Agentfail Right Here

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Apr 01 2009

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).


306 responses to “Agentfail Right Here”

  1. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  2. Avatar Kimber An says:


    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.

  3. Avatar Joyce says:

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

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  5. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  6. 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?

  7. Avatar Anonymous says:


    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.

  8. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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….

  9. Avatar a writer says:

    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.

  10. Avatar spyscribbler says:

    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.

  11. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  12. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  13. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

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

  15. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  16. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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

  17. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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).

  18. "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 joke…is 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 that…it 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!

    Anyway…it's not an #agentfail…it's just one aspect of the whole "finding an agent" thing that leaves us feeling like our brain is going 'round in circles!

  19. Avatar jimnduncan says:

    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.

  20. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  21. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.)

  22. Avatar Anonymous says:


    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.

  23. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  24. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  25. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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

  26. Avatar Anonymous says:


    (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.)

  27. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  28. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  29. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  30. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  31. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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 🙂

  32. Avatar Bill Greer says:

    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.

  33. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  34. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  35. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  36. Avatar Dara says:

    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. 🙂

  37. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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…

  38. Avatar writermomof5 says:

    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.

  39. Avatar Kimber An says:

    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.

  40. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  41. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  42. Avatar Anonymous says:

    #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.

  43. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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

  44. 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.

  45. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  46. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  47. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  48. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  49. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  50. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  51. Avatar Anonymous says:


    **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.

  52. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  53. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  54. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  55. 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!

  56. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  57. Avatar Cutris says:

    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.

  58. 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.)

  59. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  60. Avatar writer says:

    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.

  61. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  62. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  63. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  64. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  65. Avatar Superfast says:

    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.

  66. Avatar Heather says:

    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.

  67. Avatar Maria says:

    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.

  68. Avatar Jade says:

    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)

  69. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  70. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  71. 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.

  72. Avatar Kim W says:

    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.

  73. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  74. Avatar Rick Daley says:

    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.

  75. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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:

  76. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!”

  77. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  78. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  79. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  80. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  81. Avatar Diana says:

    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.

  82. 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.

  83. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  84. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?)

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

  86. Avatar Sheila Deeth says:

    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?

  87. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  88. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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”.

  89. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “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.

  90. Avatar Anonymous says:

    **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.

  91. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  92. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  93. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “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.

  94. Avatar Mark Terry says:

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

  95. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  96. Avatar PurpleClover says:

    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.

  97. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  98. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  99. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  100. Avatar PurpleClover says:

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


  101. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  102. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  103. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  104. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  105. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  106. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  107. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “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.

  108. Avatar Philangelus says:

    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.

  109. 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 😉

  110. 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.

  111. Avatar Backbone says:

    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.

  112. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  113. Avatar Adrienne says:

    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.

  114. Avatar Christine says:

    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.

  115. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  116. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

    Where’s all the thriller/suspense agents?

  117. Avatar Anonymous says:

    You forgot “paranormal whatever” to the above list.

  118. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  119. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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,

  120. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “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!)

  121. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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…

  122. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  123. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  124. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  125. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  126. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  127. 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

  128. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  129. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Naming good agents would be good too.

  130. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  131. 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. 🙂

  132. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  133. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  134. Avatar Janet says:

    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.

  135. Avatar Ella says:

    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

  136. Avatar marymac says:

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

  137. Avatar Gwen Hayes says:

    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.

  138. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  139. Avatar NerdSnark says:

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

    But, all I can say is–uh,oh.

  140. Avatar Adrienne says:

    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.

  141. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  142. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  143. Avatar Evenstarr1 says:

    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!

  144. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  145. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “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…

  146. Avatar jfaust says:

    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.


  147. Bravo, Faust, bravo.

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

  148. 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.

  149. Avatar Gwen Hayes says:

    …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.

  150. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  151. Avatar Just_Me says:

    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.

  152. Avatar Dawn says:

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

  153. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  154. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  155. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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…

  156. Avatar AstonWest says:

    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.

  157. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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

  158. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  159. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  160. Avatar Anonymous says:

    “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.

  161. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

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

  163. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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 day…no 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!

  164. Avatar Adrienne says:

    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).

  165. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  166. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  167. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  168. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  169. Avatar beth says:

    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.

  170. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  171. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  172. Avatar Debra Moore says:

    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. 🙂

  173. Avatar rosepddle says:

    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.

  174. 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?

  175. Avatar Liz says:

    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.

  176. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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!

  177. 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.

