said a couple times but I wanted to chime in that I really love agents who blog or have an internet presence. When I was searching for an agent, it was one of the most helpful things for me, allowing me to get to know agents, their attitudes, preferences, and hints of personality, and the "research" I was able to do because of it led me to make wiser decisions and end up with a great match.

Anonymous said...

Although I don't agree with all the comments here, what I find annoying is the aftermath.

At #queryfail time, writers were told "Suck it up" or "If you can't handle it, you're not tough enough" by many blogging/twittering agents and writers.

And yet I've seen agents, editors, and some writers (on Twitter) decrying the comments here because they're "mean"? Or even saying they're whiny?

Double-standard much?

How come when writers want courtesy, they're weak and unprofessional, but when agents want courtesy, they're bowed and scraped to?

Can't we all just be courteous to EVERYONE? Use a little golden-rule logic when writing anything?

Anonymous said...

An agent once requested my full, and then rejcetde it five months later. Not a problem, I thought, and soon I had been taken on by another agent, anyway. But this first one had in fact sent out my ms to several large publishers without telling me (including imprints at random House and Hodder Hachette) so that when my agent began to submit, shirty editors told her they'd already seen and rejected the ms - making both me and my agent look complete idiots.

Anonymous said...

I wish that for every REQUESTED partial and full the agent would give some definitive feedback--doesn't have to be much, just a one-liner would do! How else do we know how to improve?

There's got to be 5 or so top reasons why things are rejected, and if the agent had these listed as 5 separate automated email responses, he/she could just "pick" from a list which to send as a response...

Antonia Woodville said...

I have no agent and in future will have no representation. I sold my own series after such things as 'yes, please, historical fiction is all the rage at the moment' followed (some considerable time later) by "I don't do historical fiction." That is representative of the results I got after canvassing many agents. Of the ones I have worked with in the past, only one made sales and then she gave it up and went off to do something else. There is hardly an agency that does not defy its own guidelines in one way or another. It is a waste of time. Sure they want to find the BIG author but having said that, none of them want to take a chance on a new author who might be, could be, probably will be, big. The publisher in this instance has won out, my exclusive series, my undivided attention to detail and co operation, no third party to get involved and best of all, no third party to share what funds there might be at the end of the day. Suits me.

Sharon A. Lavy said...

I am hoping a lot of writers do quit querying agents. Maybe mine can float to the top of the pile that way. = )

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I posted this on Janet's blog. Hi Janet! ... You think your desk is messy!? Ha! You aint' seen nuttin' until you've seen the goat-rasing writer's desk. ... Umm where was I? Oh, yes ... and I'm posting it here as my probably final comment on this topic:

It was interesting to see that my specific complaints were shared by others. ... Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the nasty blogging agent who lied about me is still posting her rude comments about writers. She thinks she's immune because she's successful. ... Fine, I don't really read her blog anymore, 'cept once in a blue moon. And then I come away from it nauseus umm nauseous. (Ha! I caught that one!) I’d never query her again. If I become more famous the Mr. S. King, richer than Croesus, and in need of a new agent, it would still not be her.

And ... alas ... my posts over there on the agent-fail thing maintained my perfect record of typos and misspellings. Honest, I’m not dyslexic ... I think ...

Agents forget the amount of “self” writers invest in their work. The final product may be awful, but it still represents their current best, and it represents their heart. A little consideration, even while saying no, is in order.

I don't mean Agents should run a Lonely Writer's Club. Just be polite, helpful when it's really warranted, and review your idiot form rejection.

Do you know how many form rejections are rude in tone, ungrammatical, or otherwise idiotic? For most writers an agent's form rejection is the agent’s voice to the world. You may be an exceptionally nice person, but if you have a rejection letter or email that is rude in tone (you east-coasties getting this?) that is how you are perceived.

Your attitude toward writers comes through clearly in your form rejections. Don’t think so? Pick up the first page of the next query you get. You decide if it’s worth your while in the first few sentences. You analyze voice, talent, attitude and competence within two sentences. Do you honestly think we don’t do the same with your form rejections?

A no isn’t always just a no. If your form rejection is rude, you may not notice it, but we will. So that agent who trumpets her niceness to the world should have someone other than her best buddies review her form rejection. Because it is awful. From my perspective as a writer, she is haughty, nasty, aloof, rude, crude and probably in need of counseling. Would her friends tell her this? Probably not, but I just did.

Does she mean for her form emails to be like they are. How the heck would I know? I just know what their effect was on me.

Along the way to publication I got maybe two dozen rejections. They fell into three categories: 1. A simple polite “no.” 2. Rude crap. 3. Oh, dear, this is lovely but not what we publish; send us something else.

Number 2 is never acceptable in polite society. Take it where it belongs.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy-- Anonymous above says it all. The opportunity for hand-wringing and naysaying about agents and the publishing world in general does fill most amateur writer's hearts with glee because, well, it's a huge industry behemoth against the little, exposed, unarmed writer. And it does suck to be the little guy who is trying to beat down the door with a feather. But perhaps I can provide some advice for all those who spend their hours and days and weeks and months on the watercooler and amateur writer sites: get on with your writing and pitching and learning and stay away from the handwringing and naysaying and doomsday dwelling atmosphere of the internet writer sites.

Why?

Because #1- You're not going to change anything. Agents are a clique with their editors and there is NOTHING you can do about it. I'm sure it makes you feel better to be ranting on this site and all the others about the unfairness of the whole shebang, but people, have you ever met an agent? Most of them are snobby and elitist and look down their noses at the unwashed masses and don't do things they tell you they'll do so you'll leave them alone, and on and on. Do you really think lamenting that fact is going to change their personality? They're in BUSINESS. They're not pitching books for charity, and their time is a depleteable resource. If you've got something they think they can monetize, you're in, if not, move on (and they'll tell you immediately if it's the former).

