Pub Rants

Complaining About Agents

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STATUS: Getting ready for the London Book Fair so both Sara and I are working rather long hours.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? THE FEAR by Lily Allen

I realize that I’m probably just about to express an unpopular opinion. Basically I simply raised an eyebrow at the whole agentfail extravaganza at the Bookends Blog.

I’m sure it’s cathartic to get out all your annoyances and grievances against agents but for the most part, it’s a waste of energy and time.

For the agents like Jessica, Janet, Nathan, Jennifer, Lucienne, Nephele, and Deidre who blog (and sorry I can’t name everyone), you are preaching to the choir. We ALREADY do everything we possibly can to reply quickly to queries and sample pages (even fulls!), to help writers, and to really be resources for those who are looking to get published.

Despite all that, I’m sure we all still have disgruntled writers out there who have a complaint against us because we never received their query or our response got caught in their spam filter and it was never received, etc. The list could go on.

We simply don’t have enough hours in the day to make sure all communications get through where queries are concerned because that, quite simply, is so low on our TO DO list, it barely registers.

Although I know that it feels like the world to you writers as you navigate the seemingly unfriendly waters of getting an agent, finding a publisher, etc.

I get that. But we are only X number of people with X number of hours in the day and even now, we are working easily 10, 12, sometime 14 hour days or more. (And yet, I still manage to squeeze out 15 or 20 minutes to write a blog entry—time away from my hubby and Chutney who are right now doing something fun together like snuggling on the couch while I type this. I do it because I’m committed to educating writers.)

And those agents who you are really complaining about—those who don’t ever respond to queries, who take 6 months to get back on sample pages, who ask for an exclusive and then hold your full manuscript ransom for X number of months, they are not reading agentfail. In fact they are not blogging or even reading blogs most likely.

So despite the big outpouring, I seriously think that very little will change. So I’m glad you had the moment of catharsis but could you have taken that same time and energy and sent out 20 queries instead? Revised your opening chapters? Get critiqued on your query letter?

Be proactive folks. Not reactive. That’s how you play to win.

55 Responses

  1. Di Francis said:

    Nathan Bransford is doing a fun contest in answer to all this. To have people read 50 queries in a week and experience being an agent reading slush. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  2. Anonymous said:

    Bravo! I couldn’t agree more. I didn’t even take the time to read the blog.

  3. Anonymous said:

    Well said Jessica!!!! I remain in awe of your insightful comments. And there are many of us who are very grateful for the education and information sharing from you and like-minded agents.

  4. Eileen Wiedbrauk said:

    Amen. I have to admit that I’ve read some of the blogging about #agentfail but I never cared to read the original … and I really did NOT care to read anyone’s comments about it. My life is certainly busy enough to keep me from seeking out whining. Please, I can fill my whine-quota myself.

    Maybe I’m of the wrong generation. I see no issue with shaking my fist at “the Man” but once I do a quick fist-shake I’m off to learn the Man’s rules. Learn the system, know the system, play by the system, win by the system, then break the rules. There is no place in that game plan for public whining.

  5. Kaz Augustin said:

    I have enormous respect for you, Kristin (and Sara!), but I disagree. Just because something is negative doesn’t mean it doesn’t have worth. I agree that the agents who needed the advice the most were the ones least likely to read #agentfail. The same applied to writers and #queryfail. But catharsis has value above and beyond the mere bitching.

    How many times have you been angry with something, ranted for a full minute then, feeling relieved, just put your shoulder to the grindstone and kept going? Not only does it happen to all of us, but the venting can actually lead to greater productivity; i.e. more energy to send out queries, more motivation to do that dreaded rewrite, more grit to redo the query letter.

    Catharsis can actually be a good proactivity tool. It depends on how you leverage it.

  6. Anonymous said:

    Could the “cathartic moment” be done in private? Is it necessary to publicize? Well, I suppose I don’t have read said many ‘cathartic’ messages!

