Wednesday, April 01, 2009

#agent fail at Bookends!

Here's your chance to really let us know what sticks in your craw.

I will be paying VERY close attention to the comments because this is a golden opportunity to hear valuable feedback.

And you can comment anonymously; you don't have to use your real name or your normal posting name.

I STRONGLY encourage you to use this chance.

(it's not an April's Fools Day joke, honest)


Indigo said...

I'll be first on the slaughter table. Keep in mind, I'm only investigating agents here and there in preparation of choosing who I send my query letters to. Having said that, the majority of Literary agents scare the living be-jesus out of me.

I'm more scared of the agents, the query letters than I am on how my book will come across.

I do agree with some of the comments on the article; it would be nice to get a thanks, but no thanks response. At the very least you would know your query has been checked out, read and dismissed. The heads up would give you incentive to change up your approach.

I'm being totally honest here, it's not 'how good is your book' that I think is daunting to authors (most of us have over the top egos to begin with), it's the agent response.

So did I slit my throat or what? Imagine that and I'm not even in the ballpark yet...

Cutris said...

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.

Deborah said...

Dito the being scared to death. What worries me is I could have a fantastic manuscript but because I can't get the query right, agents won't even look at it. Some people can put a world into a few sentences. Others aren't so gifted.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Indigo, I completely agree. I too am at the investigation stage and probably won't move to the querying stage for a while, which is why I'm not participating at #agentfail (no experience to draw from).

The biggest frustration I've seen, from many writers on various blogs, and the one thing I think would drive me batty, is lack of communication. Whether it's not responding with even a form rejection, to taking much longer than the guidelines state to respond to requested materials (without any sort of heads-up that the agent is behind), or not letting a client know what's going on with their book, it's hard to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Queries are the bane of my existence, but I have to admit--reluctantly--it helps me focus. Most writers lose that once they've spent months writing on a book. It's like placing a book on your forehead and trying to read the whole page.

And, yes, the #agentfail is very interesting to read, even from an author's perspective.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

Well, Janet, I commented. Now I'll never have a career!

Haste yee back ;-)

Glen Akin said...

Honestly, I really don't think this #agentfail thingy is of any use at all. No offence to anyone who thinks otherwise.

In most cases, agents are the key to getting to an editor, and then finally getting published (in some rare instances, writers get editors first, or go the self-publishing route).

As such, we - unpublished writers - have to kiss agents arses ... in a way. Agents know this, and whatever problems people state as "agentfail" will persist. Yes, I said it. What are you going to do - stop querying? Stop writing? You can't. I can't. It's in our blood. This writing thing is more than just a passion for us and they - agents - know that too.

Anonymous said...

Having a requested full out with an agent for over a year (since early March of 2008).....

Decided to take it as a no.

Just_Me said...

I do adore you sometimes. Your willingness to get picked on is lovely. Now if I could just convince you to come to the dark side and rep sci-fi...

Anthony said...

Eeep look at all those comments over there!

I wonder if there is too much meta-thinking going on about the publishing process. There’s learning about an industry so you can be smart about how you go about trying to get into it, and then there is obsessing about details such as agents “who twitter too much”.

Of course here I am on a blog rather than my manuscript, ha.

My suggestion is more blog posts about books. When an agent blogs about a book she read, and tells me what she thinks of it, that is a little slice of awesome. This is particularly helpful for agents representing certain genres. Noticeably absent are agents who represent sci-fi but only blog about fantasy books, when they blog about books at all.

I also wonder why there isn’t a “let me pimp my clients’ books” page on every single agents’ blog. Sometimes, an agent has sold me on a book. I am much more likely to depart with my book budget dollars if I can simply click on the thing and have it take me to Amazon or wherever.

No #agentfail here, just some general suggestions while I wait for the espresso machine to cycle.

Sarah said...

Janet, I'd love to hear what comments at #agent fail stood out most to you.

Julie said...

