Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How to tell if your agent is an utter nincompoop

Follow her/him on Twitter.

If you see a Tweet that looks like this:

@EDITORAMAZING I am a lit agent. Would like to send you a submission. May I have your email?
your agent is an utter nincompoop and you may quote me by name when saying that.

Let's unpack this, as they say on the postgame show:

1. A competent agent does NOT pitch editors on Twitter unless s/he knows them REALLY well. And even then, most competent agents will say something like "hey, I've Got That" to something an editor has said, and then phone or email the pitch.

2. A competent agent either knows the editor's email address, or how to  figure it out, or knows who call to get it.  At the very least a competent agent knows that an editor is NEVER going to give out her/his email address on Twitter.

When EditorAmazing shared this tweet with her coven, a few of us did some research. Turns out the "agent" in question doesn't have any background in publishing, and has no colleagues of any kind. In other words, someone who hung out a shingle and said "I'm open for business."

And even better: sent the same tweet to several editors in a row, so that all of them, while investigating who this was, could see them.

This agent is textbook nincompoop.

Any questions?


Tony Clavelli said...

Yikes. Sounds like the literary equivalent of deciding one Wednesday morning to buy a scalpel and some thread and go door to door asking if anyone would like some super-awesome surgery at low low prices.

french sojourn said...

LynnRodz; I just got your comment from 2 days ago. Everything's fine, I commented on it 2 posts back. Be well.

Cheers Hank.

Susan Bonifant said...

Tony, exactly.

"Joe's Hotdogs and Literary Agenting. ATM inside."

Mark Songer said...

Why, yes, I have a question.

What is an example of a good query letter FROM an agent (or however you get books before publishers? Let's say you have opted to represent Felix Buttonweezer's breakout novel Deep Greens about a CIA operative posing as a world renowned kale chef and you think this baby needs to hit the presses NOW. How would you pitch it?

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

No words, just my cartoon :
What Should We Do?

Anonymous said...

First, a followup from yesterday's comments.

To Lilac: Thank you.

Maybe she plans to conduct all agenty biz over Twitter. Reckon there's any takers?

@AgentNincompoop, Can I query you? What's your email? #soopergoodbook

@sooperwriter, yeppers, contract enclosed here.

@AgentNincompoop, gr8! Backatcha! #inked

@sooperwriter, awesome, pitching now! Follow Twitter feeds @EditorAmazing...

This "agent" and the ignorance shown when contacting editors somehow reminds me of the Kindle Cover Disasters shared by GalleyCat. Expect a book like this if you work with them, is all I got to say.

(sorry for the long unlinked link - but it's worth the copy/paste into your URL. Trust me)

Colin Smith said...

No no no no no!! That would make me so uncomfortable. If/when I get an agent, I would like her [I'm getting tired of covering the pronoun bases, so let's just assume my hypothetical agent is one of the awesome female agents I have on my priority list :)] to conduct her business in private. Let her work her business magic behind the curtain and just pop out from time to time to update me on how things are going. That's the kind of trust relationship I envisage. And the whole idea of conducting business via Twitter... *sound of skin crawling* Yes, this may only be a initial contact with an editor--but this is not to ask if they're available for drinks, or to ask about their ski vacation. If you're engaging someone for a serious business conversation, you use serious business channels. That's neither Twitter nor Facebook.

Donna: I've got your back:

Colin Smith said...

Colin: But what about Twitter pitch contests? Isn't that making a business contact with an agent?

Colin Smith said...

Colin: Don't be such an idiot--of COURSE it's not. Few of these are specifically to one agent, and the agents usually require you to send a query if you're picked, so it still reverts back to the traditional, formal method.

Who let you on this blog??!

Susan Bonifant said...

"Colin's E-Z Link Converting! ATM inside!"

You need a shingle :)

Colin Smith said...

Susan: "E-Z Link Converting and Book Publishing. Taking links and agent submissions via Twitter only." ;)

Dena Pawling said...

I have to at least give that author credit for perseverance. After the very last agent sends a rejection, she doesn't give up on her dream of a Big 5 publisher, but hangs her own shingle and shops her MS direct.

I would never have that much self-confidence, but part of me wants to say "you go girl!"

Julie Weathers said...

Colin, You're killing me. I need to get getting ready to go have lab work done before I die of thirst and here I sit ambling through these posts like I have nothing in the world to do.

Donna, you're not any better. My stars and garters, I laughed so hard at those covers. My favorite, of course, is BUT...YOU'RE A HORSE.

