Pub Rants

Name Dropping

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STATUS: I actually worked a good portion of the morning but now I’m off to have a little fun.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? I could totally use a little music right now.

None of my blog readers would ever think to stretch the truth—as in writing “requested material” on a submission package that wasn’t requested or name drop one of my clients and pretend that person recommended them. You guys are fun, savvy, and honest. So really, this blog isn’t really for my loyal readers.



But it happens anyway so I want to let you in on a little secret. If you’ve ever been tempted, don’t do it. You won’t get away with a sneaky name drop. Why? Because, when clients recommend a writer to me, they call or email me to give me a heads up.

All other name drops are considered suspect. The writer may indeed have talked to my client about me but that doesn’t mean my client offered a personal recommendation. And yet, I receive name-dropped recommendation queries often enough (and if I were to chat with my client, he or she would more than likely be horrified that their name was used).

And here’s the flipside. Perhaps you have received a legitimate recommendation offer from an agent’s client. You need to coordinate it then. Have the client contact the agent first. Once that step has been done, and you know it has occurred, then you call or send your email (for me, it’s usually by email).

Because then I’ll actually be awaiting your contact and will recognize the name immediately upon arrival. That query will get first look over all the other queries awaiting attention.

And yes, there is a lot of power in a client recommendation. I do give those submissions prompt, serious consideration and in fact, not four weeks ago I took on a new author because of a client referral.

As for suspect queries, if they are obviously not a match for me (so why would my client refer such a person?), it’s an auto NO. Sometimes I check with my clients to be certain before responding (and usually they are mortified). If that’s the case, well then, the writer has started off on a dishonest note and I’m not real open to moving forward—even if the project might sound promising.

And that’s something to think about.

18 Responses

  1. Laurie Saloman said:

    Wow, Kristin. Your entry today gives me pause. Several times I have asked friends with agents if I can use their name as a referral, and they always say yes. But only once did someone say she’d contact the agent first to let her know my manuscript was coming. Makes me wonder if the other agents thought I was taking liberties with my friends’ names!

  2. Anonymous said:

    I had a similar experience. An acquaintance suggested I contact her fabulous agent and use her name, which I did. So I was a bit perplexed when the agent rejected my query (I had an overall 78% request rate).

    Fast forward a couple of years and I was speaking with the agent socially. She said she always calls her clients when their names are used in queries and will request the material if they confirm the recommendation.

    So, Kristin, perhaps it isn’t always a matter of the unpublished writer who is being disingenuous.

  3. Manic Mom said:

    A previous neighbor (We actually bought her house) sells Arbonne facial products, and I’m an Oil Of Olay kinda girl and have told her, nicely, of course, that I’m not interested in spending $200 and an hour each night to make my face look differently.

    She has called other neighbors and told them I suggested she call them! I was ANGRY! It was sneaky and devious, and I’ll never trust her again. These other neighbors called me and straight-out asked, “Did you tell Tanya to call me about her face stuff?”


    Just rude.

  4. Anonymous said:

    Are you also referring to using a respected author’s name in a query as reference if they are the writer’s mentor/critique partner?

  5. Alli said:

    Thanks for the post, Kristen! I’m just wondering what your view is when you receive a query letter stating an editor has requested the full manuscript. If the name of the editor and publishing house is included, would you consider that legitimate? What if it is a publishing house that has offices overseas – you know the name of the publishing house, but not that particular editor? I would be interested to know your thoughts on this. Thanks!

  6. An Aspiring Writer said:

    Very good food for thought. If we use another author’s name in our query, be sure we are representing our relationship and their recommendation honestly.

    After attending the RTCon and speaking with a myriad of authors, I wonder if there is a proper way to mention someone you’ve only met. For example if one were to say, “I met Jana DeLeon briefly at the RWA convention this year and she speaks very highly of you, etc.” Would that be considered appropriate (if one actually DID have that discussion)? It demonstrates a knowledge of who you represent and that there was a discussion about you as an agent. Or does this just come off as entirely name-droppy and cheesey?

  7. dang said:

    dang, this made me realize that I sent a requested partial yesterday without writing “requested material” on the front. This particular agent didn’t tell me to do so, like some do (like you did, Kristin), but it is industry standard, right? I hope it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. Should I resend it with “requested material” on the front?

  8. Anonymous said:

    The dumbest name dropping I ever heard of was when a writer friend of a friend included in his query letter comments from another agent and editor!!
    These credited comments were taken out of context to make the writer’s work sound good, but it came across as someone using his rejections to hype interest.
    I couldn’t believe it. It has to be an original dumb move.

  9. FreeSpirit said:

    I’ll give you the flip side of this story. I once had a critque partner who referred me to her agent and told me to use her name. Well, turns out she referred me to her “old” agent, the one she left in a huff and was on the “outs” with. This I did not know. My query came back so fast the stamp was still wet. I learned my lesson. I’d rather go it alone than have that happen to me again! And no, I’m no longer a member of that critique group.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Lying to a potential agent…humm…not a good way to start a relationship, that is for certain.

  11. MTV said:

    There are definite benefits of truth and they far outway any of being devious.

    My sister-in-law knew a well known author very well. I was looking for an agent. She talked to Mr. X who gave her an agent’s name but said do not mention his name to the agent.

    I sent a query to the agent stating that I got his name from someone, but he told me not to mention his name.