#2, all the time you spend lamenting the fact that agents and the industry sucks, you could be actually selling your work to a publisher that doesn't require agents. Hello! there are 8000 publishers in the United States-- 12 of them require you have an agent. Get out there and pitch the ones that don't require you to have an agent. Voila! Problem solved. You're welcome.

Anonymous said...

I think we all just need to accept the fact that the publishing industry doesn't exist for the benefit of writers, it exists for the benefit of publishers and agents. Most of us, certainly those of us in the fiction world, would keep writing even if our works were only exposed to a small audience if only we could earn enough money to live on doing it. But we can't, and so we have to deal with these people who know we have no alternatives and have no compunction about treating us accordingly.

Think of them as a brain tumor which, though not fatal, has still grown so big that if you cut it off the patient would die.

What can be done? Submit, submit, submit...

Scott Nicholson said...

I'm kind of surprised at the treatment some people will endure, from either side of the fence. For one, failing to respond to communication seems like a poor fit in the communication business. Also, the concepts and pitches that agents snicker about often don't seem any more farfetched than what is selling at auction. The bottom line is we're all in the same community and we have a responsibility to this community to contribute our best.

Scott Nicholson

Anonymous said...

How long do you wait till no response means no? I gave up on an agent who said she responds to queries within a week. OK, I got it--then a request for a FULL came 6 weeks later....huh?
Her excuse was she was too busy sttending conferences.

Writers want closure--just give us a timely response so we can move on. Don't ignore us and give us the silent treatment!

Again, why attend so many conferences if you can't handle your present workload? Why seek out new writers if you can't handle the ones you have?

Anonymous said...

A suggestion. If an agent really lets you down, don't just boycott them.

Boycott their client list.

And let them know you're doing it.

Donald Maass said...

Jessica-

I am an agent. My agency is busy: four agents, 150 novels sold every year to publishers in the U.S. and overseas. Audio deals. Films deals. You get the idea.

We do our best to make sure that queries get respectful treatment. Writers matter. They are our lifeblood. Most queries today arrive via e-mail. We receive up to 500 each week. Nowadays we respond to all, even if with a form response.

We also try to make our submission guidelines consistent wherever they appear, though many web listings are not composed by us and may be outdated.

When we request partial or full manuscripts, we try to read and respond promptly with substantive comments, even if brief.

I understand the anger and frustration I see in the outpouring above. Writing a book takes forever. Its importance to the author is high. Breaking in is tough. Not all agents are as organized or as professional as they might be. Sometimes clients may feel underserved.

I get it.

While I won’t apologize for the disorganization or lack of professionalism that may be shown by some colleagues, and while I don’t mean to imply that writers or clients who feel unhappy should not express themselves…nevertheless, may I share a view from the other side?

99.99% of queries are pitching projects that are not ready for publication. Processing 500 a week takes effort. It costs a lot in payroll. (And BTW, we pay our interns.) I'm not complaining. It's part of our business. But there's a different perspective.

We do not make money (right away, at least) giving substantive feedback on partial and full manuscripts, but we do so anyway because it’s respectful and may help. We get many thank-you letters for our comments.

All of this is done against a background of revision letters, market research, pitch writing, submissions, follow up, negotiations, processing 150+ contracts per year, sub-rights activity, travel to conventions and trade events and generally running a business.

Add to that (for me) writing books on advanced fiction technique, teaching workshops and serving the community through the AAR and engaging in industry issues.

I do not blog. (Where does anyone get the time?) I try to make a difference. I try to help writers. If the submission process is frustrating, if agents sometimes seem like low-class demigods, if there are glitches, disappointments and gripes…okay, fair enough.

But do keep a thought for the busy agent, folks. Some of us are trying to do a good job—for you.

-Donald Maass

Julie Weathers said...

At #queryfail time, writers were told "Suck it up" or "If you can't handle it, you're not tough enough" by many blogging/twittering agents and writers.

And yet I've seen agents, editors, and some writers (on Twitter) decrying the comments here because they're "mean"? Or even saying they're whiny?--

There was definitely a difference. The agents in queryfail were posting what doesn't work. The tone here degenerated pretty quickly and with few exceptions, not much was helpful.

Actually, some of these posts were definitely poisonous. The invitation to post anon gave some of you carte blanche to vent your spleens at the horror that is publishing, with agents being the vanguard.

Glad everyone got a chance to get all their frustrations off their chests. What made me sad is to know the lengths many agents go to and they all got lumped in the same pot. I almost expected a lynch mob to start chanting, "Hang the agents!"

It's going to be hard for some people to work with agents when they harbor so much hatred towards them. Perhaps all will be forgiven when they get an agent of their very own to hold, and cuddle and call George.

There were a lot of comments about agents blogging or twittering.

Part of what I find interesting about twitter is seeing the time the agents and editors spend working. It's really pretty remarkable or maybe I just follow some remarkable agents and editors. I would guess I wasn't just lucky enough to stumble onto the cream of the crop, however.

Writers complain about an agent who has posted ten 140-word posts in a day and yet those same agents are still reading submissions at 3:00 a.m.

Rachelle Gardner is an early riser and yet is still reading manuscripts and queries until 10 or 11 at night. God forbid she stop long enough to post a twitter about spending 20 minutes writing a rejection because she wanted to include some advice to the author.

No, I'm not sucking up to Rachelle. She doesn't rep what I write, but she's a fascinating and informative agent if you want to take the time to follow her.

I've publicly stated what irks me about some agents. I don't have to hide behind anon. If that takes me out of the running with some agents, that's fine. We probably wouldn't be a good fit anyway. I've already burned some bridges with agents because I have a tendency to be fairly plain spoken.

I'm a little too old to fawn and simper over someone to get their attention. I respect them as professionals and I would like to be respected as such.

wisebird said...

Why is it we're constantly told that agents are "busy people" and can't reply personally to every-one's submission? And I don't mean the standard "sorry, but no" rejection letter, but being totally ignored.