But now I'm sad. They've guessed the plot to my wip and I'll have to throw it away.

My MC has decided since it's her birthday she needs to restore her pure heart.

"My da told me how you M'Eiryns do your ceremonies. Find a white dog, and eat their heart. Makes me want to puke just thinking about it. I like you, but let's face it—"

"M'Eiryns are barbarians," I finished. "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Shouldn't believe everything your da tells you. He probably told you we frig horses, too."

Princess turned redder than usual. "You have to admit there's something unnatural about the way you all ride."

"Yes, I fell in love once, but it didn't work out. He was a gelding and I needed more."

I will miss my wip, but what are you going to do when someone else has already written the super secret part of your book that will astound everyone?

The next time someone asks me why I just don't publish on Amazon, I'm going to produce this link. The subject came up last night in a MMORPG of all places.

I don't understand why you just don't publish on Amazon and then we can read it.

Because I'd probably have a crappy cover like THIS!

MB Owen said...

Angie--your cartoon is marvelous!

When I first looked at the title I laughed...then in reading I thought it was a spoof...and then I realized no, this was really something that happened. I hope even Woodland Creatures know when they're looking at a strange new nut.

Angie Brooksby-Arcangioli said...

MB Owen, Thanks! These images have been floating around for some time. I'll have to make one for todays post.

Julie Weathers said...

On a serious note, this is something authors really need to watch if they're doing the twitter contests and such. These indie presses and editors come skittering out like cockroaches on a week old birthday cake.

I'm had several small/indie publishers request my manuscript. Some are legitimate, many are nothing more than vanity presses. Then people get all excited about sending their precious to this lovely editor/agent/publisher and you caution them to check it out carefully.

Most I can live with. A few are obnoxious to trigger my rising bs alarm.

Hello, Julie.


My name is Bob. I noticed you have an epic fantasy that sounds fascinating.

Oh, thank you.

We're very selective about who we publish. We don't publish just anyone.

That's good, you should be.

Since we have now been formally introduced, you may submit to me.

*bites tongue on submission joke*

And, Dena, I think you are probably on the right track.

Craig said...

Long have i wondered where editors come from. Are they born that way? Do you find them under cabbage leaves or under the left over cabbage leaves the day after St. Paddy's Day? Is there a point in their development where dreams of being an editor dominate their REM time?

If the Bell Curve is correct then fifty percent of doctors, lawyers and engineers come from the bottom fifty percent of their graduating classes. How do you break down how people use a degree in the English language?

Do people packing an English degree want to be Editors? No. They have other dreams and the cream rises to the top. Does that mean that those who end up as editors are form the bottom half of the bottom half of the bottom half, etc. Do your research when searching for an editor. There are good ones, even great ones, but they are rare beasts.

Colin Smith said...

BTW, I thought you might like to know about the latest project we're working on here at FPLM-CD. Inspired by yesterday's post, Kitty has been hard at work with the Legos, some scraps from an old droid, and a few rolls of duct tape building Carkoon's first ever automated ms rejection call service. We feed the ms into the ear slot, then it automatically calls the writer and, in its best English accent (because we all know everything sounds much more polite and believable if it's said with an English accent), it will tell the author everything that's wrong with the novel. It then wishes the writer all the very best with other agents. LynnRodz wanted it to sign off with a "Tally-ho!" But we all know Brits don't say "Tally-ho!" So it says "Toodle-Pip!" and hangs up.

I think it'll be great for business. :D

Tony Clavelli said...

Donna--the is amazing--thank you! I have this really strange desire to know more about the stories they're attached to, somehow, without having to actually read them. I don't think that makes sense, but here we are.

Julie Weathers said...


When I worked for a very large company at the distribution center I was the transportation managers assistant for a while. One day I got a call from England about some business. Basically, the company wanted to know how their system was working and would I answer a few questions.

I'd answer a question and many times the man would ask me to repeat. I assumed we had a bad connection. Sometimes I'd hear some noise in the background. That's not too unusual.

Finally we got to the end and the guy apologized. I asked for what. Well, I loved your voice and accent. I had to put you on speaker phone so everyone could hear you speak.

Then I hear a round of applause in the back.

All righty then. Carry on. Cheap thrills in England, listening to a hick.

Megan V said...

Julie, I love your stories. This one was priceless.

Back to the OP though, this is just another reason for writers to make sure they do their research.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Is this one reason people were talking about "Schmagents" on Twitter the other day?

