Saturday, April 04, 2009


I don't tweet. Or twitter. Or whatever it was that sparked off the whole queryfail/agentfail brouhaha. I'd heard of queryfail, but didn't read it, so all I can assume is that it was basically a bunch of literary agents stating how not to go about landing representation. From what I've read on other blogs, it seems there were more than a few writers who saw it as agents slamming writers for the stupid mistakes they've made in their search for representation.

It's not the first time agents have done this - you'd be amazed at some of the sheer idiocy writers will employ in order to try to land an agent - from the silly to the downright WTF-ery. You wouldn't believe it. I don't believe a lot of them.

Then, on April 1st, Bookends did Agentfail and all I can say is wow.

I'll say it again.


The amount of anger and vitriol in the comments was unreal. Yes, some of it was justified (the general consensus is that agents need to lose the "no response means no" and at least have an autoresponder to let an author know his or her query's been received.)

But some of it was just pure venom. Pure venom spewed beneath the protective cover of anonymity (and anonymity was encouraged. Publishing is a relatively small world, after all. And who in their right mind is going to criticize an agent and use their own name? A body'd have to be crazy to do such a thing.)

Now, I know not all agents are the epitome of professional. Some suck. But I like to think they are the minority. I certainly hope they are, anyway.

I currently do not have an agent. I've never had one. Every year, I make a half-hearted attempt, but that's about it. Some day, I'll get serious about it, but for now, I've been doing all right without one. When the time comes, I have my list of dream agents and hope to land one. Someday.

But that really has nothing to do with this - I did not comment on the Bookends post, nor have I commented on any other blogs referring to the Bookends post. I have an idea as to the identities of some of the agents people ranted about, and some of them made some very valid points. I agree that agents should be a professional as the writers who query them. I also wish agents would do away with that stupid "no response means no" because how am I to be sure my query didn't get caught in a spam filter? An autoresponse to let a writer know their query has been received really isn't too much to ask, is it?

So I could understand some of the frustrations.


Well, you knew there had to be a but, right?

Writers also need to understand that reading queries is usually not an agent's top priority. Their existing clients are and should be their top priority. An agent really owes you nothing in return for a query. Yes, agents need writers, but let's face it, there are plenty of writers in the sea. They need us, yes, but not nearly as much as writers might need them. I know writers like to sit back and declare how agents would starve without us writers, and to a certain extent, that is true. But, when you think of it, for every agent a writer may cross off his or her list, there are probably a dozen more writers who are gearing up to query that same agent.

As I said, I am unagented. For now. But, if I were to sign with my dream agent tomorrow, you damn well best believe that my book should take precedence over anyone else's query. End of story. A query earns an agent exactly 0% commission. My book will earn him or her 15% of the what the publisher offers. So, cold as that may seem, an agent owes you nothing for submitting a query. And if you don't like that, there are a dozen more who will. It's that simple.

As of right now, there are almost 300 comments to the Bookends post. And the valid points are in danger of being lost due to the vitriol bubbling all around them. And that's a shame because while #queryfail brought out how some agents saw writers as "idiots" and "whiners", some of the comments at agentfail do nothing to disprove those images, either. And I had to laugh at the people posting as anonymous who demanded that agents who behaved badly be named. I don't blame anyone for posting anonymously (and, as I said, it was encouraged), but to do that, and then suggest the outing of agents - well, that struck me as amusing, to be honest. I have to give kudos to the ladies at Bookends - they removed any post naming an agent directly.

Bookends has also done a post on Authorpass/Agentpass. I'm off to read that and hopefully, my fellow writers will have redeemed themselves. We'll see.


Jen said...

I didn't see the whole queryfail thing, but I did read both Bookends posts and the comments.

I was left feeling pretty sick to my stomach, reading the comments on the Agentfail post. It really skeeved me out, honestly.

*shakes head* And the worst part? When I last checked, the comments on Agentfail far outstripped the number of comments on Agentpass. Made me a little upset, actually. Agents are human, after all, and with few exceptions (like the knitting agent at the paid pitch making the author wait till she was done knitting--WTF??) I don't think they deserved the level of wrath aimed at them.

Kim said...

There was a LOT of bitterness (some of it I could understand, but some - whoa... people I would NOT want angry at me)

I didn't read the whole queryfail thing, either - I tried but it was tough to follow. I would imagine it was a lot like what Miss Snark used to do.

I'm with you - I don't think as a whole agents are awful. Some are, but from reading that thread, you'd think ALL were. Yeesh. :D

smsarber said...

If you go to the Association of Author's Representitives website they have a list of agents. The association has a strick set of rules and guidelines the agents have to agree to. You can find good, reliable representation there.