If the dentist/builder/bank manager/cashier/hairdresser acted in such ways they'd never work again!

Anonymous said...

The lofty perch on which an agent stands,
Above the writers, praying hands,
Is closer to those who pray below
Than to the stars above, where we will go.
So do not fret, my writing clan,
You and I, on talent stand.
If they had some, they would be writing,
Not Twittering, blogging, bitching and biting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Donald! I can personally say you were the one agent who took the time to critque my ms. several years ago w/ positive, helpful advice. I waited a few years to revise it (I also have a magazine career), but your great feedback always stayed w/ me and kept me going. I only wish you could see the revised version today--but I know you're too busy and successful now. Thanks, again!

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear Donald,

If you would like to discuss your post, I have comments. ... Nice post though, but I still have comments and they're probably not suitable for this forum.

wardancingpixie@verizon[dot]net

Jarucia said...

I see a lot of stuff I agree with here and have heard from authors, aspiring and published.

From an 'aspiring' point of view, nothing is more irksome than have a request for a partial or full MS THEN never hearing from the agent again.

Other stuff bothers me too (some of the mightier than thou meanspiritedness I see going on, BUT that's not entirely unwarranted given what some querying authors do).

It's people clashing with people.

But of the comments I saw listed, I agree that if agents have strict submission rules (and some border on Draconian), then they should follow their own rules as well.

Thanks for offering this place to vent today.

P.A.Brown said...

How about submitting a manuscript to your publisher without ever reading it and when the publisher rejects it agreeing with me that the ms needed a lot of work. Thanks for the heads up. I could have fixed it before she submitted it, but she was too busy to read the d*** thing. I now have no agent and have sold 7 books, so really, who needs the headache?

Kayleigh Jamison said...

I think some of you are missing the point of this thread. It was an invitation to bitch about agents, and people certainly rose to the occasion.

Granted, the cloak of anonymity made some people bolder than usual, and there definitely has been some vitriol throughout, but wasn't that sort of the purpose here?

I don't interpret this as a bunch of bitter, disgruntled authors with anger issues rallying a lynch mob. I see it as authors - both published and unpublished - airing their grievances in a rare opportunity to share our side of the coin. The agent/author relationship is a symbiotic one, and the balance of power shifts back and forth throughout.

As someone above commented, we need you, agents, and you need us, too.

Hearing authors rag on agents probably feels similar to hearing agents tell us our work is crap on a stick.

Hopefully any agent reading through this thread can do the same thing we authors do when we receive a rejection - take the valid criticism and try to improve, and toss the rest.

Julie Weathers said...

If the dentist/builder/bank manager/cashier/hairdresser acted in such ways they'd never work again!--

If dentists, bank managers, hairdressers dealt with the sheer volume of unsolicited "customers" agents do, plus taking care of all the other business, they would be changing their policies also.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see the practice of sending a SASE eliminated for those agents who only take snail mail. Half of them never respond anyway, and postage is getting more expensive. It would also help the environment.

If an agent got something to his or her liking, just send an email or pick up the phone asking for the manuscript. Just think of the time saved stuffing form letters into envelopes.

Personally, I don't need a form letter if the answer is no. Not hearing anything is the same for me.

Anonymous said...

I am an agented writer who has only rarely received an email from my agent that was not completely sloppy with mistakes, both grammatical and mechanical. Since she graduated from an Ivy League school, I assume that she does everything in haste and doesn't think well enough of me to waste time proofing her terse communiques from her big important world. If I put all her crazy emails to me together and mailed them to her boss, I do not imagine he'd be pleased. But I would never do that. I will state here, though, that agents should understand that this consistent sloppiness conveys a certain attitude to an author, and not a good one. It also tends to make you want to choke when same person gives you suggestions for revisions. (I understand email is a more relaxed form of communication...but that is not the kind of mess I'm referring to in this complaint.)

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to do it, but ah well, here I am.

My #agentfail moment was thus: after following the equery guidelines to the letter, I *still* have not gotten a response. When did I query? June of last year. How long did the guidelines say? Six weeks. Yes, perhaps no response indicates no interest -- but I find that amusing because of a couple of high-profile things that would have made me worth at least a partial request at that time (and did at every other place I queried).

Further, when I talked with someone from this agency at a conference a few weeks later, they said they'd look for my query and make sure it got to the agent I'd sent it to (all queries went to one addy, then were distributed). But I still haven't heard a word.

Now of course my query could have gotten lost in the Spam filter. I realize this. But to wait six weeks and then have to do it again? No.

These are not sour grapes from an agentless writer. Three months after sending the no-response query, I signed with a well-respected, well known agent and sold in a two book deal to a major NY publisher.

My agent responds to email usually the same day. I like this. She also sends me statements in a timely manner, though we've yet to get to the royalty statement stage. I have every confidence she will do that efficiently too. The no response worked out well for me, but it still irritates me to be ignored. In that respect, I think I agree with the writers who simply want an acknowledgment -- even if it's an auto-response. No one likes to be ignored.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the crowd so much here. I'm so tired of agents who complain about how hard their life is and how they're so put upon by us stupid writers.

Yet, when times get hard and someone has to get shit on it's the writer who takes the hit. It's not the agents who decide to change their practices to be more efficient or to, god forbid, stop Twittering about how bad writers are and go back to doing their jobs.

And I would personally like to say that I think agents who say "no response means no interest" are a disgrace to their profession.

There is no other business in the world where you're allowed to get away with not responding to someone who sent you legitimate business correspondence, either by email or snail mail.

Yet agents feel like they can treat writers like crap because we'll always be there begging for a moment of their attention.

I'm so tired of how arrogant and bitchy agents have gotten. As though sitting at a desk reading is the hardest thing in the world.

