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).



1 – 200 of 313   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

I don't know why this topic fills my heart with a little flutter of excitement. Thanks in advance for this catharsis.

Number one agentfail in my book is reserved for agents who do not follow their own procedures (listed on their websites). It is not rocket science to update a website (I guess it must be for some). But, if on an agent's website, it says they respond to all queries or lists some protocol for how their process works and then they go against that in their dealings with authors, giant, epic agentfail.

Kimber Li said...


1) I crossed one agent off my list after I overheard her disrespecting the opinions of readers. How could I trust her judgement?

2) I crossed another off after observing disorganization. I'm a stay-at-home, home educating mother of four. I have to uber-schedule my life. It'd drive me insane to work with an agent who can't keep up when he or she only has a pet to care for.

3) I've crossed off agents after observing them displaying a business style incompatible with my own.

I'm sure my query letters will not be missed.

Joyce Tremel said...

I have to say my only complaint is the "no response means no" that so many agents seem to use now.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Joyce. How hard is it to set up an email signature that says "thanks but no thanks?"

Anonymous said...

I think, that if an agent requests a full, and especially if you live overseas and have to snail mail it, they should -

1) keep to the guidelines on their website on turnaround

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.

Kathleen MacIver said...

Hmmm... I actually don't have too many. Agents try to defend their side and authors try to defend their side. But the truth is, no matter what it may sometimes look like, agents DO want to find a fantastic book, or they wouldn't be agents.

And because there are tens of thousands of aspiring authors, an author has no choice but to make their story so outstanding that an agent will notice it, out of the thousands, no matter what their day looks like, etc.

That's just the way it is, and the only way to change it is if we writers somehow agree that 99% of us will stop writing so the other 1% can have it easy. :-)

The thing is...most of the agents willing to listen to an agentfail aren't doing anything we'd complain about, just like most of the authors learning from queryfail are authors that, if they didn't already know what they learned, they probably would soon, simply because they're willing to learn and look at the other side of things. Knowledge is power, and the more you understand about the environment that you query is landing in, the better equipped you are to make that query stand out.

But that said...there are only a few #agentfail things that I've happened across. One agent requests e-queries, but there is no email address on, no email address on the main page of her site, no email address on the submissions page of her site, no email address on her bio page, etc. I finally used high-tech googling techniques and found it on the bottom of her screenplay submissions page. #agentwebsitefail

When it comes to the "no response means no" policy. I don't like it, but I can accept it IF the agency sends auto-replies that it's been received. I have a big problem with neither being sent, 'since emails do occasionally disappear into cyberspace. I would think that an agent that offers neither is just asking for multiple re-queries, "just in case" the first four got lost. Why would an agent do that to himself/herself when an auto-reply can take care of it?

Anonymous said...


The saying 'an agent works for you'.



In theory.


How difficult is it to have an auto-responder so that IF you don't respond, I know you at least got the email and it was not a glitchy thing?

I wiped one agent off my list for rude comments on her blog. No thank you, I have children, I do not need to be talked down to by you.

I wiped another off because I don't care how cute her dog is, post a bit about the industry every once in a while and not just when you make a sale.

I added one based on her professional answers to a rather snippy commenter.

Stop telling me how hard your job is. Life is hard. Being a writer/agent/doctor/soda salesman...Work sucks. deal with it.

You(general you as in some agents) complain writers don't follow the proper submission procedures. Posted WHERE? There are places who have different procedures listed for the same agent (agentquery, websites, P&W, etc)Authors take a risk when they pick one over the other and if they do email for specifics, they run the risk of being fodder for the next laugh-at-the-dumb-idiot blog. Take some time and make sure everywhere states the same thing THEN you can bitch.

Adhere to your own guidelines. If you say you will respond to a partial in 12 weeks, RESPOND IN 12 weeks. Even if you are behind, drop a fast email telling writers that. Not difficult. You expect professionalism, give it.

I had an agent request a full with a time line of two months. Three months later (see? I waited an extra month)I emailed to ask about a status check. I was informed they never received it. Told them, yes, they received it(I knew from delivery confirmation). Oh, okay, we got it but we lost it so yeah, we will just pass. *bang head on desk* and this was a MAJOR AGENT--HUGE. Totally disgusted me.

So after all the #agentfail, I signed with an agent and so far, we work well together. She is very professional and I have yet to see her be rude to anyone online. That says a lot. Still feel like I work for her but hey, I can deal with that.

Anonymous said...

RESPOND to all REQUESTED material!! Form rejection is better than no response.

If you can't make your normal turnaround time (again, for requested material), drop me an email.

There. Big breath and release. I feel better....

a writer said...

I wonder how many of these comments are actually going to be from people who HAVE agents, and how many are going to just be judging agents based on the speed/length/level of detail in their rejection letters. Which is kind of like judging the food at a restaurant that was closed the day you went.

This is how agents can fail you:

*Submitting your book to the wrong editors at the wrong imprints. #researchfail

*Insisting on retaining foreign rights then never acting upon them.

*Letting all leads of subsidiary rights languish in some big black hole.

*Never responding to a client's emails or taking months to read and respond to a client's new manuscript.

* Letting years -- YEARS -- pass before agreeing to submit a client's manuscript, while the market changes.

If you aren't a fan of the client's work, fire them and let them find a new agent. If you aren't going to take advantage of a client's work, let them go elsewhere.

Spy Scribbler said...

I haven't had much experience with agents. I have a list, and agents get moved on and off, but it's mostly because they're just not someone I'd like to work with. (I like to pretend I have plenty of choices, LOL!)

I like how Janet Reid's passion for her clients shows through. And I like how positive and enthusiastic you are. A friends' agent told him she "hated" his latest book, and I've never gotten past that, LOL. I'm a musician, so criticism is easy-peasy, but there are just some things that just don't seem productive or respectful.

In the end, it's like most things. We all want to work with people who make our jobs more fun. Or remind us, in some way, of why we love the written word and books so much. Enthusiasm and passion rock the world.

Anonymous said...

1) Keep in touch!

2) Communicate! Give us an idea of WHEN you'll get back to us on requested mss.

3) Provide some kind of FEEDBACK on requested mss. even if it's just one sentence or a few words.

4) Set DEADLINES for yourself and stick to them. Give us an idea on how long it'll take to read a partial or full, then honor that commitment.Writers and journalists must adhere to strict deadlines--why can't agents?

5) Don't accept queries or request mss. if you're too busy to deal with them.

I'll repost my biggest complaint here: I just wonder why agents continue to solicit submissions, attend conferences and request mss., then don't bother to reply to queries or REQUESTED material?

Maybe overworked agents need to take a break and quit accepting and soliciting queries and mss. if they're too busy to read them. After all, writers don't get paid by the hour either and our time is just as valuable. Just a thought!

Joseph said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm writing this from the perspective of a published author. Here are some things I'd like to see agents do.

1. Send out royalty statements in a timely manner. I'm been with two different agencies and have always had to nag for the statements.

2. Read client material in a timely manner and give client an estimate of when you'll read. It should never be longer than a month. Agents expect editors to read their submissions quickly. Give clients the same courtesty.

3. Don't multi-task when you're talking to clients on the phone.

4.Be respectful of clients. In many client-agent relationships, you'd think it was the agent who was giving the client 15 percent, instead of the other way around. Be patient with client's questions. Don't patronize them or try to "protect' them from bad news or be short with them.

Anonymous said...

Show the same respect and courtesy to writers that agents expect. e.g. Don't make rude or snide remarks about writers or their work, especially in public forums like Twitter.

That reminds me, don't say you're too busy or backed up to read queiries and msss., then spend all your time Twittering, etc.
I'm appalled at some of the rude comments agents make freely on Twitter for all to see...If you have such contempt for writers, maybe you need to get a new job?

Remmeber, these aren't directed at you Bookends ladies.
Your blog is great, Jessica!

Story and Logic Media Group said...

I would like an opinion of an agent who does not have a website.

Anonymous said...

Okay, this is an April Fool's joke, right? Right?

Because there is no way I'm going to fall for this.

A writer can't win, here. When writers complain about agents, especially about specific agents, it either comes across as sour grapes or like we are being divas. How fast can a writer get a reputation as "hard to work with?" I'd say in the space of one blog comment.

I have an agent. We get along fine. The end.

Anonymous said...

Ditto what a lot of folks said above: ditch the "no response means no" in favor of a form email. Time it would take to hit Reply and paste the text: 10 sec or less.

Also, making sure web submission guidelines are up-to-date. I've queried agents who say they rep my genre on their website, only to receive a rejection because... they don't rep that genre.

Lastly, probably the biggest #agentfail for me is also about genres. I've heard many agents say, "Do your research. Find out what I rep, and only then should you query." Then I've heard many agents (some of the same ones!) say, "But... If you've written a great story in a genre I don't usually rep, send it anyway, because all I'm really looking for is a great book, regardless of genre." Argh! #epicagentfail

Anonymous said...

Request a full (all 300+ pages in hard copy) from a query letter and then simply send the SASE letter back a week later with an 'it didn't grab me like I thought it would'.

Sending a partial would have been much cheaper and easier to send from home (and saved me a 1/2 hour in the post office line with a cranky child).

Kathleen MacIver said...

"A writer" is right. #agentfail remarks would be totally different from the "I've had a bad agent" POV.

And... this ISN'T an April Fool's it? I mean, I haven't posted anything detrimental, but you just can't help second-guessing EVERYTHING today. ::smiles::

I don't consider this #agentfail, but the last anon does have a point.

Agents and their websites say, "Look at my website, see what I rep and what I've sold, to get a taste for what I like." I get makes sense.

But then, we learn that sometimes we get rejected on a perfectly good book, because it's too similar to what they already have. Comments on AbsoluteWrite also show how quite a few writers have gotten representation from agents who they almost didn't query, because it was too different from what they already rep.

I get that, too... it was "different" for that agent, and different is often good.

But that leaves us...well...pretty much querying everyone, regardless of what their website says they like! I don't mean submitting things that the website says they don't rep (although their site often doesn't agree with P&W or AgentQuery). I mean when it comes to taste and preferences within genres.

We query those whose preferences seem right up our alley, just in case they're not "full" in that genre. Then we query those who list something similar or close to our genre, but aren't an exact fit, because many people find enthusiastic agents that way!'s not an's just one aspect of the whole "finding an agent" thing that leaves us feeling like our brain is going 'round in circles!

Anonymous said...

Agents have a hard job. How many jobs out there get what is the equivalent of dozens of salesmen cold-calling to sell them their product, with each one feeling they're owed a response? Sure the job has some perks, but I wouldn't want a job where I had to deal with irate, disrespectful people on a regular basis.

I've not personally had any very negative dealings with agents, because in my opinion, most are pretty decent, professional people. There are exceptions out there of course, just like any industry. I hear/read the stories often enough, doing things like some of the posts above have mentioned. Sometimes these kinds of things are inadvertant, but I'm sure 'agentfail' applies to some as well. Anything that smacks of unprofessionalism is what probably bothers me the most. Not doing what you say you will do, being up there at the top of the list. If agents say response time is 30 days, then make sure it's 30 days. If the agent is behind, post on their site they are behind. People are quite capable of checking. Have a site. I don't understand why agents don't invest in doing this. A basic one is easy and cheap to put up and maintain. Guidelines and turn around times can be posted here with little effort.

The sort of agent I would never want for myself is the one who has the attitude they know how to write your story better than you do. There's a fine line between working with an author and telling them how to practice their craft. Condescending attitudes would be a no-no. Again, these things all relate to being a respectful professional. Most agents are. I honestly have more complaints about writers who whine about agents without any apparent knowledge about the industry.

Anonymous said...

When an agency sends you a letter saying "Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to read [TITLE OF BOOK] I regret that..."

Proof reading rejection letters and entering our titles is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Dear Agents I Crossed Off My List,

I know you couldn't care less that I won't query you. But in case you feel even a little bit curious about why I did, let me say you might want to watch what you say on your blogs and twitters. Snark can be funny. But many, many times you crossed the line--to rude and unprofessional.

I also DON'T care about your pets, love life, or your religious and political beliefs. I just don't. It's a professional blog about publishing, remember? An occasional mention--okay. But seriously...

And speaking of blogs--it's never funny to refer to a querying writer as an idiot. Ever. No matter how much of an idiot they were. And while we're on the topic of name calling, it's never okay actually. So you might want to consider not doing it because you did it one too many times for me.

I also find it offensive that it took you thirteen months to send a form rej on a query. But you had time to twitter. A lot. And hang on forums. A lot. And blog. A lot.

It wasn't cool how sloppy drunk you were at that conference. Or how you confessed about the "issues" you've been having. They have psychologists and medication for that. You were also unaccountably rude at that pitch session. You were. You made another writer cry, and that was very uncool.

Let's not forget those of you who said you were interested in repping a fellow writer, but they just needed to do some revisions. Then they never heard from you again.

And I know your interns and assistants are underpaid and this may be a bit unfair on agentfail day, but their actions do reflect on you. I also crossed off some of you because of your intern who cc'd (not bcc'd) 200 other writers a mass form rejection or the one who sent the same form rejection for the same query over and over and over or the one who lost my ms three times or the one who responded asking for my full but couldn't remember which agent in the agency had req'd my ms. Yeah.

These are just a couple of the reasons-but let me say, I did keep quite a few agents on the list. More than I crossed off. Because most agents do a great job. They come across as professional and respectful on their blogs.Their enthusiasm for their clients and publishing, and even books, comes across loud and clear. Their egos appear to be in check. And hey, they responded and were organized. That's huge. I kept every agent and agency who could do all that on my list. (Like BookEnds.)

Anonymous said...


1) No response means no, because it's really so dang hard to just send a five second, "Not right for us," response.

2) Not reading a client's new MS for 3,4,5 months OR bothering to let them know you've even recieved it.

3) When the writer inquires about the aforementioned MS and its reading progress, they are met with a snotty email expressing how busy the agent is, as if this whole having-to-read-your-client's-books thing is now suddenly an annoyance.

