Friday, April 3, 2009

Common Complaints About Agents

Agent Jessica Faust from Bookends, LLC blogged on Wednesday about the famous #QueryFail that has been on Twitter lately. I haven’t read exactly what was written on Twitter, but others have informed me #QueryFail was formed by a bunch of agents who took the time (because they have so much of it) to make fun of some queries they received and actually posted those queries on Twitter. Of course, writers were fuming. Some agents, like Jessica Faust, recognized the need to allow the same courtesy to authors (although she never participated in the query bashing). Would you believe there were 252 comments on her blog that day? Holy crap!

What were the most common complaints writers had about agents? Agents who:

• Never sent out an auto-reply saying the query, partial, or full was received and then not following up with a rejection letter. Writers would prefer to have one or the other, at the very least, so they don’t have to wonder whether they’ve been rejected or their work hasn’t been received.
• Can’t meet their normal return time and don’t notify the writer that they’re running behind. Writers feel it’s common courtesy to act as professional as the agents expect in return. Writers understand when an agent is overloaded and hasn’t had a chance to get to their partial or full, but since the agent requested the material, the writer would like to know her work is still on the table and not tossed in the trash.
• Reject a requested full manuscript without ANY reason. Writers would like some sort of feedback so they can use the info to possibly improve their work.
• Don’t update their website with current submission guidelines. Writers don’t want to waste their time submitting to an agent who says they represent their genre only to receive a rejection stating the opposite.
• Complain about how overworked they are, but somehow have time to Twitter and blog. Granted some agents blog after hours, but some writers seem to really have a beef with time spent on Twitter. However, others posted they enjoyed learning more about the agent’s personality via blog or Twitter and didn’t find those options too time consuming.
• For whatever reason, decide they no longer want to represent the author, but don’t immediately cut the ties. They simply cease to respond to e-mails from the author for months before finally sending the “This just isn’t working out” letter. Writers would prefer to break the contract as soon as either side doesn’t feel the love anymore. Although, this may sting at first, at least the author can go on to find a more suitable agent.
• Only accept snail mail queries. Writers can accept sending paper partials or fulls, but queries?
• Think they’re superior. Writers want agents to remember: “Without us, there wouldn’t be a need for agents.”
• Send promotional material for authors they currently represent while including a rejection letter to the writer. Need I elaborate on this?

Well, that about sums up the comments. I haven’t had any experiences with agents yet since I’m still reworking my ms. What about you? Without naming names, do you have any good or bad stories to share?


  1. I have yet to have any experience with agents as well, but after reading this blog it sure does sound intimidating. I sorta feel like some people took advantage of the opportunity and went a bit overboard. But on the same note I also feel a bit more informed and now know what the worst I can expect is. How did you feel about the entire process in general. Do you think all the tongue lashings (comment lashings for better words) were actually necessary?

  2. Marybeth,

    I agree with you. Some of the writers were very bitter and downright nasty. They asked others to name names, but Jessica deleted those posts.

    While I believe some agents do give us something to complain about, I hope that's not the norm. Another writer said if your query is a knock out, agents will jump at the chance to request more. So, I guess if it takes them a while to reply, you may not have anything that stands out more than the rest (not to say it's bad though, maybe just not a star query).

    The other thing I got out of this experience is that I know how harsh thing can get out there in the publishing world and I won't take it personally if some of those things happen to me. Kind of thickens the skin some more.

    Lynnette Labelle

  3. I don't begrudge agents time to tweet and blog. That's part of their work time, IMO. Agents do so much more than talk to writers. They promote themselves, their agency, and their authors. They talk to other agents and to editors. They read publications. They attend conferences and workshops. They're in business just like other professionals.

    I did have a bad experience with my first agent. He quit emailing me. He quit answering my emails. It wasn't until I went on his site that I learned he'd decided fiction didn't sell and he was going to rep only nonfiction. It would have been professional and polite, I thought, to tell those of us in his stable who were fiction writers.

  4. I didn't agree with that comment either. (about blogs and twitter) I love that agents do that. It helps me remember that they too are humans, just like me. It's good to remember that sometimes.

  5. I've had plenty of experience with agents and most of it has been positive. There have only been one or two I took exception with but by and large they have been professional.

    It's a really tough business and when you start querying, you can be doing it for a very long time. I think I queried 50 agents with one book. I got lots of requests for partials and full and didn't get signed. With my last book, I queried 5 agents, got a couple of partial requests and a couple of full requests. I ended up signing with one of those agents.

  6. Very little experience, but those complaints did make me chuckle because they are spot-on.

    Ever visited the site Read 'Em And Weep? Rejection letters posted by authors - and they are so bad, they are funny!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  7. Gosh my experiences have been mixed. They're people and we're people and sometimes that's all you need to develop a volatile situation. This is a frustrating business and you do need to have a sticktoitiveness (fancy word I know ;). Truthfully I believe only the strong survive.

  8. So far I've only met kind ones *crossing fingers*

    Also, I know a lot of people were peeved, but I've heard that the queries cited had details changed and were generalized. Query fail didn't bother me so much. I do think they should probably have gotten consent first though.

  9. There are times I'm thankful I write short stories, but someday I'll run the agent gauntlet, I suppose. It's nice to be armed with some great info--thanks.

  10. Like Helen Ginger, I also had an agent that quit answering emails, calls, etc. Only difference is that I never learned why. Very unprofessional in my opinion.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  11. Hopefully, we'll all get better agents than the ones mentioned in Jessica Faust's blog. We deserve it!

    Lynnette Labelle

  12. This is really interesting. I'm not a professional writer (just a pretend one on my blog) so I know nothing about agents.

    But you know - it really sounds like any other industry. People doing the selling (and in some cases selling themselves) are at the mercy of the buyers.

    Thanks for visiting me today. I can't imagine that I'll get many comments on that beast of a post. Bloggers tend to like short and sweet. Don't think I'll ever master that...

  13. This is really interesting stuff - stuff with which I have never had to deal. It makes me wonder if I have the right stuff. This is no business for sensitive souls, is it?