There are surgeons who work in third world countries who don't bitch as much as some agents do. Seriously, though. Get over yourselves. You're the ones who control the market practically, and you get 15% of the paycheck that I earned, which I put up a years worth of work for, and yet I'm somehow beneath you and contemptible.

Look, I'm sorry if some writers don't follow the rules, but there are a lot of you guys who do some really slimy things to writers and yet we can't complain about it if we want to ever have a career again.

Tell you what, why don't you try doing a year or two's worth of work in between your paying day job and your kids and your spouse when you're fucking sick and tired and exhausted and can't even pay your medical bills even with your job and then stay up 'til 3am just to read some agent's stupid Twitter feed just so you can personalize that query letter that they won't even bother to reject with a form letter and then have a bunch of agents piss all over writers just like you and hold an entire event just to laugh at you and then see how YOU FUCKING FEEL ABOUT IT. See how professional you think those people are.

I hear over and over again agents telling writers to act professional, to be professional, but won't bother to be professional themselves.

Sometimes I wish agents would realize how hard authors work just to get to their doorstep and recognize that instead of acting like we're these hideous unwashed masses who are infringing on their time.

I don't mind treating writing like a business, but I expect the agent to do the same, and a lot of them don't.

Anonymous said...

Demand an exclusive, then after 12 weeks go by say, "Sorry the interns are behind on sending out rejections."

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the "no response means no" is the most voice grievance here, and I would have to delightfully agree.

Automatic correspondence is NOT a hard thing to do with any form of email. I mean, even if your email program doesn't offer that service there are FREE services out there that do so.

I have to disagree with those who think "no response" is a perfectly valid professional behavior because it isn't.

And to Jim: when I apply for a job online -- I usually get a robotic response of some sort saying that my application/resume/CV was received. If I go in person, there's usually a call to either say there's an interview wanted, I got the job, or they aren't interested.

IMO, that's quite simple professionalism.

Anonymous said...

I've been reading these posts for an hour, not expecting to join in, but since this hasn't been mentioned (or maybe it was and I missed it?), I thought perhaps to add something.

The "no response means no" theory - the majority of writers state frustration at this, wanting closure, something, anything that acknowledges a query. One person asked why we would so adamantly demand so much rejection?

Tax purposes. No response also gives you no proof that you're actively pursuing a writing career. You can only go so many years claiming writing expenses on your tax return until your accountant begins to smile at your little "hobby." Having something to show him/her helps.

The whole #queryfail thing. It's a seemingly American Idol mentality to find entertainment in putting people down and the more we feed into it, the more its popularity grows. Was it educational? Somewhat. At least we know what NOT to do, right? Was it professional? Not really. The cackling glee of insults with writers lining up to cheer them on only served to encourage more.

I believe all the writer comments on agents boil down to one simple thing: Respect.

If you want it, you should give it in return. Goes both ways and is as simple as that.

Anonymous said...

All time agent lows?

A big name agent who requests queries, partials, and fulls, snail mailed, but only responds to the queries (and with strips of paper.) I paid for the stamp, surely you can afford to put your form response on a full sheet of paper.

Another big name agent who rejects with a form letter and suggestion you buy his book...

gringo said...

Agents don't have it easy. Neither do writers. I'll offer a sample of observations that will get a potential agent listed on my "do not query" list:

1. "No response means no thanks" means no query. Why should I waste my time? If you're too busy to reply, then I'm too busy to query you.

2. You get 90 days. If you can't respond in 90 days, then you won't have time for me as a client. If I'm your client, and your publisher buys my work and wants a second novel within a year, they're going to get it. Giving you 90 days to respond to my query is generous in comparison.

3. Your form letter response to my query has a multiple-choice format, and you've circled choice number four. Clever. And very unprofessional. "No thank you" is just fine. Specific comments are a wonderful touch, if you have time. Save the multiple-choice rejections for romantic suitors.

4. I need to know what you've sold. This is the most important factor in my decision to query you. If you can't tell me what you've sold, then my guess is that you're not very successful. Pass.

5. Be professional in all aspects. Give writers as much information as you can concerning your guidelines.

Good writers aren't going to have many issues with good agents. I promise to do everything I can to be a good writer if you promise to do everything you can to be a good agent.

Anonymous said...

All of you need to take e-queries. All. It saves the planet, and in case you hadn't noticed, a lot of people are broke and cannot even afford the postage is takes to send out a bunch of queries.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing more CRUEL than letting a hopeful person hanging. Whether in love, in business, in the business of writing. If a person cares enough to submit, human decency and good manners say you give a person an answer.

To do otherwise is arrogant, selfish, unkind and ignorant.

IMNSHO.

Anonymous said...

I know a lot of people are concerned with all the anger and frustration in here, but I don't think it's too bad.

This AgentFail idea has probably prevented a couple of random mall shootings. I mean, better to vent one's spleen in here than to be up in the bell tower zeroing a sight. rofl.

I was a huge fan of QueryFail, but I'm seeing many of the same complaints being made about both AF and QF. I keep looking to see if QueryFail comes around again.

Problem is, I didn't see a whole lot in there that was of practical use to any but those making the most boneheaded query mistakes.

I would have liked to see a few containing more subtle mistakes. I mean, how many of us query agents with naked photos of ourselves or picture book mss containing blood-letting ceremonies or show up at an agent's office to deliver a paper query while dressed like a bunny?

So yeah, a lot of the ones posted had huge, common-sense errors that most people who are taking their medication just wouldn't make.

I think that may be the reason so many looked at QueryFail as just an agent's opportunity to laugh at the most comical queries they get. Still, I enjoyed it immensely.

But now we have AgentFail, and I have to say yeah, it does need to go both ways.

Yes, agents are busy, but so are writers. Even writers who have been published still need a day job--it's just understood that unless you blow up like Stephen King or JK Rowling, you will not be able to adopt this as a full-time vocation.

It will not sustain you or your family. So we're working our writing around real, full-time jobs, our families, and a multitude of other obligations.