4) Complaining how overworked you are and then going on vacation for three weeks at a time without sending out the MS first. Because, hell, what's three more weeks of waiting to submit, when you've already taken 5 to read the MS?

5) Not responding to emails. WTF?

6)Having other in-office people read the MS and make bizarre revision suggestions -- that you then heartily agree with -- when you haven't even flipped through the MS AT ALL.

7) Not bothering to follow up on submissions because apparently that's beneath you.

8) Giving up on a MS after a round and a half -- for this book you said you loved and would find a home for no matter what -- for no other reason than you're tired of it.

9) When asked about a direction a new MS should take, you give vague, impractical suggestions, and then don't respond to emails for months and months until you finally decide the "relationship" isn't working out for you.

Anonymous said...

Well, okay, if you insist...

I have to be honest, most of my grumbles about agents come from how they represent themselves online. The ones I have actually dealt with on a one-on-one basis were professional and courteous. Maybe because I don't bother to work with the ones that seem obnoxious online.

My list of grievances - or, why I didn't query you and why I never shall...

1) It took me 18 months to write that novel, it'll take you 30 seconds to respond to my query. Every girl knows that no means no, but nothing means... nothing.

2) If you're so important that you think you should "teach" writers how to query on Twitter, why do you spend all your time twittering about television?

3) Yes, you have submission guidelines, but if you're going to turn down work because of font size, perhaps you need to find a company with a better optical plan.

4) Query letters are NOT literature - please stop acting like they are the most important part of a submission. It's advertising copy - and no guarantee that the author can pen a solid 100,000 word book. There are a lot of people that can write stunning advertising copy. Most of them shouldn't be writing novels.

5) Exclusive? Are you kidding me? I haven't hired you yet. And you haven't agreed to rep me, yet. So no, I'm not going to let you hold my ms. for 8 months while you're twittering or whatever it is you do.

6) Creating art requires the ability to expose the self and plumb the depths of human pain. Please stop telling me not to take it personally. Sending you my manuscript is more personal than a visit to my ob/gyn. If you refuse to acknowledge the intimate dynamic of this transaction, stick to repping diet books or go into accounting.

That's all I've got. And boy did that feel good!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid if I started slagging on my agent, I'd never stop. I like her as a person, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to dump her. It's been too long, and there's been no hint of a sale in the making (she's a respected AAR agent). I think she's too busy with her other clients to deal with those of us who aren't making her any money.

Anonymous said...

I just wrote off an agent. He's had my full for 6 1/2 months (uploaded to a form, which status changed from pending to reading, so I KNOW they got it). The agency's website sounds soooo nice, like we understand how difficult waiting is, we'll be better than those other agencies....nope. The website says follow up if you have no response on a full in two months. Did. Did at three months, at five and six. I used two different email addresses, in case spam ate one, sent to the agency email (per guidelines), tried the agent directly. NEVER received a response.

And according to Absolute Write, I'm not the only one with this problem, not only with this specific agent but the entire agency. So a definite #agentfail

Anonymous said...


(I agree with the others that have mentioned this...)

*Complaining how overworked you are and then spending massive amounts of time on Twitter and every other blog out there while clients' MS and also requested partials are left unread month after month, after month....

*Agents who attend every conference, ALA, Book Expo, ComicCon to feed their ego, but still manage to view writers as either idiots or something that should exist to make them money.

(If they only knew how some of them are talked about (privately) among writers they might check their egos at the door. But until then, please, continue on like you are a bad-ass. Newsflash: That snickering behind your back isn't awe, it's laughter.)

Anonymous said...

(psst--any way we can also have an agentawesome day were we can give props to those agents who went above and beyond?)

Anonymous said...

OK, more 2 cents: Agents say they can tell within 1-5 pages if a ms. is worth reading. So why in hell hold onto it forever? FIVE months is a bit long to wait for "the call," esp after reading a partial in two weeks.

I think agents are just being greedy when they won't reply to requested msss.: It's like the guy who's "not that into you," but he doesn't want anyone else to date you. Sound familiar, ladies?

ps/As an outspoken writer and journalist who isn't afraid of mouthing off, I'm so glad to see you writers having some BALLS for a change! Even if we're women! LOLOL Loving it!

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:04

Me=#editorfail. Oh, I've done that! I feel godawful, but I've done that. I like it but I don't LOVE it, but I'm not sure, maybe I'll love it next week when I'm not so busy.
I am shamed.

Anonymous said...

Everyone else has covered a lot of bases very nicely, so I'll limit my comment to one general gripe. And this goes out to all agents AND editors.

Take yourselves off the pedastals you stand on and stop acting like we should feel privileged that you allow us to bow and scrape to gain your attention. Without us, you would have no product to sell, therefore no income. To say it very plainly, without us you are nothing. Yes, I do realize that we are the very culprits who elevated you to this exalted status but I still think you should be mature enough and have enough conscience to realize where the butter for your bread is coming from. We work long (months at least for each unit) and hard (pour out our blood, sweat, and tears) so you will have a product. Stop treating us as though we're idiotic drones who should feel privileged if you even acknowledge our existence. Writers get little enough respect out there for the work they do. The very least you can do is act like you're the one being paid for a service and not the other way around.

Thanks, I feel better. And now my blood is up so I think I'll go write.

Anonymous said...

My biggest complaint with agents is that most seem to have a superiority complex. And the "I'm busier than everyone else on the planet" attitude. Every agent whines about how busy they are. The rest of us don't complain to our clients (or even our potential clients) that we're soooo tired and busy. I'm an attorney at one of the biggest firms in the country; you better believe I'm busy. You won't hear me whine about it though. And I don't use being busy as an excuse not to do my work.

Anyway, that's all :)

Bill Greer said...

I'll add my two cents to web sites that aren't up to date. An agency has five agents and the "About Us" page lists two? If you don't have the time to keep your web site up to date, do you have the time to market my book competently?

Personally, I like the agent blogs that mention pets or music or other personal preferences, and I don't have a problem with agents twittering about non-agent issues. I prefer to see an agent as a person, a flesh-and-blood emotional being like the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the Anon editor who admits to holding onto mss. too long...
How about giving us a chance to fix the problem? Many of us (like myself) were also once editors, so why not try to work w/ us and give us some direction and feedback on what's wrong? Just give us a clue!

Then maybe we can both let go and move on without regrets, whether as "partners" of just friends who parted ways.
i.e. Get off the fence already!

Anonymous said...

Don't make me send you a SASE in my mailed query if you don't intend to use it. Ever.

I've had several instances of following the snail mail only agents' guidelines to the letter, only to get NOTHING in the mail saying whether or not they even got my query.

I can handle the email noncommunication when it's a 'no,' but when I spend 42 cents and an envelope and get nothing? Rude. Inconsiderate.

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's another for the pile. If an agent's website or lists the agent as "actively seeking" material or new clients and the agent publishes her stats at the end of the year and list that she only took on... say two new clients, then she really isn't "actively" seeking, perhaps, "moderately" seeking or "partially" seeking, or even "barely" seeking new clients.

Dara said...

I guess I'm along the same lines as many others where I'd like to see an auto response to say the query email has been received. With the thousands of queries an agent gets per year, I don't expect a personal response. But I would like a simple auto response so I wouldn't have to fret and worry that it got lost in cyberspace. :)

Anonymous said...

1) Agents that never tell you what is going on with your MS. You don't hear from them for four months, finally email to see how things are going and discover, what THAT book? They've decided to stop sending that book out on submissions three months ago.

Gee, you think you coulda told me? Afterall I'm only the WRITER!!!

2) Agents that blog/twitter online about how stupid writers are that don't follow submission guidelines, yet THEY don't follow their own guidelines either -- say they'll respond in two months to a query, it takes them six; they say they'll respond in a month for a partial, it takes them four. If your submission guidelines are so important, why don't YOU follow them?

3) Agents whose mood changes on a dime. Fatnasy is hot, write that! I've never sold it, don't know the market for it, and have no contact with the right fantasy editors, but yes, spend a year writing a book I have zero chance to sell for you...

Anonymous said...

Two of mine were already taken but I'm repeating them:

*Insisting on retaining foreign rights then never acting upon them.

*Letting all leads of subsidiary rights languish in some big black hole.

*"Forgetting" to send the edited MS to the interested Hollywood agent.

*Submitting new MS to four Publishing Houses then shrugging and saying, well, don't know what to do now.

Kimber Li said...

I also agree with those who mentioned the 'no response means no.'

4) I've crossed off agents who don't respond to queries, email or not, unless they're interested.

If they provided an automated response to let me know the query was received and that they will respond within a specific time frame if interested, I'm cool with that.

Anonymous said...

I curse to hell the agent who never resonds -- I mean ever, even after sending emails inquiring about status, these emails sent many months after sending requested material -- to a requested full.

There are no circumstances, including never being published, under which I would ever submit to this agent again.

Another one is an agent who pre-shops your full to editors to get a feel for the marketibility of your ms before rejecting it. Of course, this agent doesn't tell you he did this, just leaves you or your agent to discover it on your own.

I wish there was a way for agents like these to be blacklisted. (Yes, I know about available lists of scammers, but the aforementioned agents have legitimate sales and they don't charge a fee.) They give the business a bad name. The name I choose to give them is scumbag.

Anonymous said...

My agent would tell me agent would be making changes and send them back to me (on my proposal). Weeks, months would pass. This happened several times. When I would get back in touch to say 'Where are your suggestions," agent would say "You need to revise." I would revise, then agent would say "I'll add my changes and send back to you." Weeks, months would pass.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, if agent had simply wanted to fire me, should have done so. Instead I received email saying "Unless you move this project along, I need to drop you." WTF? Two-way street and all that? I think agent just wasn't crazy about project but didn't know how to tell me.

Anonymous said...

#agentfail: A top-notch agent who claims to love your manuscript and sends it out to ten editors, and then disappears off the face of the earth when the rejections come in. If you don't want to represent me any more, for God's sake, just SAY SO, instead of giving me the silent treatment. I'm wearing my big-girl panties.

Anonymous said...

Twittering all day about the dogs in the office or how much you need a coffee - then racing each other to get through all your slush piles or inboxes. Um, I put a lot of time into my queries, thank you, and would appreciate it to be taken with equal respect I give you for reading your submission guidelines. #agentfail indeed

Sharon Gerlach said...

My only complaint is some agents are so darn popular it takes ages for them to get to reading the partial they requested because they're so backed up.

However, that being said, it took less than 24 hours from the time I queried for the agent I'm waiting on to request a partial. I'm willing to give her time to mull over the partial because I want very much for her to represent me.

I think this business requires a lot of patience on all parts. I've heard some of the things agents have to read. It's not an easy job.

Anonymous said...

Being vague - "I will accept anything with a strong voice" etc etc blah blah blah. Is that true? If so, don't reply with "I don't represent (insert genre)" in your rejection letter, when so clearly on your website it says you do.
Make up your damn mind.

Anonymous said...

Some of the incest in the industry is a bit sickening...agents repping other agents' novels, same for editors...
Be a writer OR an agent OR an editor. It's already hard enough for writers to break in, without having to compete with agents and editors for limited slots.

Anonymous said...

I just have one thing to ask of agents.

Please respond with a Yes or No in a timely manner (say 4 weeks). It only takes a few seconds to say, "Not for me." And we will stop clogging up your inboxes with status queries.

Anonymous said...

With my first agent, I didn't hear from her after that first fateful phone call when she took me on as a client. After two years of ignoring all forms of communication she sent a form letter rejecting my novel. Surprisingly she's still in the business today.

My second grievance is when an agent suggest he responds to all query's yet leaves you hanging. After resending three times, me thinks not.

My third grievance is agents who feel they are above the writer and thus hate all query's and wish to reject as many before lunchtime and perhaps turn it into a game. Let me offer you a clue people, without writers you can't afford to EAT lunch.

Anonymous said...

As a writer, I don't mind the no reply policy to queries if there is no interest. What does bother me is when agents who have this policy respond to queries to say they are not interested.

This has happened to me twice recently. When I saw who the emails were from (well respected agents that only reply if interested) I opened the email wondering how many pages I'd be sending only to see a thanks but no thanks message.

Anonymous said...

General statement: I LOVE form rejections. Seriously. I would rather have a form rejection any day than none...That said, I love specific feedback more :)


Agent requested partial.
I met her personally, she remembered me from the title and said it was nearing the top of the list. We briefly discussed my current rewrite and she said to send it so she could read that instead of what she had currently.
I sent it.
She acknowledged it.
5 months later I sent a follow up.
No reply
Then, I got an offer from another agent and sent her another email,
No reply
Then I gave up. Well, on her. :)

The least an agent can do when they've requested pages is respond with a form rejection.

Anonymous said...


**When Agents say time and time again "I am looking for something different, edgy, boundary pushing and new" then when you send them exactly what they are asking for, they reject you. I see it as every agent is looking for what will sell quickly, not what is on the horizon for readers. I'm an author yes, but I'm a reader as well. If I have to see another book about a supernaturals that solves crimes, or another werewolf book with distension in the pack or another "kick ass heroine in a love triangle" I'm going to scream!

Agents, if you say you want something new, different, edgy, boundary pushing, then give the books that are sent to you with those qualities a chance. If you have never heard of it, then try it out.

**And the whole no response thing? Yeah, that has to go. How are we to know if you even receive the submission, let alone want it?

**Don't judge us by our query letters. Just because we cant write a good query letter doesn't mean we cant write a good book. Queries are by far the worst thing we have to do (Synopsis is a close second) and if I'm going to be rejected because of my query whats the use of trying to find an agent when they wont ever see what the manuscript is like?

**And another issue: Agents that respond with no salutation, just a No, not for me, and no name. total Agent fail. We took the time to query you properly, you should take the time to reject us properly. We all know your busy, but we are too, and we treat you with respect. we want the same.

Anonymous said...

I didn't have any specific problems when I was querying agents. Sure, some don't reply, but I wrote them off after two or three weeks of silence anyway and always had several queries cooking at once.

