Monday, November 13, 2017

Worried you're going to end up on an Agents BAD BAD BAD list?

Writers often say things like "I didn't want to annoy/bother the agent" and "I didn't want to end up on the agent's blacklist."

Usually these writers are obsessing over whether to nudge on a requested full, or send a revised manuscript if they've made changes while they waited for the agent to read a requested full.

For all of you out there who worry about these things, here is what you have to do to get on MY blacklist:

Scene 1
8:30pm, The Reef, NYC
Phone rings

Me: Janet Reid
Caller: Oh! I thought I'd get your voice mail.

Me: Yes?
Caller: oh, I was just calling to introduce myself because I want you to be my agent and...

Me: Let me stop you right there. All inquiries are handled by email.
Caller: oh yes I know, I just wanted you to make sure you got my email.

Me: Just send the email, it will be fine.

Scene 2
10am the following day

Client: Hey I just got this email from a woman who wants to know what it's like to work with you.

Me (puzzled, not having offered rep to anyone in last few weeks) That's weird, who is it?

Client (forwarding email) Here take a look.

Me: Oh my dear godiva, it's the lady who called me at 8:30pm last night. And she now wants you to call her.

Client: Maybe I should.

Me (evil cackle): Yes, maybe you should. Can you loop me in on the conversation?

Client: Sure!


Caller: Hello?
Client: Hi! You emailed me about Janet Reid. You're looking for an agent.

Caller: oh yes! Thank you for calling me back. Now, I have an unfinished masterpiece and I want Janet to represent me but what is she like? Is she any good?

Client: (sounding very doubtful) well, you know...she drinks. A lot. She keeps a lot of cash on hand for bail money. She actually laughs about crushing writers hopes and dreams.

Caller: Well, that doesn't sound good.

Client: no, it's actually terrible. One author told me she actually sent him a rejection letter on his birthday! It was utterly cruel.

Caller: oh that IS cruel.

Client: She's been my agent for almost ten years, but only because I'm afraid I'll stop getting my books sold if I part ways with her.

Caller: I had no idea.

Client: Most people don't. They just blindly query her by email, and when she offers, they say yes. It's a mess, let me tell you.

Caller: Well, thank you for letting me know.

Client: No problem.


I swear almost every word of this is true, and if you're obsessing over being shunned by agents far and wide just answer yes or no to these easy questions:

1. Have you called the agent at 8:30pm to make sure she gets your most recent email?
2. Have you contacted a client before being offered rep?
3. Have you completely lost your mind?

Only if you have a perfect score here should you worry about being shunned forever.


MA Hudson said...

Oh god, I hope I was never that clueless. I might’ve been though, if I hadn’t found this blog before finishing my first ms. Nah, who am I kidding? I’d never be that efficient!!

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

One ringy-dingy.
Two ringy-dingy. this the party to whom I am speaking?
Um, republican or democrat.
No, not a political party. I am A-political, I was looking for an agent.
Agents don't have parties.
What do they have?
They have heartburn and reserved stools at the end of the bar.
Where might one encounter such an agent so I may offer Tums and present my amazing 'fiction-novel'?
One ringy-dingy.
Two ringy-dingy......

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Well, that is a big YES to #3. But that has nothing to do with getting an agent. I mean, I have always been a bit unhinged. The whole lay, lie, laid thing sent me right over the edge. So I suppose I am doomed.

But seriously, a writer called you to see if you got an email? Was the email a query at least? Wow, strange. And it wasn’t Jeff Somers messing with you? Crazy.

french sojourn said...

Janet, thank you so much for not using my name...that would have been so embarrassing. Same time tonight, gotta go I have Laird on hold.

cheers Hank.

Unknown said...

I'm imagining if this person signed with an agent. Ever see the movie What About Bob?

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Whew! Thank you, Hank. For a minute I thought she was writing about me! : )

Amy Johnson said...