Jenny Chou said...

Julie and All-

"On a serious note, this is something authors really need to watch if they're doing the twitter contests and such. These indie presses and editors come skittering out like cockroaches on a week old birthday cake.

I'm had several small/indie publishers request my manuscript. Some are legitimate, many are nothing more than vanity presses. Then people get all excited about sending their precious to this lovely editor/agent/publisher and you caution them to check it out carefully."

For 17 years I worked as a bookseller. I ordered backlist (i.e. reordered books that sold) for the store and handled special orders. In my opinion, the best way to see of a small/Indie press is legitimate is to check out their distribution to bookstores. If their website says something like "Distributed to the trade by Macmillan" then they are legit. "Books available from Ingram and other wholesalers" also means bookstores can easily get their books and you should be fine. Make sure one of your first questions to whatever Indie press contacts you is about distribution.

Now, that's not to say there aren't a lot of small presses that aren't perfectly legitimate and don't sell their books through these channels. But general bookstores usually wouldn't carry these books and you don't want to go with a press that makes your book hard to get.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: I first visited the States almost 25 years ago. My wife was my girlfriend at the time, and I was making my first ever trip to the US to visit with her and her family for a couple of weeks.

My flight touched down at RDU about 10:30pm on December 27th, and two hours later, I had about settled into their Raleigh home when there was a knock on the door. Before long, the family den was filled with her friends who had all made a late-night trip to meet this stranger from a strange land. They wanted to see English money and ask me questions. It was all good-humored and I didn't mind. In the midst of answering someone's question, the room fell deathly silent, and I stopped talking.

"What's wrong?" I asked.

"Nothing," one of her friends replied. "Keep going."

"What do you want me to say?"

"Anything. We just want to hear you talk!"

It goes both ways, it seems. :)

Julie Weathers said...


Definitely. I've bought many a beer for an Aussie cowboy just to listen to them speak.

My all time favorite though, is Jack Whyte.

Susan Bonifant said...

Great stories Colin and Julie. And it reminds me too of how much I love the sound of the first person I hear in NC when we visit the-one-in-college.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hi fellow woodland creatures. I miss commenting because of my job. Colin, you are a blinking linking s-expert, whoops, you know what I mean.
Ugh, back to work.

Julie Weathers said...


Voices are powerful. I confess, I've crushed on Shelby Foote for a very long time. He's the voice of my confederate colonel whenever I write him.

What a terrible loss when Shelby passed for many reasons.


Ardenwolfe said...

Yikes. I pity the authors who signed with this agent. How embarrassing and telling at the same time.

LynnRodz said...

Hank, glad things are starting to get back to normal for you. Vines are delicate yet resilient creatures much like writers and artists.

Angie, love the drawing and looking forward to that drink after my trip.

Jenny Chou, good info, thanks for sharing.

Colin, everything does sound more polite with a British accent. For instance, "Would you please shut the fuck up." Of course, the word please helps as well.

Nothing to add about the nincompoop agent except to shake my head.

(Sorry, Janet, for all the deleted comments, I kept trying to show how easy it is to add a link, but each time I tried to show the HTML code, it kept changing it into a link! If anyone is interested you can find it here in Step 3.)

Julie Weathers said...


I haven't been able to link youtube. It tells me the htps isn't allowed or something like that.

I'm sure it is since Colin does it, but this woodland creature didn't figure it out.

Thanks for posting this.


Colin Smith said...

Great cartoon, Angie!

Here's your link to Jack Whyte and his wonderful, resonant Scottish brogue:"

LynnRodz: That's why I wrote a blog post about how to add a link in comments. Whenever you try to do it in comments, it just makes a link out of your demo. My article is here:

Colin Smith said...

Sorry, the "your" was directed to Julie. Blogger comments seem to be really picky about what links they'll allow. Whether you have a Blogger account seems to make a difference too, though that doesn't account for your problem, Julie.

Julie Weathers said...

I swear agents are trying to drive me bat crap insane. I accidentally see a tweet.

"If you have a book that has talking dolls, rape, Gothic anything, southern accents, dragons, I'm not your agent."--paraphrased to protect the innocent, which means me.

Looks up agent's site to see what they are looking for and not a single peep about all these things writers should NOT be sending them.

Yes, let me add that to my list of things I'm supposed to know if I want to query this blasted book--learn how to read minds.

REJourneys said...

Julie: I always enjoy your stories. I never knew any country was interested in American accents, especially those from the mid-west, until I went to Australia. I love Australian/New Zealand accents, but was fascinated that people were actually excited that I was from "the States".