Our eyes glaze over at 3 o'clock in the morning in the soft glow of a computer screen, just trying to get that one scene right before we have to jump in the shower to go to work.

Any small changes an agent can make to ease the burden and stress on both sides of the fence (like auto-responder--which needs to be set up once and then never again, or accepting e-queries--which helps agents, writers, and the planet) will make a huge difference.

Hopefully some agents/agencies see some of the posts in here and decide to tweak a few things.

Sure, a lot of us are angry, but that's par for the course when you're talking about human beings venting. I've seen a lot of snarkiness on both sides. Strip that all away and see if there's anything constructive underneath.

Some posts are tempered, some are irate, but many make some damn good points.

Anonymous said...

Thorns in my side:

1. A rejection letter that states the following: "I'm sorry to say that this is not a book but would make a great article," instead of 'this isn't for me' (not the same as this isn't a book!).

2. A reputable agent who hyperactively asked me to fed ex my proposal and said he would read it right away. Two days later, he opened the conversation this way: "I am so disappointed. I am just so disappointed. I am still trying to think about why--but I'm disappointed." A little personal--let's leave that language for parents and partners.

3. A rejection letter e-mailed from a Blackberry

4. When a rejection letter and a 'please send ms' e-mail arrive from the same agency. Can you and your intern get it together, please?

Anonymous said...

In the hopes I won't sound arrogant, I think there's something to add here that so far, no one has mentioned.

Some background: I am a teenager. I have a (very legitimate) agent. I have won contests and published in small venues. When my manuscript went out on submission, it was universally rejected. Nicely, helpfully, with requests for revisions, but still rejected.

I gave up everything for my book. My friends, my education, my health, you name it. After two years and a dozen revisions, as selfish as it sounds, I am pretty damn tired of hearing "keep your chin up and keep trying" from everyone and their ugly stepbrother. I am the shell of the writer I could have been, because I was openly lied to by the people around me who insisted I was good.

So rule number one for me: do not think for one second that just because a person is of a certain age that you are inclined to "be nice" and lie to them about how very, very hard it is to get published. I would have saved myself a lot of pain, loneliness and therapy had someone just told me the truth.

Anonymous said...

I just signed on with my first agent, and she's been wonderful, getting my work to editors of five major houses within a week. She returns calls and emails any updates. Very professional in every way.

You should know I did not query any agent who participates in the internet bashing of writers, even if it's done in the veiled attempt at "humor." I have no desire to line the pockets of anyone who is mean. I don't care how powerful they are. It's easier to deal with nice people with class.

I'm sure those agents couldn't care less about one less query letter. But if I get lucky and sell my book for a million bucks, that agent just tossed away 150k by being cruel. Posting such feelings on the internet might seem cute and give them feelings of superiority, but eventually it is going to cost those agents serious money.

Pretty expensive habit, this Twitter thing, huh?

Anonymous said...

Sweat-shop agent: “I sit on my bunghole reading queries. This is worse than picking cotton.”

Dig a ditch or clean toilets for a few days then get back to your coffee and queries and tell us how hard you work.

Agent whore: “Hey, you suck, but buy my books and learn how to make agents like me think you don’t suck as much as you, in fact, really suck.”

Mullet agent: Compliment up front, rejection in back. “This is wonderful, but, unfortunately, there’s just not a market for it now.”

Mullet agent’s cousin, or, the un-Christopher Columbus-like agent: “Thanks, but even if you had the talent of Maupassant, we’ve never discovered, then nurtured and produced a star writer.”

Gravy-train agent: “Get a platform. You know, prove that you can sell your book, so we can help you, uh, sell your book. For 15 percent.”

The agent of Oz: “DID…YOU…NOT…READ…MY…GUIDELINES!!!!!! ARGGGHHHH, WHIPPER SNAPPER!!!!!!”

Agent PSYCHE!: “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, our client list is full and we are not taking new writers.”

Uh, care to put that on your site before I send my query?

The fitting agent: “Unfortunately/sorry/regrettably . . . this just doesn’t’ “fit” what we’re looking for.”

Does this query make me look fat?

The Bono/Cher/Madonna agent: “Pass.”

“Your crap is not the kind of crap I sell” agent: “You know, author, this thing you submitted to me is really bad. Now, look at the roster of writers I represent. You’ve never heard of them and never read them. Now, doesn’t that make you feel worse?”

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Kudos to: Anon 2:07 4/04 Don't forget the elitist snob agent...Maybe you should try getting THIS published? Anonymously, perhaps, but WITHOUT an agent! LOLOL

Laura J. Wellner (author pseudonym Laura J. W. Ryan) said...

Twitter is for the birds...what a hen house of nonsense, good grief, grow up. I only read through it for a few seconds, and felt too insulted to continue. If you dislike writers so much and think we're idiots, get out of the business of being agents.

Without writers, you wouldn't have a job.

My complaints:

I don't like wasting my time researching or querying agents who claim to represent literary fiction when they actually represent commercial fiction.

I find it disrespectful when agents have a partial or a full who don't respond in a timely manner.

I'm simply tired of agents telling me my MS is too long for a first novel...yet, The Time Traveler's Wife and The Historian are beefy tomes that make excellent doorstops happen to be best sellers.

The latest excuse is the economic downturn...yeah, whatever.

Might as well self-publish, which I have. Now that my book is in the grubby hands of readers it's tainted. Oh well.

You better look out, the barbarians are at the gate.

;)

Anonymous said...

Agentfail 1:
Recently, an editor had taken three of my manuscripts to her editorial meeting, where she told me they were well received. I was using this heavily in my pitch, of course.

I pitched to an agent at an agency that was having a query holiday. I was told that my three manuscripts could not be read due to the deadline for the query holiday.

Blink blink. So, I'm getting serious interest, but you are going to prioritize people that you probably would have rejected based on their query -- because of a rule you made up yourself. This tells me something about your business sense.