I visited the Bookend's blog. Your blog and Jessica's are the two I follow, sometimes checking in with others, but usually not. I threw a comment or two onto the list, but, at the end of the day, the venting kind of depresses me. I think the same is true for the ranting about agents that is true for the ranting about authors: the ones who really need to hear aren't the ones who are listening/reading.

That you encouraged your readers to head on over is a credit to you, and you have clearly shown your interest in writer's complaints, but, you know what, I queried you and received an extremely professional response after just a few days. You rock. Others do not.

The truth is (and to steal a line from the X-Files), I want to believe... in agents who are agents because they love what they do, are excited about the authors whose careers they foster, and who understand the commitment in the souls of writers.

Heather Wardell said...

Glen, I must disagree. I do not need to kiss anyone's arse. That skates too close to the "beggars can't be choosers" attitude for my liking. I've seen too many writers fall into that and accept absolutely shoddy treatment as a result.

I do follow guidelines carefully, of course, but that's not kissing up. That's treating agents with professionalism. When I'm not treated professionally in return (such as agents who don't respond), I know that's an agent who wouldn't be right for me.

I won't stop writing. But I also respect myself and my writing enough to not grovel for a place in the industry. I will keep querying and doing the best writing I possibly can, and I believe that someday that will be enough to get me the agent and the book deal that are right for me.

I want an agent who DOES know that writing is in my blood and understands and respects that. I know those agents are out there (she says, posting on the blog of exactly one such person) and I will have one eventually, because I will not settle for less.

Mandy said...

I have to agree with everyone's comments. I think that one of the worst things is the 'no response'. Did you get my query? Did the spam filter take it down? Was it just so bad that it didn't deserve a response? The query process is 100 times more terrifying that writing the book. I'd much rather get a standard 'thanks but no thanks' as opposed to nothing.

Also, I feel that agents should not give a time frame to responses. I understand that most agents are buried with work, but you get your hopes up when you're given a time frame to work with. I've had a partial out for what the agent said had a 4-6 week turn around and I'm now on week 10 with no response.

In the digital age, I have a hard time with snail mail submissions. It's environmentally responsible, fiscally responsible, and more convenient to submit electronically. Most of the agents that I have yet to query are the agents that do not accept electronic submissions.

T. Anne said...

I have to agree with Just me. So sweet. Thanks for the info.

BJ said...

I don't know. I checked out #agentfail, and found a lot of bitterness and hostility. You do have the true writers who have/had an agent - fine. in most cases they know what they're talking about - and then you have those who can't understand why the world isn't clamouring for their 'future bestseller'. A lot of unrealistic expectations and ideas of the industry, there.

Oh, and what some hated about an agent, others loved. Besides the anti-'no answer means no' faction (which, I admit, I fall into), there seems to be very little consistency.

The difference between this and #queryfail: #queryfail was meant as a tool to teach authors what not to do; #agentfail is simply an excuse to vent. Funny, but I'm really not interested in hearing/reading writers (or anyone) complaining because the agents (real people, by the way) aren't doing their bidding 24/7.

As a side, notice how many will rag against 'all agents in general', then end with the obligatory 'oh, except Bookends (the host of this post) of course'. Nice.

Sorry, but I want nothing to do with any of that. I read through as much as I could handle without blowing a gasket - and I only read that much because Janet asked us to. I'm sorry, but I won't be commenting on that post.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I went over there, read all the posts, commented, went back, read the follow ups,felt a pixie snit coming on, reposted and scolded a twit. Now, i'm really crabby and it's all your FAULT!

Lots of good comments though. A few not so good.

Skeptic said...

I laughed - literally - when I read your addendum that this whole agent-fail blog discussion wasn't an April Fool's joke. I've read fifty blogs today that were in fact, jokes. My initial reaction to the first one was, "Geez, would I do this on my professional website???"

Then I had to smack myself in the hypocritical head. My boss calls work every morning at 0530 to see how the night shift went - did anyone beat the crap out of the staff, how many admissions did we take, are we really ready for our JCAHO survey, that sort of thing. When she called this morning I said, "JCAHO showed up at three this morning. I *think* we did okay... maybe..." She completely freaked out. Which of course is the point of April Fool's Day. We laughed hard when I told her I was only joking and she graciously said, "Linda, you got me good."