P.S. Verify, really, "butor". But or what?

I always hate to hear about people praying on others like this. "Companies" do this too. "Great opportunity, Immediate Hire" I've learned meant "less than minimum wage, long hours, no gas compensation, and we expect you to drive 45 minutes both ways to go door to door."

Some of them actually require you to shadow someone for a day before they consider you. A free day of work...

I shall echo everyone to research, always research. You're not sure about something? Research it. It's one of the virtues of the internet. You can learn the truth if you dig a little. *turns off microphone and picks up crate*

Christina Seine said...

Darn it, you guys keep making me smile, which hurts a lot because I had some oral surgery yesterday and today I actually *look* like a woodland creature (with cheeks full of acorns).

So stop that.

Somebody asked where editors come from. Sadly, they are made, not born. Here's how:

Step1 : Young, idealistic (clueless) college student decides to go for an English degree so they can get credit for what they love to do anyway - read and write.

Step 2: The Real World happens, and young college graduate requires actual money. With her amazingly useful English Degree, the only job she qualifies for is an entry-level reporter position at a VERY small-town newspaper.

Step 3: Our young reporter, being the only grammar nerd in the building, is eventually asked to "read over" everyone else's stories for errors. Without bothering to ask for a raise in pay, our young grammar nerd agrees.

Step 4: Small town newspaper realizes they are paying someone to do what our young, college-edumacated grammar nerd is doing for free, and does the only logical thing. Our young grammar nerd now works an average of 20 extra hours a week - without overtime pay of course, because she is on *salary.* (which felt so grown up and important, at first). But that’s okay, because they give her the title of Assistant Editor! A title!

Step 5: Young grammar nerd moves to bigger newspaper, starts making double the pay (so it’s now about $5 a week) and the cycle repeats itself. Because “words matter, dammit.” At this point, our young, idealistic grammar nerd is beyond help. With recidivism rates as high as they are, she’s doomed to a life of correcting bad punctuation and insisting that “irregardless” is not a word. She becomes cynical and develops a sugar and caffeine habit. Sadly, our girl is now a full-fledged editor. There is no cure.

Anonymous said...

First, yes, I'm a compulsive researcher. I like to know all sides of a story, so I searched Twitter and found this agent. I then followed her link to her website.

She's in Ireland, and I don't know if there's a less formal means of talking to Irish editors or publishers. Many of her clients are from Ireland.

I did read her list of clients and descriptions of their works. Only a couple mention that those works have been published, and both times they were published at a small indie? press in Ireland, which also seems to offer self-publishing services. (Yes, I researched the publisher, too.)

As for Jack Whyte, I have had the pleasure to hear his lovely brogue 10 years in a row at the Surrey International Writers' Conference. At the 'SiWC Idol' - basically, a slush pile analysis - he always reads the submissions before the agent panel discusses them. And he sings. Oh man. Can that man sing...

Julie Weathers said...


Diane Ciarloni, my editor friend, actually wanted to be an editor. That being said, she's also a remarkable writer. A professor in California used her editorial columns in a racing magazine about Quarter Horses to teach voice. Whoda thunk it?

One of the agents who requested my full was an editor in chief at some major publishers before becoming an agent. I think that's not that unusual now, but he made the switch some years ago.

I sort of like this editor/agent hybrid. It's as powerful as the cosmic blue shirt.

Anyway, I think for the most part, your summation may be correct.

I noticed Patrick Rothfuss thanked his agent and his editor in THE NAME OF THE WIND, which I thought was nice.

Christina Seine said...

Julie - I agree, it's a great combo. And really, the more hats (or fins) one wears, the better one understands the industry, I would think.

Julie Weathers said...


Jack is incredible at Surrey, well, anywhere, really.

He read the opening to FAR RIDER in an Idol workshop. About halfway through, hands shot up, "Stop!"

I gasped. Even QOTKU yelled stop.

They were right, of course. I started completely in the wrong place and the MC was navel gazing, but it was worth it to hear Jack read my words.

Jack is the reason I may still be on QOTKU's naughty list.

I submitted a query to her master class and an excerpt to Jack's master class on secondary characters. I got accepted for both, but they were at the same time. I figured since Janet's classes are always packed and Jack's was limited to 10, it would be more noticeable if I skipped Jack's.

I figured wrong. QOTKU picked my query out to comment on and asked where's Julie? Some of my writing posse were in her class and looking at each other like, "Oh, dear, what do we do now?"