Agentfail 2:
At the time, I was starting out my query with the information about the editor's interest. One agent rejected my query -- not the book, the query. She wrote back that I should visit her website and query again based on the extremely strict guidelines she explained there in minute detail.

I dunno, it seems to me that the info I provided was relevant, but what do I know?

But I feel very lucky for both these agentfails. Knocked two off my list.

I ended up with three offers of representation and a very shiny agent, so it worked out excellent well.

Anonymous said...

An agentfail I've seen very often, with multiple people:

"I loved the partial. Send me the full right away! I'd be really surprised if we don't offer you representation."

Surprise.

Agents just don't seem to be aware the effect this has on us. Please don't use words like love and representation unless you're offering representation. Please.

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, michael gavaghen, but some of us work as writers, and some of our work is the prose for marketing material. When you say
I don't know anyone who pours heart and soul into marketing copy. Wordsmith the hell out of it, sure. Take pride in its cleverness, absolutely. But why be insulted when someone rips into your marketing material -- especially when they don't attach your name to it?
you make me want to puke. "Wordsmith"? Feh. That's the pseudoverb people who can't write use to refer to the act of writing. Try having some respect for those of us who put bread on the table by crafting original, insightful, dare I say well-written advertising/marketing material. I've been in this business for 20 years, and only people who can't do what I do make fun of it.

Justus M. Bowman said...

One time an agent rejected me. I imagine he is still laughing with his motorcycle gang.

Anonymous said...

Sure they want to find the BIG author but having said that, none of them want to take a chance on a new author who might be, could be, probably will be, big.

Antonia Woodville, this statement is patently and provably untrue. I know dozens of writers who got an agent without prior publishing credits. It happens every day.


And Anon 11:23, 4/03...I'm sorry, but this:

I think we all just need to accept the fact that the publishing industry doesn't exist for the benefit of writers, it exists for the benefit of publishers and agents.

is seriously one of the dumbest statements I've ever seen anyone make.

The publishing industry exists to provide books to readers. Period. It exists for the benefit of readers, you know, those people who buy and read books? The industry runs the way it runs in order to provide those people with quality entertainment.

Mags said...

I don't generally mind "no response equals no" policies too much because I reject them as a ludicrous concept in this age of spam filters (and if I've send you a $.42 SASE, forget it, buddy). If an agent doesn't respond within a few months, I re-send. What are they going to do? Call the query police? Ignore me extra, super hard?

I do mind no response to requested materials very, very much, however. You are in posession of something that is mine, something that is important to me. No, I didn't send you my only copy, but come on.

That said, I consider these (and many others of the common complaints listed here) to be agentannoyances more than agentfails. I've really only got two I consider true agentfails.

1) The agency currently referring it's rejected queriers to iUniverse and AuthorHouse, which is mentioned a few times here already. We're talking about a big selling agency (recent seven figure deal), that is *was* considered reputable. Their new practice displays a deep and disturbing disregard for writers as an entity IMO, suggesting that if they don't think they can make a buck off a writer's work it is useless, that no other agent or publisher could ever find any worth in it, and thus the writer should just take it out of everyone's way by paying for self-publication. Respectfully, bite me.

One of their agents was considering two of my manuscripts, was in regular contact and seemed very enthusiastic, and had promised to be in touch about them within a day or two of this bizarro business beginning. I emailed her for information; cue hemming and hawing. Agentfail. Capital F. I withdrew both books from consideration.

2) An agent who requested the full manuscript of my first book in May 2008 (after reading the first 60 pages, so she knows she's at least cool with my writing). No response to status queries, not ever, but a WHOLE lot of Twittering.

I love agents who blog and Twitter. I'll take inside info anywhere I can get it, and I'm grateful. But when the volume of an individual's Internet activity displays page after page after page of Tweets, with very little down time evident and includes multiple references to being bogged down by requested materials (back to May, no less) and unresponded to queries, I start thinking Internet addiction. Should this agent finally get to my manuscript and love it, is she actually going to power down and submit it to publishers? Perhaps, but it's hard to take that gamble, and it does rankle. Agentfail, but with sadz and some concern.

I feel strongly about these two, but I enjoy the Authorpass/Agentpass entry more. I think I'll go post another good experience or two. I've got lots to choose from.

(Okay, my word verification came up "deall." Is somebody funning me?)

Susanne said...

If an agent states the policy as "no response," grow up and accept that. You may not like it, but it's the agent's right to do so. That said, I don't like the policy, but I can chose not to query such an agent. It doesn't make the agent bad, just not a fit for me.

It occurs to me, however, that if agents took a few seconds to distinguish for the hopeful writer - "your query really sucks" (my first few did - I'm humiliated!), "your idea is absurd," "your writing is awful" or "this is okay/good/well written but not for me," it would not only help the writer but the agents. If I got a few "your query really sucks" I'd take a look to see what I could do to improve and I'd stop sending to more agents until I did. Wouldn't that cut down on the crappy queries that agents receive and therefore take up less time? Perhaps a universal rejection letter with some check boxes? If my plot, writing, etc. are awful, I'd like to know. In the 20 or so queries I've sent out I've gotten two "interestings" and one "intriguing." I have no idea what this really means. It's interesting but there's no market? It's intriguing but I find your plot hard to believe? Your characters unrealistic? Or maybe, as stated, none of the above and they simply don't think it's right for them.

In other words, if an agent has taken the time to read the query, would it really take that much longer to write a few words to point the author in the right direction, even if it's to stop writing (tactfully put, but clear)? I'm going to keep sending queries but that may be pointless; I don't know. To me, that is the frustration. I've not had an unkind or rude reply to my queries (most have been incredibly responsive) but I do feel frustrated, not that the agents aren't responsive or doing their jobs, but that it seems like it could be even better if a bit of feedback were provided. Just a crazy idea!

Anonymous said...