*Too much* twittering, facebooking, blogging, and hanging out on message boards bugs me. I realize that an agent can't be actively making calls for her client ALL the time, but too much time on the internet give the impression of slacking off. I'd hate it if my agent did that.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:29 nailed it!

Until you've written a few books yourself, have some respect for those who have completed manuscripts, no matter how marketable they might be. It's a lot harder to do than it looks.

We really don't care what is on your iPod or what your favorite reality TV characters did last week. We care how many books you've sold recently and what kind of books. If you have only sold three books this past year, don't blog as if you were the World's Greatest Agent. If all you've ever sold are $10K vampire romances, don't lecture us on how to write.

If you only read queries you will find a lot of authors who write good queries. Maybe you can find them jobs writing back cover copy, but you'll probably miss out on a lot of excellent novels. Writing a novel and writing a query are two different things. All you tell us when you brag about how you only read queries is that you are very, very new to the business.

One last thing: many of us authors are the ages of your mom and dad and have been reading and writing books since you were in diapers. Some of us, self included, have been SELLING books since you were in diapers. Don't lecture us about how to write if you haven't yourself written more than a self-indulgent blog. We understand that you might not be able to sell our latest book, but if that's the case, that's all you really need to tell us.

Anonymous said...

AMEN to Anon 12:19 -- I have sooo been there.

Which of course, goes along with...

Expecting writers to jump through hoops for you when you can't even run your own business properly. If you don't want to submit my MS anymore why don't you be an adult and tell me? Instead, you don't answer any of my emails for weeks and weeks at a time. When I finally do track you down, you say you're busy and will get back to me later, and then you don't until I have no choice but to f-ing fire you. Passive aggressive much?

Heather Wardell said...

1. Not responding.
2. Not responding.
3-infinity. Not responding.

I'm fine when I send an e-query and get a "we got it and we'll respond if we're interested" message right back. I'm less fine with a "no response equals no interest" agent because I don't know if it got there (and an especial 'thanks' to the agent whose guidelines read, "If you haven't heard from us in XX weeks, we're either not interested or we didn't get your query."), but I do understand it to some degree.

What has removed several agents from my query list is utter silence after requesting materials. I have several partials and a full out from last May. I have sent a few emails (and I do mean a few - I'm not emailing every week or anything insane like that) and have received no response. Even "I'm drowning but I expect to get there around April 2010" would be better than silence.

I know that query-reading isn't exactly an agent's top priority, so this might not be entirely fair, but I worry that someone who can't be bothered to respond to me would also not be bothered to respond to my questions if I became a client. Worse, could I trust this person to respond to an editor who's requesting more of my book?

I agree with the anon of 10:46am April 1st, about the possibility of an #agentawesome day. I have some lovely ones (*coughJanetReidcough*) that have kept me going and it'd be nice to be able to give them credit!

Anonymous said...

Writing is personal. Please don't think rejection isn't personal.

Please don't ask me to take it on faith that your online submission form actually gets my material to you. I actually know enough about computers and online glitches to know better. Please don't think I'm a psycho stalker if I really, really want to make sure you got that blob of words that represents the last year of my life.

All this for the hope of a nice deal. What's that, $20K for that aforementioned year of my life? Too bad I'm not a plumber.

Oh, and BTW, that ain't gonna stop me from writing. It's just gonna make me sad sometimes.

CuTRis said...

I understand that agents are often overwhelmed by the number of people who think that they can write a book. That said, of the agents who respond to inquiries, a significant number seem to have a superiority complex. I’ve even had one respond with insult and inappropriate language. I may not (yet) be a best-selling author, but I’m neither an idiot nor am I looking for abuse. Actually, no response is better than rudeness. I’m currently trying to find an agent/publisher for a historical novel. While it is fiction because I created the characters, I’ve gone to great pains to ensure that my timeline and scientific facts are accurate. One agent commented that my novel didn’t sound like fiction and suggested that my trees should talk! How would this help when I want realism???

What I want from an agent:
1. Honesty
2. Decide about my writing after reading it.
3. Don’t assume you’re better/smarter than I am.
4. Use electronic submissions instead of paper and mail!
5. Give me a chance.

Heather Wardell said...

After posting my comment, I went on to read more of the others, and was horrified by:

Another one is an agent who pre-shops your full to editors to get a feel for the marketibility of your ms before rejecting it. Of course, this agent doesn't tell you he did this, just leaves you or your agent to discover it on your own.
(anon, 12:14pm)

That seems utterly unethical to me. I CAN see talking to other people with the agency, of course, but to take it outside is wrong, IMNSHO. Anon, if you see this, I would love to know who this is so I can be sure not to query him. (You can contact me via my web site.)

Anonymous said...

Man, this is depressing to read. I understand all the frustration and anxiety -- I've got both, and plenty of 'em; but surely there's a better way to complain, even bitterly, about self-important professionals because they're not... acknowledging OUR importance?

Sorry, I had a hard time with the whole #queryfail concept, and #agentfail doesn't strike me as a useful way to even the score. (Aside from blowing off steam, of course.)

Crawling back into my cave now.

writer said...

Wow...quite a listing so far. My main reason for taking an agent off my list (along w/the whole agency) is because I pitched to her at a conference, but I didn't even sit down 2 seconds before she says, "give me a minute to finish my knitting."

She'd brought her knitting w/her and proceeded to waste 2 minutes of our 8 min time by refusing to look at, talk, or greet me. I knew right then she wasn't for me.

Anonymous said...

This has been mentioned about 50 times already, but I'm hoping the number of complaints about this will mean *something* to agents who are guilty of this.

Respond to requested materials. Please. Please! I have had a number of requests for partials and fulls, and had ONE agent get back to me. ONE!! Out of 7 or 8. And when I have emailed those agents holding onto my material (a year now for one, six months for another, 8 months for another, etc.) just for an idea of when I can expect a response, I get complete silence from "your" end. And these are good agencies with blogs and websites and promises of "prompt responses."

Don't complain about lack of professionalism on our part for the smallest mistake when you are too caught up in your own apparent perfection to acknowledge YOU make mistakes, too. Pretty huge ones.

I've been in publishing of one sort or another for nearly 20 years now. It's not pretty anywhere and the egos are so overblown that thinking about some of my experiences nauseates me. I write because I love writing. But I am fast learning to hate the business. There are agents out there whom I respect completely and would spill blood for their representation (small amounts, but still...). Yet as I go from one blog to another, one twitter page to another, I'm often ready to give up not because I don't think what I write has potential but b/c I'm not so sure sometimes I want to be a part of this industry after all.

So start showing us at least a portion of the respect you demand for yourselves. Some of us have been working much longer at our writing than you have been working at your agenting. For that matter, some of us have been working longer at our writing than you have even been alive.

Anonymous said...

Be professional on your blogs. I don't mind swearing, or linking to funny things. But when you go on a rant talking about how members of a specific religion are narrow-minded bigots and stupid, that is not acceptable.

Not only did I take that agent off of my lists, I turned down one of her co-agents, simply because I was worried that office would be a toxic environment.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:48 - I also took not only that agent, but the agency off my list for (what I'm assuming) is the same blog post.

You want us to read your blogs. Know we will and we'll make judgement calls from them.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:27:

Sorry, but that's ridiculous. Unpublished (and many published) writers need day jobs to pay the bills. I'm a teacher. I chose that because I wanted summers off to devote to writing. Choosing to be an editor or agent is a job choice, and one that helps hopeful authors learn more about the business. Saying an agent or editor shouldn't attempt to also be a writer is silly.

However, I will agree with you that it's annoying when they claim to go through the same hardships that other writers do. I stopped reading a blog because the assistant argued she didn't have it easier than the rest of us. I mean, sure, the agent has to like her work to take her on as a client, but she never had to rise from the slush pile. Her novel was placed right on the agent's desk. The blogger refused to concede the point, so she lost me as a reader.

Unknown said...

It literally... literally takes fifteen seconds to hit reply and say "Thank you, but I am not interested."

Fifteen seconds. You are not too busy.

HWPetty said...

This is just a wish list for me... not necessarily a "fail" list. I'm only in the submission phase now, and every agent I've dealt with has been very professional and helpful.

1) If you're a "no response means no" agent, then give me a time limit. "If you haven't heard from me in six weeks, the answer is no." I can deal with that, and cross you off my list after six weeks with no problem.

I prefer a form letter to a non-response, but I get why some people feel they have to go that route. Answering queries is a lot of work that agents don't get paid for.

2) Time limit on requested materials too, please. If you haven't gotten to it in the two or three month time period, fine. But a simple email works to keep me from going into anticipation convulsions. ahahaha

I get that it's just one more stack of paper on your desk... and again, reading that doesn't necessarily make you money. But the waiting is the worst part of submissions. And just a little communication will keep us from sending status emails aplenty.

3)Accept email submissions. I will exhaust every agent who accepts email queries before I start on the snail mail tribe. Reason? Because in this technological age, it concerns me if an agent insists on clinging to the old school ways.

How are they going to feel about ebook rights and tech-heavy marketing campaigns? Will they not want to keep in touch through email? Will it always be snail mail and phone with them?

Maybe this is unfair of me. But, while it may not be a red flag, it is a little bit of a sign of what's to come.

4) I also give preference to any agent who blogs. Over and over I read that the author/agent relationship is like a marriage. How am I supposed to get to know you if I can't find interviews or blogs by you?

And in my research there's only been one agent who I've crossed off my list because of what I read on their blog... but that's because their writing was so convoluted and confusing in every place they ever wrote anything (even in interviews!), that I knew we wouldn't be a fit. I need someone straight forward, for sure, and someone who can explain things in a way that I can understand.

Maria said...

Keep guidelines and email addresses current on the website. If you really do not take email queries, please don't state on the website that you do--and then appear online or at a conference and say you ignore them.

Only attend a conference if you are looking for new material--do not attend if you really don't need new material and intend to read something only if a celebrity approaches you. If you really aren't looking for new clients, lie rather than say, "I am not taking queries, but I think I have a lot to share with writers. I'm here to teach."

If you do attend a conference, do not tell writers you only rep "erotica" because you find their reaction funny and it makes your colleagues laugh.

Please do not list email addresses on your website and follow it with the words: "Clients only." We know that clients and editors use other email addresses other than the ones for subs and queries. You really don't need to have separate columns with deletion threats for those misusing those marked as "clients only." (I realize you may want to keep at least one email listed in case an editor or client is trying to reach you, but it doesn't need to be said. If you are getting too many emails to personal addresses, try redesigning the website--it could be that people are not finding the query email or they think it is proper to use the one that is most obvious. This often happens when writers want to query a particular agent at a website--they find her name and email and use that. Listing both email address with one marked "Queries" is a lot better than "This email is not for you, please use the other door.")

If a potential client hands you a business card, even if you don't want it, have no intention of keeping it, take it. It's just a business thing; it does not mean you have to marry the potential client. If you are handing out business cards to editors, make sure you have a card to hand to potential clients and anyone that asks. (It does not have to be the same card). For heaven's sake, if a potential client asks for a card, give them one or let them write down whatever contact info you prefer. Please do not say, "I don't give my card to unpublished writers."

As others have posted, try not to complain about being overworked. Most of us have day jobs. Most of us feel pretty overworked also. If you are accepting queries, please make us feel welcome or just state that you are not accepting them at this time. Paragraphs about the fact that you get 50 queries per day and are very busy...make it sound like you really don't want queries. Some descriptions go so far as to make it sound as though you really don't want to bother with writers at all.

State reply times and stick to them within a margin of error. If you find your margin is too difficult at certain times of the year, blog about the delay or update the website to reflect that. Most of us have to work with deadlines. Most of us understand delays, but all of us love communication.

If you are running behind on queries, subs or anything else, please do not blog and say, "The industry is slow. Get used to it."

It is more professional and helpful to post query letters that work, than to post those that do not. There is a fine line between posting a bad query for educational purposes and posting it for laughing-stock purposes. Even if the agent has good intentions, the entire posting can go downhill quickly in the comments section.

Thanks for being open-minded and caring enough to ask. I love agents who blog; I love agents who talk about what they are reading as well as what they represent; I love agents who talk about the industry. I love agents who talk about other agents they admire and say why--because after all, it shows strong networking skills.

Jade said...

Agentfail... AGENTFAIL...

Here's an email that I received back from an "agent" TWO YEARS after sending them a query letter.

In the meantime, my book had been published by the South African imprint of Random House, had the German translation rights sold in hardcover, and been shortlisted for Best First Book in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize - Africa region. And yes, I'm sorry to say, I did send the agent a very rude and bitchy email back!

Here's the letter:

Thanks so such for querying us, but we are unsure that this premise would work in this tight market. All said we would encourage you to do what many of our clients have done prior and self- publish with a reputable, and recommended, publisher. This is a new age in publishing, and as evidenced time and time again, neither The New York Times bestsellers list nor major booksellers discriminate against the self published. Oftentimes, authors choose to get proactive in order to build a sales record and boost their
chances of being picked up.
I would like your permission to pass along your information to someone who can help you get started on your path towards getting published. If you are ready to become proactive about your career we will let them know more details about your manuscript and how to get into contact with you. There are a lot of publishers that seem to have gotten the better of new authors, the two that we refer you to are not of that ilk, they have had a number of successes.
("agent" name deleted)

Anonymous said...

What drives me crazy is the optimism and openness high-end agents project about the prospects of getting seriously considered by them--they need to be up front about the fact that any given query has about a 1 in 10,000 chance (quite literally) of resulting in a signing.

Anonymous said...

I want my agent to let me know what they're doing. They work for me, in part, and I'd like regular progress reports. At the very least, I'd like a monthly or every other month email summarizing what they've done on my behalf.

My first agent sent me copies of every rejection letter and email they received for my stuff. I can take it. Some of it was even instructive. While we eventually parted ways, I always knew for sure that he/she was actually working on my behalf. I didn't only have to take it on faith.

