Pub Rants

Research Is Free

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STATUS: I can’t believe it is already 5 o’clock. Do you ever have those days where you start working and then realize you’ve missed lunch by a long shot? Sigh. All good stuff though.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? EAT FOR TWO by 10,000 Maniacs

Here’s an axiom to live by. Don’t pay a service to do your agent research when you can find out most of that information for free just by spending some time on the internet.

Or at the very least, pay the $20 fee for one month’s subscription to Publishers Marketplace and truly get the insider scoop on what is selling, by whom, to whom, and generally for how much. It will only cost you twenty bucks and you can rest assured that the info is fairly accurate (or close enough for your purposes).

Here’s why I feel like ranting. There is a research service out there that prides itself on offering accurate reports that they will then share with paying customers. Now I like the entrepreneurial spirit and pretty much commend that in anyone but according to this company representative, they will only accept/verify information by talking with the agent directly.

In a way, that makes sense. After all, the source would know the best but I don’t think that’s the ONLY way to gather accurate information—especially when the conversations go along like this.

First Call from Research Service
This was actually several years ago but it stands out clearly in my mind and here’s why. The owner of this business rang up to tell me about the company and then to ask me about my current client list. All information I’m happy to share.

Until he asked me when Diana Gabaldon had left my agency.


I know this will come as a big shock to my blog readers but I’m not, and have never been, the agent for Diana Gabaldon. I do have delusions of grandeur but I don’t ever ask anyone but Chutney to share in them.

Not to mention, Diana’s agent is a guy—and she’s been with him for years and years—long before I was even agenting. Makes you wonder to whom the thought he was talking.

That’s okay. Mistakes happen. When I asked to see my report and to verify the information contained therein, I was told that was not company policy. So, what I’m saying is that my report from this service might say that Diana is a former client of mine. Goodness, I hope not.

Second call
This happened a year or so later. Same person called to get information about my current sales. Most of which is public knowledge on my website and on Publishers Marketplace—the general info anyway.

For this call, this person insisted that I reveal the dollar amounts associated with my deals. A little surprised, I said I couldn’t divulge that info—that it was confidential (except in the general terms outlined in deal lunch and approved by the author before announcing). I was then subjected to tirade about how all the other agencies share that info (which I rather doubt but whatever). I politely suggested that he simply contact those authors and ask them about the deal as it is their info to share as they please.

I was hung up on.

Third Call
Happened quite recently. This time the call came in on a Saturday. I wasn’t at the office. What in the world would I’d be doing at the office on a Saturday (besides doing my accounting upgrade but we won’t go there). If this person would like to speak to me, why not call during business hours when I’m actually around?

To this day, I have no idea what my agency report from this service looks like. Let’s hope it’s accurate but I’m not feeling overly confident about it. This leads me back to my original point.

Why pay for something that you can find out for yourself, fairly accurately, and in most instances, for free?

16 Responses

  1. Eileen said:

    Many new writes are convinced there is a super secret inside track and services like this prey on this fear. People seem shocked that I found my agent through my own research and she pulled me from the slush pile. They are positive I must have known someone.

    I will say my secret weapon was attending your query workshop at the Surrey conference- it helped me focus my query and I’ll always appreciate your time and help.

  2. Dave F. said:

    Yesterday, I got a call at home that opened with the question: Is this a business or home phone?
    I told the caller that was mine to know and hers to find out and hung up.

    The absolute gall and nerve of a stranger to ask for information like that. It’s, It’s impolite!

  3. karen wester newton said:

    “Do you ever have those days where you start working and then realize you’ve missed lunch by a long shot?”

    Some of us wish we could miss lunch without realizing it now and then! No wonder you’ve kept your figure.

    Thank you for that very revealing story on “agent services.” My goodness but some people have a lot of chutzpah! No manners, but lots of nerve.

  4. Getting There With A Passion said:

    He he,

    That’s why I love the library. So much knowledge, so much power (evil voice) “All right there, in the palm of my hand! Mwahahaha!”

    Writer’s Marketplace 2008, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents 2008, the trusty ole’ Chicago Manual of Style. . . all FREE. The library’s better than ice cream on a warm summer’s day.

    I’ve yet to submit my query. . . but when I do (soon hopefully), I’m going to kick my feet up and thank the powers that be that I at least didn’t spend a fortune to find the agents I wanted. Just log on, click a button, and scroll, people, scroll! 😀

    Lunch? Is that some kind of Deutsch village?

    -Rachel Glass

  5. Anonymous said:

    I’m always amazed at the liberties some people demand.

    That said, I agree … all of this information is available either via the internet or the library. Those who have been actively pursuing a career in this business know where to look and are usually more than happy to help out someone just starting out.

    Liz Kreger

  6. Just_Me said:

    Dear Kristin~
    I know you’re screening comments and I’m hoping you catch this (and have the time and benevolence to reply).
    Researching agents, on my own I promise, I see that many agencies claim to take sci-fi and fantasy but looking at their sales list I don’t see anything that even resembles what I’m looking to shop around.
    I know I should query widely, I know that just because the agent offers does not mean I have to accept them, I know that if the agent doesn’t think I’ll fit their list they won’t hesitate to inform me, but I’m wondering if I should even bother querying someone who has yet to sell a book in my genre. The agents say they are looking, they may have signed a contract and not have published in the sci-fi genre yet, but I don’t want to waste their time or mine.
    Do you have any suggestions?


  7. Anonymous said:

    Paying somebody to take the time and do something that is your responsibility is just plain lazy. If you can’t take the time to do some basic research, why should anyone take their time to help you?

    Just make sure your research is valid. Also, eat lunch.

    ~Anthony Lindsey~

  8. Dana King said:

    I agree completely. I amicably severed a relationship with one agent, and found my current agent through a combination of web research, and reading the Acknowledgements pages of books roughly similar to what I wrote. I’m very happy with my current agent. We haven’t sold a book yet, but we will, as soon as I write one that finds the proper space and timing.

    I found Writers Market abnd Preditors and Editors to be especially helpful.

  9. MelindaG said:

    Just me,
    There is a way to see which agents have announced sales in sci-fi and fantasy. Locus Magazine announces sales of sci-fi and fantasy each month, and the agents who sold the deal are frequently listed. If you don’t subscribe to Locus, I have compiled a spreadsheet of the announcements at my webpage, which is freely available to interested writers.

    Melinda Goodin in Australia

  10. Dave in SC said:

    Very cool, Melinda! It’s nice that Kristin’s comments aren’t the only valuable ones here!

  11. Deidre Knight said:

    Been there. Lived it. Many times over the past twelve years, frankly. I feel your pain, and this particular man (rhymes with Swill Smartman) seems to raise my blood pressure a few points with every passing year. Yet, ironically, the seconds I spend on the phone with him grow lower every year. 🙂

    Loved this.
    Deidre Knight