It seems that often enough an author makes the agent work so hard that it’s not worth the effort. For example, instead of a query letter, I simply get a one-sentence description and a link to a web site that really includes very little information about the book. For some reason I’m still interested, so I write the author back asking for more description. I’m still not really given any information and instead am sent to another place where I can read something. This something still doesn’t include the information I was requesting. At this point it’s just become too hard. Why am I chasing this book all over the Internet when I still don’t really know what the book is about? More important, though, I suspect that this particular author and I simply cannot communicate. No matter how many times I ask I’m not able to get the information I need, and that doesn’t bode well for future editorial feedback or requests from the publisher.
I have to say, situations like this happen almost weekly, and if I have to work this hard and it’s this difficult before I even know if it’s a book I want to represent, it’s only going to get worse. The reason there are so many guidelines out there on query letters, proposals, etc., is not because agents are looking to make your lives more difficult, but we’re looking for insight into your book and future working relationships. We don’t expect perfection, but we do hope it can go as smoothly as possible.