So, I spent the rest of the conference on bended knee, literally, begging forgiveness and having people frown and say, "Oh yeah. You're the one who dumped Janet Reid." Unspoken--How dare you!

Are you a member of the B&W forum?

Amy Schaefer said...

Jenny Chou, thanks for the tips on sussing out decent small presses. See? Someone around here always knows.

I am now doubly glad I have stayed away from those Twitter pitch sessions. Getting bombarded by vanity presses would be just too depressing.

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Ohhh!! That explains the Julie Weathers memorial plaque on the cave wall here in Carkoon. And I think there's a statue of a woman on bended knee near the oasis... :)

Julie Weathers said...


Some of them are legitimate presses. I think I have ten invitations from publishers from the twitter contests and most were legitimate if small.

I also had an agent from Israel ask for a partial. I mentioned this on B&W and Barbara Rogan said she knew the agent and agency well and recommended them.

Jenny--Thanks so much, that's good information.


Now I'm curious. I have to find this agent, but I think I've run across her before.


Anonymous said...


I actually made it to Ms Reid's master class that year. She went through every query submitted, and had them up on a screen so everyone could see them. Mine was first on the block and was up on the screen as people flowed in. I was sitting beside a lovely woman who understood how nervous I was that mine was first. This woman is now my critique partner.

I honestly don't remember anything specific about the other queries. Although, I do seem to remember thinking it was odd someone would sign up for this class with such a prominent speaker then not come. But she was very kind, helping me feel better that my query was first. :)

What is the B&W forum? It sounds interesting.

(and I'm sorry. I haven't been following the blog enough to know what QOTKU stands for, and while I'm pretty sure that it's flattering and she loves it, I don't want to use it until I know what it means. :) )

Colin Smith said...

bj: QOTKU = Queen of the Known Universe :)

Julie Weathers said...


Yes, my posse that was there said it was a terrific class. As I said, I erred on the side of where would I be noticed most if I didn't show up. As much as I love Jack, I nearly left and should have.

Compuserve Books and Writers Lit Forum. It's where Diana Gabaldon and some other writers hang out. It's actually where she started out and got a recommendation for an agent for OUTLANDER.

They hold a private party each year at Surrey except last year. That's always fun. Last year they combined it with an event to honor Jack I believe.

What I like about B&W is the really in depth help you can get with your writing.

I posted a flashback in a suicide scene I wasn't sure was working. The swarm descended. We wrangled it around. Discussed minute details about words repeating and strengthening the image and so forth. With a little poking and prodding, it's stronger and does what I need it to do.

Then Diana, Beth Shope, Jo Bourne, or one of the other stellar writers post something from a work demonstrating a technique. They pick it apart to show exactly why something is written like it is and how to apply it.

It's like an ongoing writing class and a terrific support group.

Julie Weathers said...


I'm not sure I would have held together being first. Some of the others showed me their queries and the comments and I really gnashed my teeth about missing it.

At least your found a crit partner for being first!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Julie

I'll check out B&W.

And I nearly didn't hold it together. Luckily, my first fight-or-flight instinct is to hold very, very still. Which I understand is normal for the woodland creatures some of us are... :)

Anonymous said...


Sorry I missed this. Thanks for the info. I knew QOTKU had to be something terrific. I was just trying to figure it out with Q=Query... :)

(Sorry to be filling the comments up here!)

Jenny Chou said...

Now, that's not to say there aren't a lot of small presses that aren't perfectly legitimate and don't sell their books through these channels.

I don't think that sentence makes sense.

Let me rephrase. Some small presses are legitimate even if their titles are not distributed by a big publisher, a distributor or a wholesaler, but bookstores would have a hard time getting these books. Better to go with a press that has good bookstore distribution. Unsure? Ask the buyer at your local bookstore.

Lilac Shoshani said...

Donna, you are so very welcome. :D

This is such a fun post. Why do I have so much work for tomorrow? Why? (And it's already after midnight. Not that a different time zone ever stood between us. ;-)

Jenny, thank you for your wise advice.

Julie, Compuserve Books and Writers Lit Forum sounds awesome. Thank you.

Colin, thank you for making me laugh. :-)

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Angie - great cartoon, you are talented!

Jenny - interesting, helpful info.

JEN Garrett said...

"Any Questions?"
Just One: Is this "agent" reported on places like Absolute Write and Predators and Editors so that I don't accidently submit to him/her?