"Me: Let me stop you right there. All inquiries are handled by email.
Caller: oh yes I know, I just wanted you to make sure you got my email."

The I-know-[but]. I hear the gnashing of shark teeth.

Colin Smith said...

Only if you have a perfect score here should you worry about being shunned forever

*phew*--for a moment I thought you had me at #3, but 1/3 doesn't count, so we're good. Besides, Stephen King and I are now Twitter buddies, so I'm just waiting for the agents to start calling me... ;)

Karen McCoy said...

Hank: Quote from blog post says, "Hey, I just got this email from a woman who wants to know what it's like to work with you..."

It's good to admit to your "crimes", Sir Hank, but methinks if this is really you, you have a lot more to admit... ;)

On a more serious note, this post was not only hilarious (in a bit of a tragic way), but reassuring. Many a time I've worried about overstepping, and it's nice to know that there are other more Darwin Award-like writers who demonstrate that the bear trap is only reserved for the most clueless amongst us...

Timothy Lowe said...

The only people who cold call me are robots trying to sell time shares.

Now, if they only had a robocalling service for authors trying to snare an agent...

I sense a chilling piece of flash fiction coming...

S.P. Bowers said...

I would worry she might be embarrassed after reading this but it's not likely she'll swing by the blog, is it?

Karen McCoy said...

S.P. Bowers, I wondered the same thing--and then came to the same conclusion.

Ardenwolfe said...

That was so delicious it should be banned by Weight Watchers.

Lennon Faris said...

Most of us here only seem to fit one out of three!

Hank that totally cracked me up.

And Karen - I love "Darwin Award." In other areas of life, know a few folk I could nominate as strong contenders!

Karen McCoy said...

Lennon: Ha, thanks! I know a few too... ;)

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

You mean people have the courage to actually COLD CALL another human being?

Granted, I suppose that kind of action is rather thoughtless. I *might* be able to give someone a call without thinking about it beforehand.



Me: "Um, why did I call you?"

John Davis Frain said...

Love this!

Opie, thanks for making me feel better about my 8:15pm call. Besides, I haven't lost my mind. I keep it in a jar on my bookshelf. (Channeling Colin's new buddy!)

Boris Ryan said...

A novice writer showed exuberance and excitement about querying.

So what?

What gives me pause is a busy NYC agent and her client took the time to troll this hapless writer in a coordinated phone call, and is now taking it further by shaming the novice writer on a blog.

Claire Bobrow said...

Thank goodness Hank cracked me up, cause this post gave me a case of the shivers. Now I'm afraid I'll start making calls in my sleep. Yikes!

npholland said...

Where is the book on the worst clients agents have had to deal with, aspiring or otherwise? That is one I would love to read. I believe it would be a greek tragedy, but with more humor.

SarahJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie said...

Um. Wow.
This will not happen to me because I never call ANYONE. Ever. I hate the phone.

In fact, if I ever DO get an Agent, I see this becoming a problem.

Me: Drat.
Me: Double Drat. It's my Agent. I'd better answer that. *Cold Sweat.*
Me: Triple Drat. (Answers) Hello, Agent...
Agent: Wassa Matta You? You never pick up!
Me: It's this Phone Thing I have... I'm so sorry...

- Nemo

Julie said...

And, on Follow Up, I feel the EXACT SAME WAY as Janet about people Facebook Calling when one doesn't know them.

And I mean know as in, "I've actually met you or at least have had substantive conversations with you" kind of know. "You randomly got through my 'Accept' filter" does not count as know.

Which I bring up because I expect that Agents get this kind of hounding ALL the time. "Hi, I follow you on FB, you know me, I LOOOOOOOVE you, so you'll rep me, right? Right? RIIIIGHT?"

I expect social media has pushed the bounds of politeness to its extremes.