  178. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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?

  179. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  180. 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.

  181. 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 😉

  182. 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.

  183. Avatar azimuth says:

    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.

  184. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  185. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  186. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  187. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  188. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  189. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  190. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  191. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  192. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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.

  193. Avatar Anonymous says:

    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*

  194. Avatar green ray says:

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

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

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

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

  195. Michael Gavaghen:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  196. Avatar Anonymous says:

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


  197. Avatar NerdSnark says:

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

    Oh, big, fat, huge #agentfail.

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

    Current guidelines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  200. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  201. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  202. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  203. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  204. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  205. Avatar Kelley says:

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

  206. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Kelley, I agree.

    All this negativity makes the professionals really shine in comparison.

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

  207. Sha’el,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Regards to the goat.

  208. Gracious!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Okay…I’ll get off my soapbox.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  210. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  211. Avatar Keri Ford says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  213. Avatar WriterResearcher says:

    Thanks for allowing us to do this!

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

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

    Now, onto the beefs:

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

    “I find your project intriguing but I’m just not excited enough about it”.

    That’s an oxymoron I do not understand.

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

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

  214. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  215. Avatar Anonymous says:

    You know this bit:

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

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

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

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

    No wonder some writers are getting rejected.

    Grandma Sharon

  217. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Going anon, yeah…

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

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

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

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

  218. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  219. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  220. Avatar TrixieLox says:

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

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

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

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

    Once Gmail has reloaded, Compose a new email.

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

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

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

  222. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

  223. Avatar Janet says:

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

  224. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

    Who cares what YOU like?

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

  225. Avatar Pimlicokid says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  226. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

  227. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

  228. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

    Who cares what YOU like?”

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

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

  229. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  230. Avatar Miss Lily says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  231. Dear michael gavaghen,

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

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

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

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

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

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

  233. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  234. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  235. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  236. Avatar jimnduncan says:

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

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

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

  237. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  238. Avatar Anonymous says:

    ok ok ok…

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

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

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

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

  239. Avatar Anonymous says:


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

  240. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

    Removing the possibility of retribution insures comments will be honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  241. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

  242. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  243. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  244. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

    Double-standard much?

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

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

  245. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  246. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  250. Avatar Anonymous says:

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


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

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

  251. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

    What can be done? Submit, submit, submit…

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

    Scott Nicholson

  253. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  254. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

    Boycott their client list.

    And let them know you’re doing it.

  255. Avatar Donald Maass says:


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

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

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

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

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

    I get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    -Donald Maass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  257. Avatar wisebird says:

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

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

  258. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  259. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  260. Dear Donald,

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


  261. Avatar Jarucia says:

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

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

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

    It’s people clashing with people.

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

    Thanks for offering this place to vent today.

  262. Avatar P.A.Brown says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  264. If the dentist/builder/bank manager/cashier/hairdresser acted in such ways they’d never work again!–

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

  265. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

  266. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  267. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  268. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  269. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  270. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

    IMO, that’s quite simple professionalism.

  271. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  272. Avatar Anonymous says:

    All time agent lows?

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

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

  273. Avatar gringo says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  274. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  275. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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


  276. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  277. Avatar Anonymous says:

    Thorns in my side:

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

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

    3. A rejection letter e-mailed from a Blackberry

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

  278. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  279. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

    Pretty expensive habit, this Twitter thing, huh?

  280. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

    Does this query make me look fat?

    The Bono/Cher/Madonna agent: “Pass.”

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

  281. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

    Without writers, you wouldn’t have a job.

    My complaints:

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

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

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

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

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

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


  283. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  284. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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


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

  285. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

  287. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

    And Anon 11:23, 4/03…I’m sorry, but this:

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

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

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

  288. Avatar Mags says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  289. Avatar Susanne says:

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

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

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

  290. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  291. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

  292. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  293. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  294. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

    C’est la vie, right?


  295. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  296. Avatar Julia says:

    Wow. Just wow.

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

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

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

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

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

  297. Avatar Mira says:

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

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

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

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

    This benefits not just authors, but agents.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  299. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

    Auto Responder Rejection = #EPIC AGENT FAIL


  300. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  301. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  302. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

  303. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

  304. Avatar charles says:

    Having been a part of the Online Universal Work Marketing team for 4 months now, I’m thankful for my fellow team members who have patiently shown me the ropes along the way and made me feel welcome.

  305. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    And now. I need a drink.

  306. Avatar Anonymous says:

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

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

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