    The agent did not handle my genre. However, without notifying me, he sent it down the hall to one of the VP’s of his huge NY agency. She requested a full and then almost took it on. In the end she just couldn’t get behind the work and declined.

    Still, it shows you the power of being straight-up.

  12. Janny said:

    Actually, I find it disturbing that the query in question would be considered suspect unless or until the client actually called the agent and told her about it ahead of time!

    I’ve had author friends tell me outright I could use their names; I’ve also asked at times, “Can I say you recommended that I contact this person?” and they unequivocally said yes…but I doubt very seriously that any of them then picked up the phone and told their agents or editors, “Oh, by the way, Janny’s coming.”

    Nor did I expect them to. Probably because, silly me, I was a professional who took the agent or editor I was querying on face value, assumed they were people of integrity…and was naive enough to believe the same courtesy would be given me in return. Without my having to make sure anything was “coordinated” beforehand.

    Like we as writers aren’t paranoid enough about “obeying all the rules” or stepping on someone’s toes…now we get to worry about whether we inadvertently got thrown into the Suspect Cheesy Name Dropper pile just because someone may not have made a timely phone call?

    If it wasn’t so sad, it’d be funny.


  13. katiesandwich said:

    Interesting and potentially alarming post! I say alarming because at a conference, an agent read my first chapter and said I should query so-and-so agent with it when I finished my revisions, because it seemed like something she’d be interested in. I asked him if I could tell her he said that, and he said I could, but what if he doesn’t remember me? I mean, agents meet all sorts of people at conferences. Yikes! What should I do?

    But one quick story before I go. An e-pal of mine (is that what you’d call an email pen pal?) got a referral to this author’s agent, and that author took it upon herself to call the agent and let her know that when she got a query from so-and-so, she shouldn’t put it in the slush pile. I think it was really admirable for the author to do this, especially given what I learned in this post.

  14. Maprilynne said:

    I’m definitely guilty of name-dropping, but mine’s entirely legitimate. (no really;)) I have a friend who is a NTY bestseller and she loved my book and told her agent about it and gave me a handwritten note to send off with it. But her agent doesn’t rep my genre and pretty much ignored the MS when it got there. So my friend told me to use her name and gave me a quote and said I could even mention I had the promise of a blurb from her. I still wonder if agents will think I’m lying so I put in my queries “contact info available on request.”
    I sometime wonder if agents see a recomendation and are like, ‘Well, if it’s so great why didn’t she give it to her own agent?” But it doesn’t always work out like that.
    However, name-dropping to that person’s own agent is a little much, generally.:)


  15. Anonymous said:


    When I go to conventions and conferences, I don’t really *throw* myself at published authors, but I *do* take the chance to get myself noticed. That said, I’ve shown my work to a lot of authors. Several times, if they really like my idea, they’ve given me permission to use their names as reccomendations in my queries, which I’ve done.

    Then one time, I received my query and sample chapters returned with a standard rejection letter and with a post-it stamped on it saying “Author doesn’t recognize reccomendation.” At the time, I thought it was a really stupid (and RUDE–the informality of the post-it got to me) thing for the agent to say. OBVIOUSLY the author wasn’t going to remember me! That was the first and only time I ever spoke to them in my entire life. It even said in my query that it was a “brief meeting.” I mean, the author and I got into a good conversation, but I honestly think that it is more than plausible for them to forget my name a few days–heck, hours–later, especially since we met in a place where all there is to DO is meet people. I can’t even start to try and imagine how many people they spoke to after me. Was I really supposed to expect them to call up the agent? Puh-leeze!

    Keep in mind, I didn’t use the word “reccomendation” in an out-of-context way. I know that there’s a difference between saying “This author liked my work” and “This author reccomended me.” They were real reccomendations.

    Now that I read this post, I don’t even think the whole “reccomendation” thing is worth it. I’m honestly not trying to act like I know more about this business than Kristin or other agents, but seriously, am I supposed to believe that an author who I just met in a friendly setting, and who has probably talked to a bunch people before me and will continue to talk to people after me, is going to pick up the phone and call so and so?

    If all agents think like this, then the only possible way that we unpublished authors can feel comfortable using authors’ names is if they happen to be our close, personal friends. Even if an author really, really likes my idea, they’re not going to be thinking about it days and days later with my name vividly clear in mind. Authors, in my opinion, aren’t going to react to these ideas like agents and editors. It isn’t an author’s JOB to get another author published. Authors might like to help others with their dreams, but at the end of the day, their money comes from writing their OWN books. Agents and editors on the other hand, make their living by doing just that–getting authors published. That’s what agent and editors spend their time looking for: good ideas and good authors. They’re two very different views, aren’t they?

  16. Anonymous said:

    Continuing my last post. . .

    What I was trying to get at with my last paragraph is that maybe agents sometimes expect their authors to know more ropes about how things are in the agenting business than the authors actually do.

    Obviously, a lot of people will use the name-dropping thing in dishonest ways, but if agents see all unconfirmed reccomendations as possible lies, then shouldn’t authors be informed at like every convention or conference that, by the way, if you say you’re gonna reccomend an author, write their name down, and let the agent know before the author is looked at as a liar. It would take about five seconds for an announcement like that to go down.

  17. Anonymous said:

    Hey 2:31pm Anon,

    I think there’s a basic flaw in your reasoning. How can an author recommend you based on an “idea?” Good writing is not about ideas, it’s about the execution of that idea.