I hate simply sending something that I've worked my ass off on, then never hearing a word until it is finally accepted somewhere or my agent has decided it isn't going to fly. I consider my agent and myself to be a team, and a good team ought to let all the teammates in on what's going on.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Jessica, Thank you for letting us vent. You're a brave soul to open up the floodgates to these raging rivers! And thanks to all of the agents out there who are conscientious and respond in a professional, timely manner (you know who you are!).

I think it's sad that most of the responders have felt the need to remain anonymous. We really should be able to speak our minds freely and without fear of being blacklisted (hence my "open" comment). Is this The McCarthy Era or 1938 Germany, or is this 2009 USA?

It's clear we writers have pretty much the same frustrations. "We'll only respond if we're interested" seems to be number one. We spend months, sometimes years of our lives working our you-know-whats off to create works we're deeply proud of and that we have great hopes for. We respect you by following your guidelines to a "T." Is it really so hard to simply send out a "thanks, but no thanks" e-mail? Or to respond in a timely manner to requested material?

The biggest thing that seems to be missing from this side of the aisle is respect. Simple, common, professional courtesy.

Kim W said...

Mine is the same as many I think:

1. Get rid of the no response means no. Like others said, it's not hard to do a quick response.

2. I know this won't be possible and I understand the reasons why; however, I'd love a short line or two about why the story is "not for me". Is it the plot, I have others on my list that are similar, I don't like vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, or lord do something else reasons. Telling me that their taste is subjective and what might not work for her/him might work for another... blah, blah, blah. I'm aware of those that have to fight back when they here why so that means someone like me who would be grateful for feedback and not fight back get tarnished with the same brush. Sigh. Still makes me wish we could get more from agents as to why not.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the agents weren't trying to be mean in things like #queryfail, but I find it hurtful and cruel to post responses to a writer's efforts when the writer hasn't agreed to public rejection. Plenty of people will volunteer to be rejected publicly (ask Evil Editor or QueryShark or the late great Miss Snark)--there's no need to subject aspiring writers to that without their consent.

(Full disclosure--I am fortunate in that, by the time #queryfail happened, I was already represented, but I had queried some of the agents who participated and when I saw the Twitterfeed, I felt like I'd dodged a bullet.)

Other than online shenanigans, my only complaint is the lack of response to requested materials. As someone with a "real job," I understand that things may take a long time, and I'm willing to be patient. But I still expect a response.

Diana Castilleja said...

I don't mind my name here. I have nothing to hide. *shrug*

My #agentfail happened in '07. A con request, sent with no post of receipt. Knowing this was the norm, I accepted it. Waited the expected time frame-6 months, but tacked one more to make it 7 to be fair and inquired. I got no answer. Ever.

It does seem to be the largest complaint.

And I agree with the Exclusion comment. Don't ask for it unless you (genearalized) mean it, have sincere STRONG interest in the story and would like to see it on the shelf as much as we would.

Website updates would also be wonderful. I received a very terse response to a query after confirming on the site and extra sources the person I wanted was still with that agency. Um. No they weren't, and it was my fault for not knowing that.

That is the extent of my experiences with agents. Not horrendous, but not encouraging either.

Rick Daley said...

First off, praise: I love agents who blog. You provide free information, and a forum for aspiring writers to network with our peers. You provide critical information on the rules of the game, almost like a teacher blogging the answers to a test. Thank you.

I haven't encountered any agents that fail on the scale that some queries fail. They are out there, as proven by - but those are a different breed.

Now my wish list:

- Auto-replies to email queries acknowledging receipt, and stating the standard turn around time for a response.

- Replies to manuscript submission (full or partial) letting us know when we should expect to hear back, or an appropriate time to follow up. We don't want to annoy you (it just looks that way) but we are an impatient lot. It's easier to sit on our hands and wait if we know how long that wait will be.

- A contract for representation would be nice, too.

Anonymous said...

Someone else mentioned about agents wanting something "new, different, edge, boundary pushing." But then you give it to them, and they say, "It's good, but can you rewrite significant parts of it so it'll look like every other book that's currently selling so I don't have to work that hard to sell it?" Geez. Gamble once in a while. And break a sweat. If you already think it's good, it's good. Someone will buy it.

Another is agents blogging/tweeting about drinking or wanting to drink or how they've been driven to drink by all of the authors who want them to be their agent. You don't have to be a Girl Scout or a Boy Scout in real life (and who of us is?), but if you want to be viewed as a professional who can be trusted instead of some silly sorority girl, keep your substance abuse issues out of the public eye.

Participation in #queryfail is automatic #agentfail. I refuse to query any agent or agency whose agents participated (yes, guilt by association--sorry). Luckily, the instigator posted a list of agents, editors, and publishers on her blog:

Anonymous said...

Don't make promises you can't keep. Don't sent me an email saying you'll be in touch first thing Monday morning about a manuscript that you've had for months, and then take weeks or months to get back to me.

I followed up on a query with one agent whose website said she responded to everything within a certain timeline. She sent me a very nice, apologetic email, that she somehow missed it and would read it "right away." Never heard from her again.

I know people get busy, but you're better off not giving me an ETA if you're just going to ignore it. The waiting is really hard on writers and when you promise a date to look forward to...well, that's just torture. I'm not talking about "expect an answer in 2-4 weeks." I mean the personalized "Hey, this is great so far...I'll be in touch by the end of the week!"

Anonymous said...

Agent requested partial. I wait and wait. And waited 2 months past stated time on website to query on status. Queried and next day instant rejection.

Found out that if you query on status that's it's an instant rejection. That is an #epicagentfail and #professionalbehaviorfail.

Anonymous said...

For all you writers out there w/ bad agent experiences, why not NAME NAMES? How in heck will we ever know who to avoid if we don't stick together and refuse to submit to these jerks? That's one fast way of emptying out their inboxes with queries from "idiot" writers (as CL so nicely put...) They're not afraid to insult writers--why not EXPOSE them for their poor communication skills and rude behavior?

C'mon people--this is our chance to show people what they really are like--unprofessional jerks!

Anonymous said...

I think most writers will agree that a query does NOT do justice to what they've written, nor will it ever. Nathan Bransford opened up his submissions to include part of the MS because of this, and I appreciate that.
But wouldn't it be nice if there was something MORE even? This isn't a particular agentfail, but I think the business is too close-minded with the thought that the ONLY way to find books is through queries. There has to be another way. Writers will be all for it. How about the agents? I think not. Let's not try anything new, it may take an extra 5 seconds out of our very busy days.

*Btw, BookEnds - Thanks for opening this up. I have great respect for your company.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:35 - I agree, out them! Do us all a favor!

Diana said...

It's been said already, but I'll say it again:

I just want a response to my query.

Nothing fancy. "No, thanks." is perfectly great. I just need to know you've received my query, and you've made a decision.

My gut feeling is that if you're so overwhelmed that you can't handle this basic act of professional courtesy, then you're probably overextended as an agent.

Anonymous said...

I actually really really like it when agents talk about their personal lives on their blogs, because then I get a better idea of whether I would enjoy working with them.

And it is a bit mean to expect them not to have any personal life at all. We all procrastinate, I'm procrastinating right now!

But I do think agents should be more careful about what they say on their blogs. The blogs I follow religiously are very informative and polite but I have encountered extremely snooty agents. And the ironic thing is that one of the first things that writers are advised about is maintaing a good image online so prospective editors or agents wouldn;t find something dodgy if they try googling them.

Another thing occured to me as I was reading all the agentfail posts. I think almost all writers want to get some manner of response to their queries and don;t even care if they get a form letter. That's because writers realise that agents have a lot of queries to get through and just not enough time for personal responses. See, writers are lovely considerate people.

A LOT of agent expect personalised queries. They get annoyed if the they see a whole trail of email addresses next to their's, or if their names are spelt wrongly. Not to mention generic addresses like "Dear Agent". They want to see their names, and they want to see it spelt right. I never realised just how incredibly unfair that is. And so freaking privileged.

I always thought agents were perfectly right to expect such personal attention, because obviously it's only polite. But the thing is,writers have to query widely, and that means sending massive amounts of emails out. I think its a bit hard to then make fun of writers who fail to send a highly personalised query.

Hmm I know for a fact that Miss Reid is perfectly fine with non-personalised queries. More agents need to be as understanding as her.

Anonymous said...

I think it's sad that most of the responders have felt the need to remain anonymous.

It is sad, but it goes hand in hand with this business. Agents can show their butts to the world. An author makes one comment and are blacklisted. Nothing they do can be unprofessional according to some.

The need to post anonymously comes from the superiority complex that others have mentioned. The sad thing is I don't think agents/writers started this vicious circle.

Now to my gripes:

I don't care how busy you are, it shouldn't take a year to respond to a query. Just a query. Not a partial. Not the first five pages included, but a QUERY. One page. Heck, at the most two paragraphs of the blurb. A year?

If a writer took a year to respond on anything they would be written off. And that's the way it should be, but you better not say that for fear of being blackballed.

Lastly, if "you" requested a full I think we've gone past a form letter. I'm not asking for revisions. Or deep insight, but "Thank you for considering our agency" is just poor form.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

An agent responded to my query with a very personal connection to my manuscript. She read the requested full and responded in a reasonable amount of time with a nice rejection. Overall, not a bad querying experience...but then a few weeks later, she sent me a form rejection. Because what's better than having one submission rejected TWICE?

I'd like an agent that is a little more organized than that (not to mention more organized than the one who lost all of her files - including client files - in a computer crash. Backup?)

Anonymous said...

The whole, follow our guidelines, but we'll read any story if it's well written, drives me nutty.

Sheila Deeth said...

Favorite dislike for e-queries is "no response means no." So how long do I wait till no means no, given that "reply in 6 weeks" usually means 12?

Favorite dislike for snail-queries is the "If you sent a stamped addressed envelope we are returning..." letter, sent in the stamped addressed envelope. They could at least have two form letters couldn't they?

Anonymous said...

Agentfail is when you receive a photocopy of a photcopy (slightly off center) of the agency's canned response. Looks dreadfully unprofessional.

Agentfail is when you get a canned response to a full manuscript which the agent requested.

Agentfail is when the agent loses your stuff TWICE and you have to keep resending.

Agentfail is agent arrogance.
A potential customer might be the lifeblood of the agent's business.

Anonymous said...

Looking down/being impatient with new writers is always a turnoff. Also the "no reply is no interest" rule. I don't mind form rejections but a reply is common courtesy.

We know agents are busy, but when we take the time to query or email an agent, all we ask are 3 seconds for a "no thanks".

Anonymous said...

"No response means no."

What if no response means your email got sucked in by the spam filter? Or got lost behind the desk? I got a response that simply said "I'm sorry, this isn't for me." It wasn't even personalized, but I sure appreciated the verification that my query was received.

Anonymous said...

**And the whole no response thing? Yeah, that has to go. How are we to know if you even receive the submission, let alone want it?

**Don't judge us by our query letters. Just because we cant write a good query letter doesn't mean we cant write a good book. Queries are by far the worst thing we have to do (Synopsis is a close second) and if I'm going to be rejected because of my query whats the use of trying to find an agent when they wont ever see what the manuscript is like?

**And another issue: Agents that respond with no salutation, just a No, not for me, and no name. total Agent fail. We took the time to query you properly, you should take the time to reject us properly. We all know your busy, but we are too, and we treat you with respect. we want the same.

Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes!

Form rejections are not my ideal; if given the choice I'd prefer personalized so I have the opportunity to improve but I understand the need for them. You're busy, you get a million queries in a day. But can I get a PROPER form rejection for the love of god? When I receive an email with no signature, no punctuation, no salutation, nothing but "not for me" you have no idea how tempted I am to reply with, "thank god." After that, I don't want to work with you anyway, and why would I? If you're unprofessional with me, who's to say you aren't with editors as well?

And when I sold that very same book you so rudely dismissed, entirely on my own, guess who didn't have to share her royalties? Guess who didn't need you after all?

Yes, we know there are more of us than there are of you. We get it. But you know what? YOU need US, too. Start acting like it.

Twitter. If I could plant a cyber bomb in Twitter and destroy it forever, I would.

Oh, and agents becoming partners in publishing companies? EPIC. FAIL.

Anonymous said...

Give me a form response: this just isn't right for me, etc.

I normally query one letter at a time, wait for a response, and then move on to the next agent. Lately, I've been bypassing 'no response' agents since a response just makes my life easier . . . and it's all about my life being easier. : )

Seriously, how difficult is a form response in a world where agents are blogging and twittering and doing whatever in electronic mode?

Anonymous said...

I wasn't going to comment, because I didn't think it would make any difference. But Janet Reid just wrote a post urging writers to participate in the discussion. What the hell.

Like so many commenters have already said, getting a response, any response at all, is crucial. You have to put yourself in our position. You've all applied for jobs; what's it like to hear nothing? How do you know where you stand? Nathan Bransford answers queries within a day, often within an hour. Is it so hard to answer within a month???

My opinion of an agent PLUMMETS when she doesn't bother responding to my query. And in case you don't know, aspiring writers all network with each other, and share notes, and some of you (not Bookends; this is generic) are universally vilified for the way you handle slush.

We forgive a janitor who adopts a "keeper of the keys" mentality, because his self-esteem needs boosting. But a literary agent? With a college degree?

Anonymous said...

"And it is a bit mean to expect them not to have any personal life at all. We all procrastinate, I'm procrastinating right now!"

But if that guy becomes your agent and you are waiting and waiting and waiting for revision notes or a return phone call, you might get a tad annoyed when he's twittering constantly about how much he enjoys eating cheddar cheese.

Mark Terry said...

Yowch. I thought I'd keep my mouth shut on this one, but wow, people. There's some serious hostility out there.

Anonymous said...

Agent requested partial via informal talk. Queried reminded of talk and asked if okay to send, if still interested. Instant rejection. Then got another email saying rejection was a problem. Sent in manuscript. Two days later get another rejection. But it's the [insert title here].

That agent and agency is off of my list.