I thought that the agents who participated in the whole query/fail debacle acted unprofessionally. Talk about tacky! I lost respect for all of them and one of them happened to be my agent. It probably doesn't hurt to remind agents (and editors) that without writers most of them would probably be umemployed.

Anonymous said...

Still puzzles me why writers must follow all of an agents' guidelines, turn in a near-perfect query and ms., wait patiently for a reply (often months)--and then act grateful to even get a form rejection or personal feedback.

But when an agent is rude or slow or makes any kind of mistake, they shrug it off with, "We're too busy" or "We're only human." Well, guess what? So are we writers. Why don't WE get a break?

Anonymous said...

I'm responding so late, probably no one will notice, but I did want to say a couple of thing:

1) Naming names is very tough because for every person whom this agent has treated poorly, there is at least one other who has found great success through this same agent. At least, that's my experience. Absolute Write is a great place to learn of this -- go there and search agent names. You will find many posts from some of us who willingly share our experiences (both good and bad) with agents -- and you'll see the wide variety. Yes, there are a few agent/agencies who are mostly negative; but most are a mix.

2) The best way to get blacklisted and never make it anywhere in this business is to say something in a forum such as this about using names. It doesn't matter if writers are correct in their assessment -- it simply comes across as whining or disrespect or sour grapes.

I think much of this problem would be solved if more publishers would open up to unagented queries. I've had every book I've submitted requested by publishers -- I haven't gotten a contract YET, but in my experience, editors are so much more open to strong writing which doesn't fit the mold (which is the most common reason I hear from agents on why they don't want to take me on).

Anonymous said...

I guess this is more opinion on my part. I am new to this industry and am quite frustrated by the way agents work.

Here is where I am a little put off by agents in general. Yeah, agents are busy, much like us all. How can agents not respond to a query at all, or pass on one without really knowing the heart of the story that someone has wrote? Im sorry, I think querying is a joke. I think that a three page sypnosis should be the minimum guidelines for submissions and kill a one page query all together.

To prove my point, I was the #1 salesman for 2 major companys for ten years. The reason why, is because I wasn't dissmissive or already had an assumption of what an individual was all about by the first few lines that came out of their mouth. I went further into details with a client and found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There is more to a story than just a few lines. I know we all know this, this is common knowlege, but still, a one page query is the majority of submittal guidelines because the agents today are too lazy to go the extra mile and actually read a few chapters of a story. I'm sorry, but if there was a nice chunk of change in it for me as an agent, i'd sacrifice the time and read everything that came into my hands as to not miss a genuine opportunity instead of automatically putting my finger on "the reject button." I realize that some agencies request sample chapters along with a query, but come on, if the query doesn't grab them, your sample chapters are in the trash.

Im sorry, but in my opinion, 80% of the books on shelves today are crap. I have read books from writers who have never been given the chance to get published that tell a story a 100 times better than what is sitting on shelves at brick and mortar stores. It is a shame to know that these stories are not published at all because the author wasn't good at querying. Yeah, I am one of those few that thinks Twilight sucks. Sorry, I know there are better stories out there that have went unnoticed.

All in all, I have completely accepted the fact that whether my story is good or not, I will never know. Because so many like me cant even get a foot in the door because we do not know someone who knows the agent, or we have never been published anywhere, or we just cannot query. While majority of the good books will never get published, I guess people like myself will have to wander through the slushpile sitting in every brick and mortar store across the country hoping to find one recently published story of interest.

That's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

I'm really late to the game...but I've been pretty lucky. I've had only one 'bad' experience with an agent.

A year ago, I spent a bundle of hard-earned money to have an agent critique a partial and synopsis as part of a charity auction. I thought it would be very valuable to have a professional eye help me improve as a writer. I was sorely disappointed. Not only did the agent NOT live up to his/her part of the bargain. The agent outright refused to complete the critique--the synopsis was never critiqued even upon my request--on the grounds that they would be repeating themselves and went so far as to chastise me for spending so much on a critique.

Sadly, I received absolutely no positive feedback--even after asking for feedback on what I might be doing right.

It was an exercise in dealing with overwhelming negativity and unprofessionalism. I was disappointed, but I also learned that this agent is someone I will never query.

C'est la vie, right?

:)

Anonymous said...

I have an agent and my problem is whenever I contact her about progress, work, things I've submitted her answer is " I am busy, get back to you." Then I hear nothing for months. Plus I never get a straight answer when I ask where proposals have been submitted. I have problems with that.

Shouldn't a good agent communicate with the client and be open about where things have been submitted? I just want to know she's actually doing something for me...but she's always so busy. I don't know.

I also have issues that her website does not list any of her clients or books that she has sold. All the other agent sites I check out list their authors and the many books they've sold.

My contract with this agent is almost up so I might be in the market for someone new. I just wish I could find an agent or agency that handled fiction, non-fiction and poetry so I didn't have to shop around for several different agents since I write in all three genres.

Julia said...

Wow. Just wow.

I hope you folks who hate the "no response means no" respond to every junk mail, spam, and junk email with a suggestion of why you aren't going to buy or use the product or service listed.

And heaven forbid that if you request info from a company, you let them know that you received it and give them a critique of their materials.

Yeah, sure you do. This is why things like #queryfail exist. Too many writers think they are owed something.

If you send out unsolicited queries, you get the same response as someone who does mail marketing.

An agent's first priority is to his/her current clients. Not to read the slush pile.

Mira said...

I just want to say that this was a brave thing to do - and a smart one.

I suspect you may be getting flack in the industry for doing this - if so, that's unfortunate.

First, letting people get their feelings out is the first step toward a healthy relationship. Also, you can't solve a problem if you don't know it's there.

But more important, in the long picture, this post may helped the entire profession of agents re-evaluate their practices.

This benefits not just authors, but agents.

In the transition to e-books, agents may become only one of a writer's many options for negotiation.