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

Boris: A couple of points. First, the intention behind this post wasn't to shame the caller (no-one is mentioned by name, and, given the next point, the person in question is unlikely to see this post). The point of the article is to help those who feel they have committed some egregious offense so terrible they have been black-listed by agents everywhere. This commonly happens to conscientious writers who, say, misspell the agent's name, or accidentally send their query twice. Janet's point: this is how badly you need to behave to get on her naughty list, and few people are ever this bad.

Second, this exuberant, over-excited, novice writer committed one of the biggest fouls you can commit when querying in the 21st century: Not Doing Basic Research. One of the most-cited rules of querying is you don't call the agent. Not far behind that is, only contact the agent's clients as references AFTER an offer of representation.

You may not like these rules, but they're there to protect the time and sanity of agents and writers. I daresay everyone reading this blog on a semi-regular basis knows them, hence, I doubt the offender will see this.

This information is not hidden under a rock, or on an obscure web site somewhere. If you have researched querying, you will have come across it numerous times.

No matter how excited you might be to offer up your work for agent consideration, it's simple modern-day common sense to fire up a browser and find out how you're supposed to do that. If you end up getting slapped for being willfully ignorant, I find it hard to feel sorry for you. :)

french sojourn said...

Karen; I'm dying laughing over here in France, you're killin me!

"Hank: Quote from blog post says, "Hey, I just got this email from a woman who wants to know what it's like to work with you...""

[(I read it as Whoa-man!) Only my hairdresser knows for sure...but I protest too thinks?)

Boris Ryan said...


I have two agents representing mss in very different genres. Friendly chaps I can call any time, and who can call me when they feel the need.

I would not be thrilled to discover they trollcall writers who aren't query savvy, nor would I as a client, participate in the call.

To me, such nonsense smacks of being immature and unprofessional.

Colin Smith said...

Boris: Janet didn't call this person, she called her. This situation was initiated by the "querier." The "querier" had already shot herself in the foot by calling an agent with whom she had no relationship. The subsequent call made by Janet's client was a call the querier requested, and that Janet authorized for her client in this way because the querier should never have asked to begin with. Your agents may have found another way of telling the querier this is inappropriate, and I'm sure Janet doesn't make a habit of allowing her clients to call people like this.

Do you want unagented writers calling you up asking about your agents, as part of their query process?

Unknown said...

I hope they didn't really call their work an unfinished masterpiece, or at least said it jokingly.

As far as reading the blog, it's possible they saw it while gathering the contact info of the shark and her client, but they can't have read it closely and are doubtful to return to it. Too bad. Might have been a good lesson, both in the query process and in the thickening of one's skin.

A novice writer with enthusiasm to query is fine, but the enthusiasm should be used to research the proper way to do so.

Boris Ryan said...


I repeat, I would not participate in trollcalling writers.

Kregger said...

Let's also not forget the rule about randomly showing up at an agent's office unannounced.

Even with a bottle of single-malt. (unopened)

Can you imagine the resultant spoof?

(mid of night visitor) Knock-knock.

(enthusiastic querier) Who's there?


Chum who?

Land Shark

Colin Smith said...

Boris: If your definition of "trollcalling writers" is calling writers who write and ask you to call them, then I guess you'll never do what Janet's client did. :)

npholland said...

I am not an agent, but if any one of you wants to show up at my door with a bottle of single-malt, please feel free to do so. :)

Unknown said...

Boris, Your comment gave me pause. I like that you had a positive assumption about the caller, "exuberant." My brain went to, "trying to game the system." Different assumptions do lead to different behaviors.

Craig F said...

Damn, now I have to find something else to occupy my evening. I had a list of agents to call all set.

Michael Seese said...

Oi! Scene #1 is clueless. EVERYONE knows you're supposed to:

1. Send an email.
2. Wait one hour, then send a fax, confirming the email.
3. Wait one more hour, then call while simultaneously sending a tweet.


Karen McCoy said...

Hank: Not at all! :) Whoa-man it is...

AJ Blythe said...

So I'm not on the naughty list. Christmas is looking better all the time =)

Stacy said...

Me too, Kathy. No jumping ahead in line.