I don't mind form rejections. Though a personal one with a line or two on a requested manuscript would have been great. A form rejection with the title inserted would have been better.

PurpleClover said...

My biggest pet peave is "no response in X weeks means we are passing".

To me that is a cop out. It takes just as much time to send a form rejection (hello, copy & paste) as it does to delete the email. Just send it so we can mark it off our lists instead of agonzing for 8 weeks.

We realize its hard for you to send rejections because you don't want to hurt feelings and maybe you feel that some aspiring writers are totally in the wrong element and not worth the time. But if someone seriously paid attention to detail to your querying requirements and sent it the exact way you asked (which is probably better than most) give them a benefit of a response...even if its form.

To me it's just more respectful. And while no one wants rejection I bet more would prefer knowing to waiting in order to find out the same answer.

Anonymous said...

I want my agent to let me know what they're doing. They work for me, in part, and I'd like regular progress reports. At the very least, I'd like a monthly or every other month email summarizing what they've done on my behalf.

THIS! The lack of information from my agent drives me absolutely bonkers. It makes me worry she's not actually doing anything at all.

@Anon 12:34: Please understand I say this because I genuinely want to help; if you have a fantastic novel I'd love to see it on the shelves. But if your comment here is indicative of the spelling, grammar, and punctuation you display in your query letters, that's why you're not getting past the query stage.

@Jade Objective Entertainment has been going through their back queries and sending that form rejection to everyone who has previously queried them, even if they've already rejected them once already. It's insanely unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

I crossed an children's book agent off of my list after I heard him say this at a conference regarding his taste in middle grade fiction:

"my question is, how dark can we make it. How twisted can it get?"

a few years later, I heard him chortle gleefully at another conference:

"people complain about how dark children's books are getting. Well they're dark because that is what people want."

I'm so tired of smug, wannabe hipsters being the gatekeepers of taste. Quit aiming a ceaseless stream of snark, dark and ugly at our children. Get some therapy for your issues. There's a world beyond NYC. Seriously.

Whew, I've been holding that in for two years. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, Anon 1:46 for naming names! Is this the best you can do? This is our chance to speak up and refuse to be IGNORED!

Despite what agents or editors think, we're not whiny insecure wallflowers (Rachelle Gardner called fiction writers "introverts" on Twitter) waiting (begging) for the right agent to ask us to dance...We're creators, thinkers, innovators--and we all have lives, just like you do. Treat us with some respect and dignity!

Which other agents are on your list of agentfail? Names or agencies, please! As for me, I've been waiting five months for a response on a full from Trident--any other problem agencies?

PurpleClover said...

I think the fact that everyone is choosing to post as "Anonymous" speaks volumes.


Anonymous said...

As for me, I've been waiting five months for a response on a full from Trident--any other problem agencies?

With this agency I've seen very quick responses and infants graduating from high school before there is a reply.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Someone opened a can of worms!

Most of this has been intriguing. I'm writing from the perspective of a writer trying to get an agent for a first novel. There are really only two things that come to mind.

At a conference recently, one agent was blatantly rude to writers. I understand only the best writing will get representation (theoretically), but the agent sitting right next to aforementioned (rude) agent managed to reject the same writers with respect and sensitivity. I can't imagine what it's like to read poorly written queries one after the other, but becoming published is a sensitive dream for writers. Being respectful seems like a no-brainer. I'm not expecting a shrink, but someone who has a heart is ideal.

Also, I'd like to see an agent's authors listed on her web site bio. Some agencies do this. Some do not. Some offer a few names but not a complete list. This is helpful info for querying writers like me.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this with you. I'm not directly involved with your agency (remember, still looking), but something tells me that if you're concerned enough to open this discussion, then you're probably above a lot of this criticism.

Anonymous said...

I sent a query to an agent who was recommended to me by a client who suggested I query her because she was such a wonderful agent. I cited the client's name in my query. I waited six months for a reply which when I got it was two words:

"No paranormal."

The book wasn't a paranormal.

Anonymous said...

Jenny Bent just left Trident, so if you were querying her, you might want to resend.

Anonymous said...

I understand that agents have to read quickly, but it's really frustrating to have a partial or full rejected, when it's clear from the comments that the agent read so quickly as to miss things in the text, and then list those things as reasons for rejection.

Things like: character names, gender, major plot points that they just clearly skimmed over and missed.

Because maybe you really liked that agent, and now your shot is blown, just because they didn't read carefully.

Anonymous said...

You know, the more I read about things and watch things, the less I want to get into publishing. I can take rejection, I mean a no isn't that bit of deal. I've been rejected for stories in magazines before, you deal. But some of the unprofessional things agents do is really making me wonder why one would even want an agent?

I know I've put time an effort into my writing. I don't need an ego stroke, but I do expect professional honesty. I've been looking into publishing for over two years now, just to kind of understand the industry. I can't tell you how many blogs from some agents and comments from others make me not want to enter the publishing industry.

I worked hard on the novel, taken the creative writing classes, have people edit things: I don't need to be called an idiot on twitter, a blog, etc. just because you don't feel like answering queries and are trying to get through them. It makes you look bad. Fail, Agent off my list.

I spent however many months/years writing my novel only for an agent not to be able to send a one line rejection. Your not going to hurt my feelings, I just want to know. Fail. Worse then that, the agent with an attitude response. Double fail.

I haven't queried my novel yet, but dang, this doesn't inspire much confidence in even having an agent.

Agents expect writers to be professional, I think by the majority of the posts, we'd just like the same respect shown. I think the internet has given people (Some agents and writers) an ego, that nothing in internet land can harm you. They feel that they can say anything about anyone and it can't hurt them (It's just someone on the computer).

Problem for agents is the same one for teachers and why they discourage teachers from having a myspace or twitter or facebook: How you portray yourself online can come back to bite you offline. It would just be nice if some agents remembered that.

Not every writer doesn't follow the submissions, writes in caps, replies constantly. Stop treating us/writing about us as if we all do.

I guess my agent fail is more general from someone who hasn't even made the leap yet. If I'm already seeing this just from blogs, just imagine what your putting out there to writers who are still finishing their novels...the next gen. If it keeps up, the some agents could ruin it for all agents.

Look at the publishing industry now...if the some ruin it for all, agents will be written out by the writer. Without the novel, agents don't have a job. We want an agent because they're supose to help us, not hurt us.

Anonymous said...

"No paranormal."

The book wasn't a paranormal.

Ouch. Classic #agentfail.

I really like this discussion because it shows that agents can fail just as writers can. Now the true test is if agents take some of the suggestions to heart and not just write them off as writers whining.

Jane Lebak said...

First agent: would send out my novel to one publisher at a time and refused to follow up even after three months because "They'll get to it when they get to it" and he didn't want to annoy them. When I would breathe down his neck, sometimes he'd follow up and find out that oh yeah, they lost it. One publisher, he said, "Would definitely get back to us." We parted ways two years ago and that publisher still never got back to us. Maybe following up is a good idea...?

Second agent: signed me in July, said he would submit multiply and would do follow-ups and career guidance etc. In October I said, Dude, aren't you going to start sending it? He whined that he had a mortgage to pay too, you know,so he was doing things other than agenting. He stopped responding to my emails, so I had to phone him to get responses. In December, he promised me he would start sending it in mid-January. In early January, he closed his agency without warning and without making any provision whatsoever for his clients.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

What I hate most about this business is when agents say, "We're all looking for fantastic books!"

Well, you are and you aren't. What you're really looking to do is, "FIT AND PLUG!" That's what I call it. Agents are looking to find something they represent, (the FIT), and PLUG it into whatever the editor at Whathisname's publishing house wants/needs/or is popular at the moment to fill out the list. If that book happens to be fantastic, so much the better, if not, let's PLUG in what we agree by consensus is "the best FIT!"

"I mean," the editor says to the Agent, "Boogers are all the rage now! We can't go out this Fall without a booger book. Agent sniffs the air, replies, "I ain't got no booger books!" Editor says, "Find one! We'll do lunch." Agent scurries to find a FIT, - of some sort. Agent comes back to editor... "Hey, I found this yahoo, he's got something called "The Booger Book Hall of Fame." Editor says, "Send it over ASAP. Agent sends. Editor calls Agent, "Sold! It's not the best book, but at least we'll have a PLUG this Fall."

Meanwhile, there are five outright deserving "fantastic books," sitting on the Agent's desk, not a Booger amongst 'em!

Agent to Writer. "Sorry kid! Your outright fantastic submission is just not right for us.
P.S. "Hey, you ever pick your nose?"

And the world keeps turnin.'

Haste yee back ;-)

Devon Ellington said...

There are a couple of reasons I've parted ways with agents in the past -- note, these are agents with whom I worked, not those with whom I negotiated a "maybe":

--the agent wanted to take "time off" (a year's sabbatical) to "find herself" -- but didn't want me to submit anything while she was gone. Um, sorry, this is how I make my LIVING, gotta keep writing/submitting/selling or I don't eat and I like to eat. Just for the record, don't know if she ever found herself, but she never went back to agenting; whatever she's doing, I hope she's happy, because she was a lively lunch companion.

--"just write me a traditional romance with a less independent heroine -- it's easier to sell." Well, that's not really what I write or the market I usually seek out, so I don't think we were quite the right fit. It was a case of the agent liking the characters and dialogue but wanting them in a different genre and story, so we weren't the right fit.

--"I'm really backed up right now; it'll be six or eight months before I can get your novel out on submission." Well, as I mentioned above, this is how I make my living. I understand it takes months to land a contract in some cases, but I at least want it out there. However, I appreciated the agent at least told me that, instead of letting the novel gather mold on a shelf somewhere as I thought it was making submissions. Still, it wasn't the right match.

--"You can only write in one genre." One of the reasons I publish under a half a dozen names is because I enjoy different genres and I don't want to be limited. I understand if someone's only interested in one of my genres, but I CAN and I WILL write whatever interests me. Since I sell regularly in multiple genres, I must be doing something right. Again, not the right fit.

In the submission/query go-round, I don't submit if the guidelines are contradictory or if it states that "no response means no." If I'm rejected, I'm rejected, that goes with the territory, but lack of communications makes me crazy.

Backbone said...

Agents! Are you getting any of this? Tomorrow, let's hear from you.

Thanks, Bookends, for the topic, but after the dust settles nothing will have changed.

Anonymous said...

I've started following agents on Twitter and Google Reader, and have noticed that *some* of them tend to Tweet or Blog away at a considerable rate (I'm talking 30, 40, 50 tweets a day in some instances).

I find myself wondering how much actual "agenting" they're getting done if they can manage so many tweets or blog postings.

Other than that, all you agent folks out there just rock my world.

Adrienne said...

Two things -

For the anon concerned because of the complaints on this thread it might not be worth entering into publishing, may I just point out that this is a thread pointing out the negatives. I personally did not experience ANY of the things people are talking about here while I was looking for an agent, and my current agency is just fantastic at standing behind me and my work, as well as communicating with me. I feel like a partner, not like their employee. There are flaws in every industry and to read a thread only about them, you could think that this industry was just terrible. But there is good with the bad, trust me, I've seen it.

To the anon who posted about the gleeful agent talking about dark MGs and who responded: "Quit aiming a ceaseless stream of snark, dark and ugly at our children. Get some therapy for your issues. There's a world beyond NYC. Seriously." I understand your frustration, and maybe that agent had some attitude that I can't sense in what you posted, but the fact is that children's books have been "dark" since they first were written. Read Peter Pan, and you'll see what I mean. What's more, the kids really don't seem to mind the dark in the least, and I find it is adults who are the ones who take the most issue with it. I'm not sure what New York has to do with anything, but as a kid I always loved dark children's books. And I should also point out that even though said books may deal in dark subject matter, they almost always end on a hopeful note. Heck even Lemony Snicket ended his series with hope for the future. I think some people see only the surface of these stories, and fail to read deeper into them and realise that almost all the time in the end, these tales end with tried and true messages: that family and friends are important, that yes life might be hard, but it will be okay in the end, and that there are things worth fighting for.

I'd hardly say Harry Potter was dark, but even in its darkest moments, it always promoted such values as I mentioned. Which is more than I can say for a lot of adult literature these days.

My point is simply, there is room to point out the unprofessional behaviours of agents in this thread, but to give such snark towards an agent seeking out books written in a style that is very popular, and then to add some kind of backhanded insult towards large cities at the same time, does not seem productive. At least not to me.

As to the question at hand . . . I will say, even though my personal experience has been lovely, that the concept of exclusives has always frustrated me a little. I understand that agents don't want to put in all this work only to find out that the author went with someone else, but nor does the author want to spend upwards of a year waiting on a single agent, only to be rejected. Possibly something could be worked out where an agent is only allowed an exclusive for a month. That I think many authors could tolerate. But some stories I've heard of exclusives lasting months and months, well that's just not fair I think.

Christine said...

I wish the agents whose blogs I love reading would represent the genres I write! I love reading the insights, love hearing about what's going on, but alas, this agent reps mystery, that agent reps religious, the one over there only wants YA...
Completely no one's fault, but this is the only gripe I could think of at the moment.

Anonymous said...

People, no response does NOT mean no. Only "no" means no. If you don't hear back after 2 months, send it again! Works for me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Christine. the agent bloggers are great, but they're all YA/romance/Cozies/Fantasy...

Where's all the thriller/suspense agents?

Anonymous said...

You forgot "paranormal whatever" to the above list.

Anonymous said...

Don't insist I rewrite part of my MS with an odd I've-always-wanted-to-see-this-in a-book idea of yours only to act like it isn't your fault when EVERY single rejection comes back praising the book, but not taking it on due to the rewritten part, as it is "too unbelievable/too out of character/doesn't fit with the rest of the book."

Oh, and also dear God, please don't send my new book to the very same agent that just rejected my last book. Why the hell are you an agent if you don't know more than one editor at a house? WTF?

Anonymous said...

