Tuesday, April 28, 2020

MSWL but closed to queries

I follow MS Wish List, which aggregates agents' (and editors') tweets about what manuscripts they would like to see.  Could you explain why an agent closed to queries would be actively updating their wish list and saying "send me your ____"?  Is it just a pipeline issue?  I find this practice very confusing.

You're supposed to be confused.
We do that on purpose.
It's a great way to torture writers, and you know we live for that.

**clattering noise as telex machine coughs up urgent missive to shark**

I guess *I* am the only one who likes to torture writers.

OTHER nicer agents don't. *telex catches fire like it was message to Mr. Phelps*

So driving you nuts is collateral damage to Lots of Available Information!

Because there is no central clearing house of info about agents not every update makes it to every site.

When I closed to queries a couple times I tried to update all the sites, my website and my blog.
I STILL got queries. Lots of them.

I still get queries addressed to me at FPLM, a place I haven't worked since 2016.

When I closed the office of a literary agent, I answered queries to an agent who'd been retired for two years and dead for another.

In other words, the amount of time I'm willing to devote to keeping my details current is shrinking because it doesn't seem to actually make any difference.

But, if you're a careful, organized writer (my favorite kind by the way) what you need to know is what to pay attention to FIRST.

The highest priority is what the agent herself says. If "Felix Buttonweezer is closed to queries" is the  Twitter name, well, that means Felix ain't reading. Query accordingly.

The #MSWL list is often assembled by people NOT the agent. When I searched it just now, there are agents listed who've been out of the industry for more than a year.

To answer your question: the reason this happens is that there is no single data base of information, and information on the many data bases is only as good as the people updating it.

As always give higher priority to the information found at the source.

And of course the first rule of querying is me first.


KMK said...

Fun (in a sad sick way) fact: during my second trip through the query trenches, a very popular website listed at least two dead people as open to queries. As usual, our Queen is right! The closer to the source, the better the info!

Kate said...

Also worth considering: a lot of agents who ARE closed to queries will sometimes still participate in pitching events at conferences, or twitter contests, so that info can still come in handy.

I've also seen some tweet #MSLW in response to something they saw on twitter and decided they'd also like to see – and though they may not be open to seeing it right now, once they do re-open, those tweets will remain searchable for writers to find.

Having spent a couple of months in the query trenches I will say that I'd rather there be more information out there than less. Part of my spreadsheet was for agents I thought were a good fit but weren't currently open - and I kept them there in case they did re-open during my search.

AJ Blythe said...

I've compiled my list of agents to query from a variety of sources, but I will definitely be checking the agent websites before I hit send. What makes my inner woodland creature tremble is that not all agencies keep their websites up-to-date (I've seen websites I know have outdated information on them).

nightsmusic said...

I did it backward and searched the agent's sites first. It took me forever and I didn't query much.

Maybe someone better at web design than me, should design a service where agents only have to enter whether they're accepting or not, once, and then that gets sent out to all the other sites. However, you're right in that the information is only as good as the people updating it, but at least there would be one central place people could check instead of twelve thousand.

Karen McCoy said...

What Kate said. I think there's also a distinction that also comes up--closed to unsolicited queries. So if the agent is participating in Twitter contests, or participating in conferences (well, at least they were before COVID-19) they'll probably still be interested to read pages they requested. It's probably that overall reading isn't a priority--they have other client related business to deal with, most likely.

The Sleepy One said...

Nightmusic, Query Tracker does a decent job updating an agent's query status (open or closed). I believe it's user-driven, but I found it to be accurate while querying.

Android Astronomer said...

Damn telex machines. If you had a mimeograph machine, I bet you could get the word out to everybody.

Brooks and the gang at FPLM miss you, but you'd be proud to know they keep the liquor cabinet stocked.

What? Brooks isn't at FPLM anymore?

Damn mimeograph machine.

Craig F said...

I have been using the free Query Tracked data base. I still go to the Agencies website and dig around.

Quite often the website leaves me in ignorance as to if a specific agent is open to queries.

A lot of other times I can't even figure out what genres that agent services. That toss out this flowery garbage about liking this or that and never really get to the point.

Maybe that is why they are agents.

MA Hudson said...

There are a few agents out there who do seem to enjoy torturing aspiring authors - making us wade through dense paragraphs of bio, luxuriating in the minutiae of their cooking, gardening, and fitness interests, and only then, if we're really lucky, they might throw out a vague allusion to the genres they represent. And of course, 9 out of 10 times, it won't be the genre we write in. Darn-it.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

At my library, one of the reference books we have on Standing Order (Which means we get it through our consortium each time there's a new edition) is Writer's Market which...is a neat book to flip through, but contains things that were perhaps facts before it went to print, but by the time it printed, are often no longer factual. Who is with what agency, whether they're open to submissions/queries, how they prefer to receive such materials, that kind of thing. I did purchase the Novel & Short story one years ago, before I was on Twitter, etc. if only because it was nice to hold a physical, browseable resource to then double check the info on via official websites.

I do also enjoy browsing MSWL because you just never know when the project you're querying matches up with what an agent says! Sometimes their specific idea and your novel don't actually match up but, such is life.

I've poked around on Query Tracker and, unlike when I abandoned my short stories submissions/acceptances/retirements spreadsheet for The Submission Grinder (highly recommended), Query Tracker just doesn't mesh with my brain for some reason.

With my current novel, I'm up to 18 Agents queried, 1 full request, 7 rejections, and 2 "no reply means no" dates passed.

Gigi said...

OP - Check directly with the agent. Some are posting #MSWL tweets for things they want to see when they re-open to queries. Others will say to query them even if they're closed if you have this very specific thing. It varies. So if the #MSWL tweet is current and they tweeted it while being closed, check the agency website and their Twitter bio for instructions and you can always respond to the tweet in question and ask "if we have this, should we send while you're closed or wait until you reopen?"

MandyBob said...

This was something I faced when querying, because I used to check MSWishList pretty often. It was an easy way to see who was actively looking for novels in my genre, and also gave me a sense of what agents were actually looking for.
The good news is that you can trace what you find on MSWishList back to the agent's original tweet. If the tweet is recent but the agency website says that the agent is closed to queries, email them. I did on 3 separate occasions, and had 2 get back to me within the day (Side note: They were super nice. Most agents actually are, contrary to increasingly popular belief). They both told me to go ahead and query. In both cases, I even got automated responses telling me that they were closed to queries which I was told to ignore.
Hope this helps!