When you emphasized that the Bookends discussion was not a joke, I appreciated that. I doubt those venting anger or those merely attempting to offer constructive suggestions would be as forgiving of a joke where this particular issue is concerned.

To BJ - I agree with your observation of #queryfail. It is one thing to offer criticism of the content of a document. #agentfail seems to have opened a floodgate of negativity directed toward individuals. I was disheartened enough to comment on it (the negativity). Some went so far as to suggest naming "bad" agents - bad defined as those who don't see things the way an author wants. Human behavior never ceases to amaze and baffle me at times. Anyway, I appreciated the point you made here. I wish you would post that observation on the thread at Bookends. It was incredibly insightful, and I think folks need to read it. :)

Jenna said...

I kind of understand #queryfail. Writers do need to know what mistakes not to make. Those entries are helpful.

#agentfail is kind of pointless. The only ones who pay attention are the agents who are already not jerks. The one advantage is that I can see what blogs link to the #agentfail posts, and if those are agents like yourself that are referring folks because of a genuine interest in the outcome, well I know to query them. That means they have class.

Honestly, without a place where writers are protected from retribution from the industry, we will never get a true #agentfail. For instance, I want to know who responded after 2 years so I don't waste my time, but the writer's can actually say who that agent is. They might get a nasty blowback. Also, that doesn't prevent the whiners from whining about how they're misunderstood geniuses.

Maybe as a waitress I just learned that the outcome isn't up to me. I can do my best and the customer is going to tip what they're going to tip. Same with agents - I can do my best, but it's not up to me wether or not they take me on.

I will say, though: Use auto-response, and give at the very least a "thanks but no thanks". I have a feeling that those things will irk me in the near future...

BJ said...

Skeptic: It took me hours to calm down enough to write the above comment. It took another couple hours to calm down enough to let myself succumb to exhaustion and get some much-needed sleep. I don't plan on going back to that post and those comments. I need to get on with my life. :)

Anonymous said...

I do like the concept of this. It's nice to give some suggestions. There are plenty of great ones given there.

Still, I have to admit, I've been reading some of those comments and it's surprising how many bitter writers there are out there.

I understand their frustrations, but seriously, some are just reveling in this venting session a little too much.

That's all I had to say ::heads back into obscurity::

Margaret Yang said...

I honestly thought this was an April Fool's day joke, because no matter what, there doesn't seem to be a positive constructive outcome.

As others have pointed out, the truly classy agents don't need #agentfail. It's bitching at the choir.

And if writers point fingers at the "bad" agents, it makes the writers look whiny, insecure, divas.

It just seem like a lose-lose.

I wonder if there could be a more positive way to handle this? Not an #agentwin where we all suck up to agents (yuck)! Perhaps an agent could simply ask, "What is your idea of an ideal agent?" That would certainly open some eyes without all the negativity.

Anonymous said...

I am curios about #queryfail, by the way.

Is there any way to gleam through it without going through the twitter website? I can't quite make heads or tails with twitters in general, and theif format is not the most productive way to browse through.

Did any of the agents list their pet peeves on a blog somewhere? Haha, am I asking for too much?


Glen Akin said...

@ Heather Wardell

You're missing the whole point. Following the so-called rules of a jerk-agent IS kissing arse, like it or not. And guess what - you're not allowed to tell the agent he/she is a jerk. Even published authors don't have the balls to name names.

Agentfail doesn't solve anything, really. We should all just keep writing, keep query, and pray our MS falls into the right hands. Everything listed on these #agentfail posts have occurred long before and are still taking place now. Guess what - the next batch of writers will face the exact same thing.

Jodi said...

What Julie said. Also I want to support all who’ve talked about submitting electronically. First thing I look at. For me it’s very important because I am outside the US and sending by regular post is simply not an option. However, on grounds of protecting the environmental AND the expediency, I can’t see where there is any argument. When an agent says (on their website, at a conference, etc) that they are “old fashioned” I am so turned off. It’s not about tradition now, is it?