An independent producer sees two chapters of my book and LOVES them. Wants to buy an option. The book is unfinished, but if I could have $1000 - a month of no freelancing - I could finish it.

Instead of just giving me a contract to sign and a check, she puts me in touch with an agent - someone she met at prep school, now at William Morris. The agent LOVES the two chapters, says she can get an advance on six chapters so I can finish the book.

William Morris takes 7 months to finalize the contract.

An editor sees the two chapters and LOVES them and asks if it's too early to make a preemptive bid, and the agent (telling me later) says Yessss!!!!!!!

battery dying,

Anonymous said...

"You can only write in one genre." One of the reasons I publish under a half a dozen names is because I enjoy different genres and I don't want to be limited. I understand if someone's only interested in one of my genres, but I CAN and I WILL write whatever interests me. Since I sell regularly in multiple genres, I must be doing something right. Again, not the right fit.

Thank you Devon Ellington for your post.

I am so sick of agents telling writers that they should limit their creativity to one genre, which is the equivalent to me of "no, son, dreaming big is really unrealistic... no, you can't become an astronaut... best you become a plumber."

(No offense to plumbers... our lives would be seriously crap without them!)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Once overheard an agent mock the book I'd just pitched to her - to her next group appt. Unprofessional much? But then she was probably whacked on coke at the time...

Anonymous said...

1) 'The age of no response means no' - my crystal ball is flawed. I don't know whether you don't respond because you're overwhelmed, accidentally deleted my e-mail, whether my mail landed in your spam filter or yours in mine - and when in doubt, I'll probably requery. Please set up an autoresponder: 'if I am interested, I'll contact you' is fine. Radio silence is not.

2) Please make up your guidelines and share them. And make them the same everywhere - on your blog, your agency webpage, Publisher's Marketplace, anywhere else you post them. Don't let me pick and choose the wrong set.

3) Also, clarify. If you think a 'short synopsis' is three paragraphs (rather than two pages), say so. If you like paranormal romance, but not heroic fantasy, don't add 'fantasy' to your guidelines. If you reject e-mails by 'real name' <> outright, tell me. Anything else is a waste of time. (And eventually, makes me wonder how efficient a communicator you are.)

Unlike many commentators, I think it's ridiculous to expect agents not to have a life. I blog, I twitter; so why shouldn't agents? You're not compelled to _only_ talk about your business anymore than the next person: #expectationsfail.

Anonymous said...

To Adrienne:

It's not the dark I object to, it's the snark. It wasn't only that he had a preference, it was his arrogant disdain for all that did not fit it. It was the way my fellow writers came out of their meetings with him in tears. He took pleasure in it, and said as much. Toughen up people, or you'll never make it in this business.

And there was his tone, at our non-NYC conference (hence the reference, I love the city, was born there)...It was the comments about the local airport, the hotel food. He let us know that he was slumming.

Trust me --people are still talking about this guy. He's never been asked back.

The feeling I got from him was that he wanted children's books to have the same "rip the scales of illusion" from one's eyes effect on readers as his brutal critiques had on aspiring writers.

Of course literature can be dark, Grimm's fairy tales anyone? But is it too much to ask that it also be illuminating? Must it be "twisted?" Must we push boundries for the sake of pushing them? Which was this guy in a nutshell. Like the self-conscious artist who paints distorted and ugly on purpose and calls the old masters crap.

Agent fail. At least for me. Which I thought was the point. If he's your cup of tea, have at it.

Anonymous said...

I really just want to say that I agree with the posters pushing for the naming of names. If you tell us who these agents are, you make a difference. You give them a reason to evolve. If not, you are just inviting other writers to endure the same trials.

In all of our different locations and with all of our different lives, we are the writing community. Help us out.

Anonymous said...

I'm still at the querying stage of getting an agent, so my experience is limited, but I really hate the "no response means no." I've had so many emails to friends get lost in the ether, I would hate to miss an opportunity with an agent just because the Internet is full of black holes.

Even an automated "we've received your query. If you don't hear back from us by x/x/x then that means no" would be better then nothing.

Anonymous said...

The no response to requested fulls and partials after six plus months is super annoying.

But, seriously, the most egregious agentfail I've seen lately is an agency sending out letters to all their rejected clients (going back a year or more) recommending "self-publishing with AuthorHouse" as a means of getting their feet in the door. OMFG! I'd hope most writers are smart enough to know this letter is complete crap, but I'm sure there are newbies out there green enough to think it's kosher. The letter is so misleading and insinuates that some of this agency's bestsellers started with self-publishing.

The agency? Objective Entertainment. Seriously. Check out the thread at Absolute Write. It's nauseating!

Anonymous said...

I'm floored by what I'm reading here. Maybe I should send my agent some flowers.

I have to say I was never very bothered by no response. The minute I sent my query, I assumed the answer would be no, since that's the norm. So for me, the only responses that mattered were the ones requesting something. I just stopped thinking about the rest.

The only time I decided not to query an agent was when her blog suggested she was disorganized. That style would not match mine at all.

Dorothy Winsor

Anonymous said...

Again, folks: Who was blatantly rude to writers at a conference?
Who wanted dark & snark? Who dissed your novel? Let's name NAMES or AGENCIES, guys! What are you so afraid of?

You don't really care what these agents think after the way they treated you? This is all a waste of time if we don't NAME NAMES!

Anonymous said...

Naming good agents would be good too.

Anonymous said...

I have issues with conflict of interest. I've read cover quotes from agents who both write (and are quoted for the cover because of this) and either rep the author in question, or belong to that author's rep agency.

It feels dirty and sneaky.

Also any agent who is going to show up to a conference should consider whether he or she has the personality to deal POLITELY and KINDLY with the people who paid to be there.

Jessica was so respectful of the people in her workshop... it set me up to be shocked by the behavior of others this past weekend.

J.R. Johansson said...

Thanks for giving us this opportunity. It is clear from this comments section that some of us needed some serious venting opportunities. :)

I have an issue with agents who don't accept queries by e-mail. It concerns me greatly to consider having an agent that isn't up to date on technology. Particularly in this time of change the the publishing industry. Let's save a few trees... at least until we have an advance and a publisher. ;)

On my wish list: I would like for agents to have a little more faith in writers, particularly new ones. If you love the idea and request a full, but our book isn't exactly right--you already said you love the concept. Give us a chance to fix it. We might just surprise you with an amazingly improved product that is exactly what you'd been hoping for. Some of us might actually surprise you with our ability to grow and adapt to what you want from us. If not then at least you can be sure you made the right decision by telling us no.

Also, I love the idea of an #awesomeagent day or whatever so we can brag about amazing agents we've had contact with. :)

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:28 p.m. That goes beyond #agentfail. Hence the good agents should get the respect they deserve.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I once was asked to submit a complete manuscript, so I did, with sufficient postage and envelope for its return upon rejection, with a note in the cover letter asking for return. I never got anything back except a brief rejection letter. The agent didn't have the courtesy to reply to my polite follow-up inquiry on the whereabouts of my manuscript, in which I reminded the agent I'd provided postage and requested return.

I had printed a 100K word manuscript on an inkjet printer, which took five hours and cost around $35 in ink. It would have been nice to have it back. I have no idea why the agent threw it away, unless the agent did not even look at the cover letter or enclosed postage and envelope. Or possibly the manuscript, either.

Janet said...

Setting up very complex submissions guidelines on your website and when I email the assistant for clarification of ambiguities getting an answer that directly contradicts the website. This is a big name agent with a stellar track record, but I am hesitating about querying now. I feel like I've been set up for failure.

I also don't agree with the comments criticizing agents for Twittering or blogging. I find it invaluable, both in objective information and the sense I get of the personality of the agent. It helps me know who to pursue ardently and who to cross off my list, not necessarily because of failings but because of personal compatibility. And I really understand that everybody needs downtime. Of course, if they are spending a lot of time doing that, I would be concerned.

But mostly I would like to thank the agents who do go public with information. Because of you, I know how not to make a fool of myself in a query letter. Because of you, I know what questions to ask an agent to determine whether we'll be a good fit or not. Because of you, I have an idea of what your day really entails, so I can treat you with some understanding and also know what I can realistically expect. Which means I will feel entirely justified in being hard-nosed about the expectations that are realistic.

Ella said...

When an agent calls you and expresses how excited they are about your manuscript. You talk about a few changes and it sounds as if they're going to offer to represent you. They want to see the changes first. That's OK because the phone call went great, you're so thrilled you could float on air. Finally! Only the manuscript never comes. You email--they promise it's on the way. Eventually, after a change of seasons, you realize it ain't happening. =HUGE AGENTFAIL

marymac said...

Will make you a deal. No complaining if you become my agent! Have fab chick-Sedarisesque memoir; seeking agent.

Gwen Hayes said...

wow--lots and lots of anonymous anger today.

If an agent tweets 100 times a day at 140 characters per time--that is like 30 minutes total. And many are tweeting from their phone and not following the whole thread. It's really not a big deal and a great way to get to know the personality behind the agent or editor.

That is like getting mad at an author for blogging about going to a movie instead of writing the next book in a series. People are allowed to have free time. Not every agent or editor or writer is using social media as a professional publication. It's a social thing.

I understand being frustrated by the industry as a whole, but when I get a rejection, I have to think it's not really "them" it's me. I don't feel I need to judge the person rejecting my work for spending their free time doing the same things I do with my free time--twittering, blogging, watching tv and movies....etc.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I wonder if by posting the names of "agent failures" we are opening the owner of this blog up to legal issues. Slander,libel & whatnot?

I thought the point was to share our experiences so that other agents could learn from them. Not to point the finger at individuals.

I wrote about Mr. Snark and Dark because it infuriates me that such a high handed ass is setting trends in children's publishing. But for all I know he's warm, fuzzy and wonderful once you get to know him. I would never say his name as it boils down to one writer's opinion.

If the queryfail twitters had used the actual names of those submitting, wouldn't that have crossed a line?

NerdSnark said...

Naming names, at least to me, has crossed the line.

But, all I can say is--uh,oh.

Adrienne said...

Anon 3:58 - How can he be my cup of tea when I've never met the fellow, nor know of whom you are speaking?

You said none of the things you said in your follow up post and merely said originally:

**I crossed an children's book agent off of my list after I heard him say this at a conference regarding his taste in middle grade fiction:

"my question is, how dark can we make it. How twisted can it get?"

a few years later, I heard him chortle gleefully at another conference:

"people complain about how dark children's books are getting. Well they're dark because that is what people want." **

You said nothing about him putting people down, or making people cry, or making fun of a city that wasn't New York. Of course that's terrible and unprofessional and I don't blame you a bit for despising this gentleman. But I had nothing more to go on except for your apparent disdain for agents who like dark children's books. I'm very glad you expanded on your point though, because now your reaction to him makes so much more sense.

Honestly, you can see how I could be a bit confused what NY had anything to do with someone wanting dark children's books, and why you had such a problem with someone wanting such books especially when he adds on by saying that that is what the reading public wants.

At any rate, this gentleman sounds really unpleasant, but it has nothing to do with living in NYC, or liking dark children's books. It just has to do with the fact that he's a smug jerk.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 10:28

I think we had the same agent (note the past tense). Exactly the issues I had.

We parted ways. She di NOT fire me, I asked her a specific question, got an answer that indicated we were no longer comptible and severed the relationship.

Someone else said the agent "fired" someone. WRONG!! Who pays whom in this scenario? The agent quite, maybe. But agents do not fire writers.

Agents who do not remember that they work for the client and not the other way around: massive agentfail.

Anonymous said...

I've submitted the same partial to agents and editors at big houses.

The editors responded in a timely manner and asked for fulls, read them and got back to me with brief but cogent explanations for why they hadn't bought the book. Their responses made it clear they liked my writing and would look at more.

The agents sat the on fulls for many months and either did not respond or wrote curt rejections. Several told me that my book wasn't anything editors would be interested in, when, in fact, the very editors these agents sell to read the partial and requested the full.

I write stuff that is a bit out of the ordinary in my genre. So I definitely got the feeling that the agents were looking only for books that were clones of what was already selling, while the actual editors were more open to new ideas.

Anonymous said...

It takes months if not years to write a novel...and what... a whole twenty seconds to send a rejection form letter? I totally get how backlogged agents get, but it may save a double submission to an agent if a writer was sure their query was actually received. Just my little opinion!

Anonymous said...

It seems like most of the posts are from writers trying to get agents. It's too bad that once you get an agent you have to put up with the same things.

1) No communication. If your own agent can't read your new MS in a few weeks,or even a month, why don't they just email you and let you know? Why do they have to wait a month and a half for YOU to have to pester them? Just so they can complain about how busy they are?

2) Why do agents ask you to change this, and this, and this, but when you follow up with an email to ask a specific question concerning their comments, they act like you are stupid. Hello, I can't read your mind!

3) Why send the MS anywhere if you are never going to fucking follow up on the submission?

4) Why do agents tell you they are too busy to get to your new book/proposal/editor question and then sign up three new clients in a week? Why, so they can ignore them too?

Anonymous said...

"I think the fact that everyone is choosing to post as "Anonymous" speaks volumes.


What do you mean? Of course people are choosing to post under "anonymous". It's hard enough to get into this business without burning bridges...

BookEnds, A Literary Agency said...

For any who regularly follow the blog you know that it's incredibly rare for me to step in and delete comments. The only time I typically do that is when it's clearly spam. In this instance however, after some internal debate, I've decided to delete the comments where you have named specific, individual agents and let me explain why.

I agree, if you've had trouble with an agent you should certainly let others in the writing community know of your situation so that all writers can truly take into account other experiences when hiring an agent. However, this is not a forum in which these agents are going to get a fair discussion. What seems to be happening is that readers are simply throwing out names will little explanation of the experience they deemed bad and, I doubt we're going to hear from a lot of writers who have had good experiences, at least not today.

So while I encourage you to share your experiences, good and bad, with others, I think the best forum for doing that is Absolute Write. It's also the best place for you to gain well-rounded insight into specific agents or agencies. You'll hear the good, the bad and the ugly and that's what you need to make an informed decision.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Faust, bravo.