Your peers and superiors should be thanking you, Jessica, if they are not already. This was a smart move.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

Very few authors hate agents. I know I don't and I refuse to comment anonymously.

Authors and agents need each other. We're supposed to be professionals.

But somewhere agents got the idea that they have the RIGHT to be snarky and make fun of authors. It's not professional and it's not fun for authors.

Sure, I've had my share of bad experiences with agents who don't keep their word. But that hasn't been my typical experience with agents. But I am disgusted and upset at the large number of agents who took part in queryfail and each and I will certainly hesitate to query them.

Anonymous said...

I received an email rejection the other day...within thirty seconds of sending the query.

Auto Responder Rejection = #EPIC AGENT FAIL

~Susan

Anonymous said...

Okay, hundreds have commented on the major annoyances, but here's one that bugs that no one has mentioned.
It is the response:
Well written, good story (something nice), but I don't think I can sell it.
Make up any fancy title for yourself you like, a sales person is a sales person is a sales person and first and formost should have a sales person's instincts.
I'm willing to believe there is more to it than what that one sentence implies, but no agent ever goes into detail. When it is blogged about, it always goes with the individual likes and dislikes of the agent. If that is the criteria, then why would anyone want that person as an agent? Their sales ability is limited and flawed.

Anonymous said...

I hate agent websites that are dry and anal about writers submitting work with typos and then you look and you find that they have typos on their own website!

Oh, and there is a California agent who got a query from me and she sent me a response that said, WHAT IS IT THAT YOU WANT FROM ME? I AM CONFUSED. Uh, it was a query for a book with BOOK QUERY on it. How hard can it be to guess.

I checked her website again and she had this huge picture of her and her husband in frilly dress in front of a very LOUDLY colored curtain.

She then emailed me about two weeks later DEMANDING that I answer her.

Anonymous said...

Confusing submission guidelines and then complaining when people don't submit correctly.

Not updating information. I lost count of how many agents respond that they are no longer accepting submissions and yet don't put that on their website.

Agents who are no longer there. This happened four times. If you no longer work for an agency they should get rid of your name and mail address.

And worst of all, thinking that because they like something that it is great. I have heard agents say that they decided to represent a client because they had a perky smile or made them laugh??? I then checked and found that this agent only represented beautiful, young women. Yet NOTHING was put on the site for that. I am sure plenty of males got rejected and didn't know that there was an age and gender thing going on. They could have PUT that on their site.

Anonymous said...

i agree with nearly all these comments. however, none of this is really very helpful. it's just bitching/venting/kvetching. we live in a competitive world in an even more competitive media marketplace. if an agent doesn't respond, too bad, move on. query a bunch of them and don't hold your breath. we writers, while sensitive folk, are also gutsy just be be doing this. let's show a bit more of that. just... move... on. in the end, the non-responding/too-curt/snarky agent loses. granted, my current agent hasn't failed me, but even during the hellish queying process, a time at which i look back and shudder a bit (knowing i may very well be back on that pavement again) i didn't think anybody owed me anything. at all. nothing.

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Anonymous said...

I am way, way past a day late and a dollar short, but heregoes:

When I ask a question, I expect a response that doesn't include talking to me like an adolescent with issues. Say you've already answered, show me where to find it, and be done with it! In other words, when I ask something on a blog, it is rude to give out snippy advice and say it is ridiculous to even bother asking in the first place, when that is the sole reason you claim to have an agent blog!

You don't know me well enough to be rude when I ask you for simple advice you think all writers should know. Some of us don't have access to all the info. Ever think about that? Probably not.

If this is a business you claim to love, treat it as such because it goes both ways. Listen, authors talk too and we are much louder and more bold than some others in this business. If we're talking about the good, you better believe we're talking about the bad too, and more.

You don't have to like me and I damn for sure don't have to like you, but respect is a two way street here, and if you want it, you'll give it. Otherwise, I will happily take my manuscript elsewhere and stop wasting your precious time. Because of course, mine means nothing. Especially the time I spent writing the novel.

All agents are different, I get that. All information varies from agency to agency, coast to coast. I get that too. If I can, why can’t you?

I also ditto the no response means no. That policy should be scrapped for good because it’s pure and utter crap and in my opinion, laziness on the agent's part. You have a lot of clients and your job is tiresome. I get it. So is mine.

But, I’m not lazy when sending out info to my clients, even if I am not interested, they get something. A simple 'Thanks but no thanks' automated reply is better than nothing. A line or two words tops, I don’t care.

How do we know you even got the material so that we don't make a mistake and send it out twice? Especially when you don't take time to email us back when we asked if you received it. Ever.

Agents ask a lot, but we only expect to get what we give. If I’m crude, I’ll get it back, no doubt. But if I ask a respectful question or want more info on you and your agency, don’t cop an attitude, because damn it, I don’t care who you are, you’ll get it right back!

You say you're people, so are we. Treat us as such and not like the dimwitted imbeciles you think we all are. Again with the levels of professionalism. Get some! And to the person who posted about junkmail we receive vs. queries? Please. That's a load of crap. Queries aren't junkmail to agents. It's a way for them to read new material they might want to represent in manuscript.

Junkmail is junkmail. Period. And if I want to delete something I DIDNT ask for, then I will. But when an agent is accepting queries, I expect a response.

And now. I need a drink.

Anonymous said...

I just got an agent. What chaps my hide is the 8 or so agents with fulls who never responded, not even after I told them I had an offer.

Agents, I spent a half hour hunting through my email to find our threads from 7 months ago so that you'd have the proper context to know which manuscript has garnered interest elsewhere. Would it have killed you to hit 'reply' and write 'Congratulations. I'll step aside. Best of luck to you', seeing as how I saved you the trouble of reading my 400 pages only to be told by me that you're a little late to the party?

I almost wish now I hadn't bothered so that I could just laugh when the rejections rolls in, like Stephanie Meyers did

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