Also, have to second Absolute Write doesn't hold any punches. Great resource.

Jennifer McKenzie said...

Maybe this is unreasonable and not really an agentfail as much as an industryfail.
Get with the new times.
How must faster would your response time be if
1. Email queries AND submissions.
If you all could accept submissions by email, you'd save a ton of space AND you'd lose fewer manuscripts.

2. Track changes.
Publishing demands that writers comply with their guidelines. Why not use track changes throughout the industry? That does mean writers would be forced to produce a manuscript in a certain format, but we have to do that anyway. It would create an easier way to leave comments AS THEY OCCUR rather than just reading something and thinking "meh".

3. Start providing new technologies to interns and editors.
How about ereaders? Aren't laptops a requirement these days?

Frankly, it would be so much easier to keep track of submissions and rejections if you had them in email inboxes.

*shrugs* Maybe I'm wrong, but the whole snail mail thing just seems to be to the author's disadvantage.

Gwen Hayes said...

...and to piggy back on Jennifer's post--if submissions are emailed--why not save a step and ask for full instead of partial? It would not require agent to read entire book--they could certainly stop whereever they felt the wall to be--but then they would gloriously already have the rest if they want it and would not need to add all that extra time to the process.

And I see by my last very long sentence that I can benefit from an editor.

Anonymous said...

To the Anon demanding names (and yes, we all know there is just one of you, no matter how many times you post):

The point of this is to tell agents how they can serve us better, and to point out that we DESERVE better. If we begin childishly naming names, that harms us, I think.

There are very few completely unprofessional a-hole agents that need to be avoided at all costs, and you can discover their names at places light Absolute Write. This is not the place for that.

However, TONS of agents fail to communicate with clients properly. Most complain about being busy, to the point where clients (and potential clients) feel as though the agent is doing them a favor by responding to their emails. Several adhere to the "no response means no" policy. They do these things because they are human, not because they are complete jerks. So, perhaps after reading the suggestions we've provided, some of them will change their practices.

But only if we, the writers, are equally understanding and professional.

Liana Brooks said...

1) I'd really love to see more agents who rep sci-fi blog. I want to know as much about an agent's taste and style as possible before I query because I don't want to waste my time or theirs. If you can't blog, at least do more than the standard list of what you'll look at. Be specific. If you're going to choke and die if you see another Chosen One story, let me know!

2) No response means no. Sorry, it means I won't query you. Ever.

3) Catching an agent bashing readers, genres, or anything in public. I know agents are real people with valid opinions, but when you're on the clock (i.e. visible to any writer at all) I want you to be professional. I'll return the favor by not insulting any editors who take us to lunch or dissing other writers to the national media.

4) Make sure your submission guidelines are online and up to date. No, I don't have the book of submission guidelines. I will Google you. I'll check your agency website. Spend the money and pay someone to keep that website looking professional and up to date. Include minor details like, "I'm taking a year off for maternity leave!" I do need to know that.

5) Once I'm signed, keep me updated. I'm a compulsive scheduler. I am usually booked a year in advance. Give me some advance warning for any major changes coming up, your sudden need for a six month vacation, or anything that's going to change my status quo. We don't need to be best friends, but I need you at the top of your game 24/7.

6) Give me the time of day. Honestly, authors gossip. We know which agents are absolute pricks and querying you means we're scrapping the bottom of the barrel. Be polite. You don't have to love everything I write. I may not be a good fit for your list. That doesn't give you a license to be rude.

7) Seriously, be specific! If you've decided you can't read a genre any more or never want to see another urban fantasy say so. This is a repeat of number one. It needs to be repeated! I hate going to query and realizing the agent hasn't sold a novel in that genre in the past decade. That scares me.

Dawn said...

I'm just starting...have only sent out three query letters and these posts are scaring the hell out of me.

Anonymous said...

I understand why Jessica had to delete posts with names. Publishing is a small world, and the agents named are likely her friends.

That said, someone should start a blog where bad agents can be outed and good agents can be applauded. Anyone? It would be immensely valuable because there are lots of jerks out there.

On another note, so many people here have posted gripes with agents about lack of response.

Let me tell you what happens when you have a truly salable book. Agents respond to your queries.In fact, they fight for your attention. They read fulls very quickly, within days. Once you settle on an agent, the rejected agents may even call you, hoping to change your mind.

That's what you want. If you're sending out 25 queries and only one agent responds, that says something about the viability of your project.An alarm bell should go off in your head: It's time to re-evaluate.

And you shouldn't look to agents to tell you why your project doesn't fly. That's up to critique groups or trusted friend or perhaps just time and distance.

Successful writers don't point fingers outward. They look inward. They read the trades, visit bookstores, read new books, re-write their novels and treat publishing like a business. Writers like that don't worry about careless agents because they are in the catbird seat. They can pick and choose.

That said, sometimes the writer picks wrong. Sometimes they pick the agent who thinks it's more about them. They choose agents who have forgotten why they are in the biz in the place: For the love of lit.

So even though we aren't naming names of bad lit agents, could we possibly name the names of the ones who are WONDERFUL. Anyone?

Anonymous said...

How about agents who react completely defensively when you ask them a simple question about their process for sending out your book and dealing with editors?

Or whose request for changes show a complete lack of organization in addressing the MS--minor issues first, major ones last, e.g. Mind-bogglingly major ones at the point you both believed the MS would be going out, showing a complete lack of understanding of and respect for the writing process?

Or who do the email equivalent of screaming when you won't change something you feel strongly about? Not acknowledging the fact that 80% of requested changes were made, happily and with no fuss.

Worst of all--how about agents who show a complete lack of love for your book when they are on the point of sending it out to editors? Talk about making a writer feel completely discouraged and sick at heart.

When you're desperate to be represented and get your book out there, you will often take the first agent who comes along. I deeply regret doing this. My agent was uncommunicative, passive-aggressive, and most of all UNENTHUSIASTIC. Agents: don't take on anyone you're not 100% sure you want to work with--you do us no favors.

Anonymous said...

I know they say it's rare that ideas are stolen, and yet I find it strangely coincidental that I submit an MS (requested, by the way) to a well-known agent, have it rejected, and three years later, a book comes out with a similar (and unusual) plot device, co-written by an author represented by that agent? I'd like to think I'm just paranoid, but still...

T. M. Hunter said...

Nothing new to the list...just another pair of dittos on agents needing to give a response to a submission, and the need to keep guidelines updated on their site.

Anonymous said...

My elevator pitch request would be: be professional, be communicative, and show respect.

That said, here's some things to consider:

* No response? Don't worry, no query, either.
* Exclusive? If I agree, please reply by the specified time. (And don't be annoyed if I follow up on your lateness.)
* Do not slam authors. Do not slam their work. Do not slam your associates, interns or partners. The only slam appropriate is the response to this: *headdesk*
* Do not reply to my carefully-crafted query/status update/email with a one-line insult.
* If you do not have a website (or do not update it appropriately), I have to wonder if you are familiar enough with the Electronic Age to be an agent.
* If we cannot find a time to communicate about our failing communication, it's clearly time for one of us to move on.
* If your advice for "What's next?" is "Just wait," then you are not paying attention to my career, the market, or both.
* Do not say,"I'll get to it Monday" or "I will call you at 2pm" and then hours/days/weeks later tell me how busy you were getting a huge deal for another client. Good for you, bad for me. Take responsibility and 10 seconds to type an email apologizing and ask to reschedule.
* You are a person and a professional, like me. Act like one and treat me like one and I promise to do the same. My awe of you is gone. Shared respect may remain.
* Silence is not golden, it is deadly.

=All examples of real #agentfails

Anonymous said...

Interesting comments. I have no problem reading about agents' personal lives, etc. but where I draw the line is with the rude comments about "stupid" authors. I quit following one such agent on Twitter and will never send anyone to her agency, ever. Oh wait, she's closed to submissions anyway--don't you stupid people get that?!

Anyone who has spent any time in publishing has had challenges with authors but to berate them in a public forum is the height of rudeness and is wholly unprofessional. This is one of the things I found shocking when I joined Twitter a few months ago. Yes, it's a small community and a lot of us are paying attention.

Anonymous said...

I think the only thing missing from these posts are names. Agents always stress professionalism. Put out the names of those who don’t practice what they preach so people don’t waste their time sending a query.

Anonymous said...

"The no response to requested fulls and partials after six plus months is super annoying."

it is your own fault for waiting so long without a response! When you send the partial or full, you should get a mx response time from them. If they say 6 months, fine, then query others while you wait. But yoou should never let 6 months of your life go by waiting for a response. Query every agent who handles your genre and follow up every 2 months. Be a pitbull, not a wallflower. You want to SELL books, right? Then be a SALESperson. You don't sell by waiting. Bug the crap out of them until you get a response.

Anonymous said...

True, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. In fact, I've heard it argued that with the proliferation of agent blogs, the herd of unrepped writers are all doing exactly the same things to the point that those who so something else are at an advantage by way of standing out, as long as that something else is also professional. But all these "guidelines" are just that. Don't take it too seriously. Do whatever you have to do.

Story and Logic Media Group said...

I appreciate LLC for taking out the posts that named names.

Anonymous said...

An editorial assistant called to say she lovede my work and set up a call with me, her and the VP of the agency. The VP was really pressed for time that day, but she did say that the agency wanted to move forward with representing me so to think it over and let them know by the end of the week.

I spoke with the EA at length, and she gushed about my work and said she thought the agency could sell it to a major house. She said she hadn't liked anything so much since she read "Twilight." Now, my BS detector was going off, but I thought it was a good opportunity, so I called back the next day to say yes, let's proceed. "Great, I'm so excited, I'll get you the contract," said the EA.

End of the contract. I called again. "Oh, we just have to get the owner to sign off on it. It should be fine."

"So, can I tell my parents I have an agent?" I asked.

"Yes, that would be fine," she said.

Fast-forward to a week later with no call and no contract. I called again. "I am so sorry, it's been super-busy here, but I'll have an answer for you tomorrow," she said.

I never heard from anyone there again. And this is a well-respected agency that represents some major, major projects. FAIL!

Adrienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Adrienne said...

Grr. . . must check spelling before posting . . . okay, second attempt:

Another point that I feel should be addressed. I appreciate that most agencies in North America function in the world of internet, that email queries etc have become the norm, what's more that it is just so much more practical for everyone involved and saves our rather useful trees.

But you should know that in the UK many submissions are still done through snail mail, I'm not sure why, but this is the tradition there. Please don't let that stop you from submitting to them. I can tell you from personal experience that these agencies are firmly up to date in all the latest developments with the industry, including ebooks etc. Like I said, I'm not sure why they still prefer snail mail, but please don't close yourself off to an entire country just because you think that because they won't do email, that must mean they are old fashioned and don't understand current trends.

Each country has its own traditions, you need to make sure you understand them before submitting (for example in the UK there are no query letters, there are cover letters and sent with them in the first round is usually a one page synopsis and first three chapters - quite different from the North American submission preference).

Anonymous said...

I'd SO love to see a Client Fail done by agents. Anonymously of course!

Anonymous said...

I'd SO love to see a Client Fail done by agents. Anonymously of course!

So would I. I want to be a good client, and if I find I'm actually making some major faux pas that all agents wish their clients wouldn't do, I would like to know about it, if my agent would otherwise be uncomfortable calling me out on.

Anonymous said...

Not kissing butt here, but I would really rather the agents that did these things read about themselves w/o their names mentioned. Who knows w/o being specific another agent may have committed the same crime, and think it was them. This way it gives them a chance to redeem themselves and save face. Unlike Queryfail let's show how teaching really works.

Now with that being said, agents expecting personalization or having petty rules is my agentfail.

Also, before criticizing use of words, please google them and find out what they mean. Words mean different things in different regions and age groups. The dictionary only works on traditional definitions.

BTW I wish every agent would adopt NB's new deal of attaching 5 pages of MS.

Anonymous said...

What I’ve noticed in the majority of comments here are people feel the need to be treated professionally and with respect. Not too shocking. When an agent does not do that they fail. Part of respecting others is acknowledging them, even with a form rejection. If something is requested from a business, a timely and thoughtful response is expected. When an agent can’t do this, it’s bad business.

I think #queryfail started as an idea to educate, but the mockery that ensued was definitely not respectful. People here should not sink to that level.

Unknown said...

I would never blog about this, but since you asked...

-Agents with NO web presence = fail
-Agents whose web presence is only a very unprofessional blog
-Agents who don't take email submissions = fail

More personally, I recently submitted to Big Name Agent who has no web presence (no website, no email) and who can only be submitted to via snail mail. It was a big enough pain in the butt to craft that highly personalized query letter and get it in the mail. She sent an impersonal postcard requesting the full...

...but her rejection of that full was done on a form rejection postcard that had been designed for rejections on the query stage. She'd taken the time to cross out the words "query" with "full ms. submission"...but not the time to even add my name, let alone any details to the work.

Look, I know agents are busy and they don't owe me anything...but basic polite courtesy would be appreciated. I equate this to a person who acts interested to you at the first course of the dinner party and won't even look you in the eye during dessert.

Anonymous said...

Wow, just wow. I didn't run into any of this while agent hunting, and though mine is one of the "No news is a no" group, I knew that going in. All who requested the full kept in contact (I'm talking like within a week or two at the most) and when I emailed them to tell them I accepted an offer, they were all super excited and offered congrats. So glad I didn't run into any of these! Yikes!

Anonymous said...

Expecting and author to be good all things such as computer geek stuff, marketing, being able to control your voice when making an elavator pitch, and thinking their first attempt at selling their book should be perfect, and in general anyone who thinks they are more important or busier than anyone else, these are just some of my agent fails. Most authors have day jobs, families, and spend every spare minute writing.

Debra Moore said...

I'm sure I could complain, but I'd rather tell you guys this.

This is still my favorite R of all time. I keep a copy of it on my computer...and this R came less than 4 minutes after I sent the query--for real. 4 minutes.

from Daniel Lazar, Writers House
Thanks Debra, but this isn't right for me.

Straight and to the point. I will send to this guy again. :-)

Karen Denise said...

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned, but I get so frustrated when I go to an agent's bio and it's all about their dog, or how they love skiing and wine tasting, but nothing about what they are actually looking to rep. While I don't mind knowing where they went to school or what board they sit on, I really, really, really want to know if they don't rep YA or if they really want an edgy urban fantasy. This will save me from submitting in vain and cut down on them getting a submission for a genre they don't rep.

Anonymous said...

I find the anger level here ... less than helpful. I understand the frustrations, I'm in the same boat as many of you. However, the anger spewed by some posters could be enough to prevent agents from seeing the changes they can make.

1) Auto-responders would be lovely so that writers know queries have been received. Especially for those agencies with a 'no response means not interested' policy

2) Responding, especially to partials/fulls within the time you say or a brief e-mail explaining the need for more time.

3) Ensuring that your guidelines are the same everywhere. It will encourage more queriers to submit properly.

Those are the three that I see as issues for the stage I'm in. But, like some other people, I want to point out that agents aren't machines, they are human beings. Saying they shouldn't twitter, or blog, or have a life outside of agenting is both selfish and rude. Many agents have other jobs in order to allow themselves to pay for things such as housing and food. They don't make money until their clients make money. Don't expect them to be something less than human. Otherwise how can you expect them to see you as a human being too?

Liz said...

Thanks for doing this!

Most frustrating Agentfail - Paying money to snailmail a requested full only to receive a XEROXED form reject with my name written in pen on the top.

Would it have killed them to print out a new rejection slip with my name printed on it? After all, I took the time to print out my book and send it to them.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid I disagree with Beth (8:34 PM) about unprofessional webpages.

Agents should make sure their submission guidelines etc are the same everywhere (PW, website etc).

I suspect the reason the websites usually don't have the correct information is that many agents won't know how to write webpages themselves. This is fine but DON'T get a technical, polished and professional website if you aren't willing to pay for it to be updated for you regularly.

It would be far better for you to get something you can edit yourself, even if that means using Wordpress. It won't be as slick but at least it'll be up-to-date. The information on the website should ALWAYS reflect the current situation!

Sandra Cormier said...

It's amazing how lucky we new authors are. We can fire up our computers and access hundreds of agents online. We can read their blogs, gauge their responses to various commenters and get a sense of what they like to represent.

In the past, we had to rely on publications that were sadly out of date, or word of mouth. We were basically on our own.

We have the privilege of picking and choosing potential agents based on their voice, just as they do with us.

We have the opportunity to improve and adjust our methods of communication, to read different personalities and hopefully find our match.

Agents have always been real people, but up till now they were merely names on lists. Agents and authors who take these suggestions with wide open eyes will enjoy more success than those who forge ahead with blinkers on.

My Agentfail? Bad grammar in a rejection.

Anonymous said...

Wow....and then people wonder why agents sometimes get bitter about non-clients who think that the agent's main purpose is to spend time and/or money doing things to make their lives easier. There are some valid complaints scattered through these comments, but there's also a huge amount of entitlement. Do some of you even listen to yourselves?

Anonymous said...

I once queried an agent who never replied. Not just to me, but not to anyone. Around the time I queried her, she apparently stopped responding to any queries at all. Months later, after several authors, in addition to myself, had decided to write her off, her website finally posted that she was not receiving more queries. Glad to know that it only took her three months to post that after making the choice. agentfail.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Dear [Insert Agent's name here],

You had my query for 14 months, and in that time I heard what from you? Nothing. Not even a sigh. Seven months after the book was published, you sent me this sweet email: "Sorry for the delay in getting back to you; we think this is too hard to sell."

1. Be prompt. Say yes, say no, but say something.

Dear Agent who is burned out and thinks she is God:

You were one of the first agents I queried. You chose my email as a model of idiocy and misrepresented it on your blog. You LIED about me.

I have two books under my belt since then, and I'm a much better writer. Should I ever be in the market for an agent again, you will not be on my list.

2. Do NOT abuse me, even if you think I'm an idiot. Being new and inexperienced is not the same as idiocy.

Dear Agent who proclaims her niceness:

Your not; you only think you are. You’re rude, a bit crude, and very self-serving.

3. Remember how you make your money. You make it off the hard works of authors such as myself.

No more agent's words shall bind us,
Arise you writers, no more in thrall!
.... We have been nought, we shall be all!

Dear Agent whose name begins with R:

Lovely name. With an additional letter, I share it with you. Your handwritten comments on the bottom of a rejection letter kept me writing. Thanks! I've kept the letter even though it was a rejection, and I will always value the time it took for you to write what you did.

4. Take the time to cultivate talent when you see it.

Too many agents to name, to them one and all:

Don't be stupid. Many of those querying you are smarter than you are, prettier than you are, and meaner than you are. We have long memories and we share agent stories just as you share “bad writer” stories.

5. Remember that roles can reverse. If you are not predisposed to civility, at least adopt it for the sake of your career.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

I love my brother/sister writers, BUT, I find it the height of cowardice to come on here as Anonymous and call for "outting" Agent names.

Anonymous's/Anonymae/Anonymi... if ya ain't got the balls, stay outta Publishing halls!

Haste yee back ;-)

michael gavaghen said...

I agree with the consensus view on no response = no interest. And I agree with the people who are sick of agents whining about how busy they are. Dilbert once had a recurring character who walked around all day with a coffee cup balanced on his protuberant belly, telling people how busy he is. Every office has one. Why not literary agencies?

But the number of posters complaining about agents who make fun of writers on their blogs or Twitter accounts is surprising.

Don't you people have jobs? I'll bet you goof on your bosses from time to time. And bosses: How often do you mimic a certain whining class of employee? I'd bet both of you can do a fair impersonation of certain broad types of annoying customers too.

That doesn't mean you don't need each other. It doesn't mean you hold all bosses in contempt, or all employees, or all customers.

If I had 50 or 75 queries arriving every day, you could be sure I'd develop an emergency supply of dark humor before my first week was out. Especially if I made sure I read them, because I still hoped to find real talent in there.

azimuth said...

I crossed a few off after reading their blogs and their rude comments about authors and submissions. If I treated potential clients like that, I'd be fired. Sure snark can be funny, but at its base, it's demeaning. YMMV.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, Hste Ye Back and Michael, let's hear a few complaints out of you, since you're SO brave. How often have you told your boss off to their face?
That's what I thought...
Read the blog again. Writers aren't stupid. We're just fed up and maybe we don't want to put up with this bs anymore.

We're not saying agents can't blog or Twitter--just quit complaining how BUSY you are when all you do is Twitter all day about boring crap.

Too bad agents are SO overworked and underpaid: Boo hoo...Try being a writer for a change.

Anonymous said...

Don't take six months to send notes to me.

Don't show my manuscript to your editor friend for feedback without my permission and think somehow I will be flattered--it is pretty obvious you are just trying to get a sure sale before you sign me.

Don't tell me to change major plot points--if you don't like the book, don't take it on, but don't try to make me write the book you want to write but won't.

Anonymous said...

Don't think you're all that. Because you are really not.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I read all of this tonight and felt like I was still at work (in psychiatry). That is never a good feeling.

Anyone who writes and finishes writing anything has an emotional investment in their work. I have often felt like it is my brain that has given birth. We don't sell our literal children. It's difficult to "sell" a brain child in the strict sense of sales. Rejection stings, becomes too personal. That was my problem with a novel I wrote some time ago. I was looking at it like a literal baby that came out of my head. I learned that if I continued to see what I write in that way, I would never be able to "sell" it. I would never accept anyone rejecting it more than I can tolerate cruelty toward my flesh and blood child.

What I see in the comments here is so much negativity that it hurts my head to continue reading. My rule about time off the unit is that I only function in my licensed profession when I'm paid to do so. In other words, I don't get paid enough ON the clock to afford the luxury of doing the job OFF the clock. Yet here I am, responding to what feels like an Axis II festival.

Many agents blog and give (literally GIVE) free advice. They are coaches. They are educators. They are so much in love with books and writing that they endure incredible muck to give anyone who bothers to do a minuscule amount of research, tips and advice. Agents are not super-human. Some might be superb human beings, but they are still human. They have likes and dislikes just like the next guy.

Some writers seem to have unrealistic expectations when communicating with those bearing ",Agent" behind their names. Don't expect everyone to agree with you that your novel is perfect as is, the best thing ever written, because YOU say so! Unless I am more clueless than I think I am, the point of the query isn't to state that "I am right - this is the best novel ever!!!" but to write something that grabs the attention of the agent so they want to read more.

Now, whether or not the actual MS fulfills the expectations built by the query or not is another matter. A request for a partial or full is not a guarantee of anything more than a request. It still falls upon the author to have an engaging story that doesn't die after the first fifty pages. Publication is a marathon, not the fifty-yard-dash.

Sales is a difficult profession. Sometimes, you're not just selling a product. Sometimes you're selling yourself too. Unyielding, unbending personalities fail to make sales.

What does this have to do with agents failing to meet the expectations of authors? Not much. I just read things like this and think, "Oh God, I've stepped back into the kill-you-milieu, and I can't simply ignore it."

A few of the comments/suggestions have been constructive here, with good advice on ways to resolve some of the frustration of writers which in turn could make this process feel less adversarial or even anxiety-ridden. Other comments have just been petty and mean. Talk about a discouraging dialog for unpublished writers to read!

Entitlement - no matter who exhibits it - is bad for your health. That's my free, off the clock advice. If people want respect, EARN IT. It isn't automatic even if you ARE a published author.

Ms. Reid, you have my respect. I may not agree with every word you say, but it's not required that all people agree on all things at all times. What a boring world this would be if we did. You have earned the respect of many, I would imagine, because you present yourself as a very straightforward, honest person. What a gem to discover in this day and age. Not all people share that skill. So thank you for communicating with readers and potential clients. You make the process better by communicating your expectations. No one should honestly expect more than that. You are #agentwin.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:51 PM sums it up for me, but for one thing.

Someone used the term 'customer' rather than client, and I think that's telling. Agencies are not like corporations, and you're lucky if you can get 24/7 service on your computer these days - you cannot expect for 'the customer is always right' to apply here.

Sure, offer up helpful criticism, but don't hate people for living their lives. Sure, writers have day jobs and write - I assume agents do other things in their spare time that they enjoy. Asking them to essentially be 'on the clock' all the time is unfair, and frankly? Weird.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I agree with Kathleen MacIver. But since I'm commenting Anon this once . . .

Just from one conference:

1. Agent said during her panel that she welcomes questions & wants writers to feel she's always approachable; acted like I was a stalker when I thanked her for an informative discussion immediately after the workshop.

I don't expect someone I've just met to act as though we're old friends, but don't treat me like a leper five minutes after telling the room how accessible you are. Be genuine or stay home.

2. Ridiculing query letters to the point where half the room was visibly uncomfortable, but she was laughing out loud & having a blast.

If she's that dense during a workshop, will she miss every body-language cue during meetings with editors? Plus, making fun of people who're querying you just strikes me as being in very poor taste.

And another vote against the "no response = no" deal. Take three months to answer; send a one-word e-mail (No.); use a template (no different than a photocopied form letter) -- but when we take pains to follow published guidelines it's just rude to ignore us.

Anonymous said...

1. No response means no interest. I detest this.

2. If you change your guidelines, update your site.

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

4. Political rants on a business website. Don't care who you support or vote for, but I have marked a few agents off the list for rabid political bs.

5. I like seeing the personal side of an agent also, it gives me an idea of whether our personalities will mesh. However, if 9/10's of your posts are about your kitties, then I tend to wonder if you have any business.

Anonymous said...

To all the agents (top notch agents too) that piss and scream about wanting a personalized query letter, and send me back a "dear author" letter in return, try to at least insert my name next time. I spent hours reading blogs, your website, your clients' website, their books, to personalize that query letter, at least you could spent 5 seconds to insert my name.

Anonymous said...

I won't submit to someone who doesn't care to respond. There are plenty of agents who will send out some form of "no."

I don't mind the "gallows humor" agents have with respect to bad writing. How else are they going to respond the nth time their eyes have to deal with your that should be you're and etc.?

I like it when agents and editors blog and tweet about anything whether personal, business, whatever. I'm basically eavesdropping on their world for clues on how not to be -- what's the word? Oh, yeah. An idiot.

As for the agent-who-will-remain-nameless who closed down for submissions until she gets caught up: My esteem level for her went way, way up when she did that. That is, I think, the height of respect, for herself and for all the writers who want to submit to her.

I wonder how many other agents would have the confidence and self-discipline to close for submissions until they get caught up? It would be like a gold panner turning away from the stream to sort the stuff she's already pulled out of the river. What if a big nugget floats by while her back is turned?

But then the work never gets done. So my hat's off to the agent who was willing to step off the conveyor belt in order to get caught up.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 6:22 pm said it best;

If you're sending out 25 queries and only one agent responds, that says something about the viability of your project.

Successful writers don't point fingers outward. They look inward. They read the trades, visit bookstores, read new books, re-write their novels and treat publishing like a business.

That said, sometimes the writer picks wrong.

And sadly, Anon 6:22, I think I might have.

My agent hasn't made a sale for a couple of years. While she is incredibly motivating and has absolute faith in my writing I wonder whether she's got what it takes to get my work across the finish line.

Some of the bigger issues have been submitting the out-of-date manuscript she should have destroyed all copies of, and then forwarding the rejection from the major publisher that pointed out all the issues I'd already fixed...

Twittering, blogging and trawling through time-wasting sites like Authonomy are also issues - because she's not making sales, she's not selling my book but she's busy trying to be the BIG IMPORTANT AGENT everywhere she can.

I just wish I could fire her... but I feel this sense of loyalty because we've worked together for so long.

*gathering courage*

«Oldest ‹Older   1 – 200 of 313   Newer› Newest»