  7. Kevin Radthorne said:

    “I do it because I’m committed to educating writers.” Which is precisely why, Kristin, yours is one of the very small handful of blogs I read almost every day. Your generosity in helping writers navigate the ins and outs of the industry is very much appreciated, believe me. (Now go join everybody else on the couch.) :o)

  8. Evangeline said:

    I agree with your sentiments Kristen, but even though I’m just now browsing AgentFail, I appreciate that Jessica opened dialogue for it. Too many times we writers are told to muzzle our complaints for fear of being “blackballed” within the industry, that “you never know who is on that listserv/blog/email/etc”.

    What does this do beside create an atmosphere of barely concealed resentment and frustration? Or worse, a feeling that Big Brother is watching you for any hint of “insubordination” aka dissatisfaction. Hopefully AgentFail and QueryFail has cleared the air and the channels of dialogue open between writers and editors/agents will remain open.

  9. Richard Lewis said:

    This #fail business could go all the way up the publishing ladder. And all other aspects of life. “You can’t always get what you want, and if you try sometime, you get what you need.”

  10. Chris Bates said:

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here, Kristin.

    All this #fail stuff is essentially creating a worthless distraction for authors and agents. What we should all be focusing on is the task at hand. Yes, like you said – be proactive. We’re supposed to be creating content that satisfies readers. Not vitriol that disengages us from our work.

    I enjoy your blog and Nathan’s because of your ‘tact’, but there’s no way in hell I would let this ranting interfere with my primary focus of writing.

    I’m a firm believer that talent always outs itself … no matter how many barriers are present. A good manuscript will render any of these #fail arguments redundant.

    And we all know a book doesn’t write itself. Focus, focus, focus.

  11. Chris Bates said:

    Of course, I should clarify that I still waste way too much time reading/posting on Bransford’s site … and PubRants too.

    Gotta get more focused!!

  12. garridon said:

    I think the real problem is that there isn’t a place to complain if there’s a legitimate problem. If I have a problem in a store, I can complain to customer service; if that happens with an agent, all I can do is suck it up and drive on.

    And granted, there are people who will always complain and never be happy. It’s their lot in life. They’re the same people who would complain because the pizza wasn’t sliced exactly even or that color was off on the clothes.

    And granted, we’ll never know both sides of the story. It may very be that in some cases, the agent did do something worthy of a compaint; there may also be occasions where the writer read into something or read it wrong or completely misinterpreted it. I know years ago I got a handwritten rejection that made me really mad (I did not respond, by the way; I resubmitted the story and got it published at the next magazine stop). I ran across that rejection about a year ago and realized I had completely misunderstood it.

    But at the same time, if even one agent sees how annoyed people are at something like not responding to equeries and changes his policy, then maybe it’s done some good.

    By the way, I only briefly followed AgentFail, enough to get what was going on. I had writing to do, and I just couldn’t spend that much time.

  13. Karen Amanda Hooper said:

    There are many of us who still view agents as heroes. I paid tribute on the subject of AgentFail in my own blog. I said it there and I’ll say it again. Thank you for all the hard work you do.

  14. Madison said:

    I didn’t participate in that venting session. Whenever an agent rejects me I think, “Crap. Oh well. Maybe the next one will get it!” That’s about the extent of my ranting.

    I have submitted several queries to agents who never responded and while it’s harder than waiting on others who do respond, that’s just part of the biz. If you don’t like it, maybe you shouldn’t try to be in it.

    Agents are not “bad guys”. OK, some of them are. But you, Mr. Bransford, Ms. Diver, and the others like you are providing us writers with great information and advice. Thanks so much for doing this because before the internet, this was impossible.

  15. Justus M. Bowman said:

    So I shouldn’t start a blog named
    Agent Fail and only post awful things about agents? Ha ha. Fine, I’ll try some of this “proactive,” “initiative,” and “maturation” stuff.

  16. Anonymous said:

    I do think there was some merit in the commenter who mentioned how agents complain about how many hours they put in reading queries or doing their jobs. I understand the desire to make sure you find that ‘gem’ amidst the mess of queries, however, the agent makes his or her own schedule to some degree. If you don’t want to read all those queries and be bombarded, then don’t open yourself up for them.

    I think the person who wrote this mentioned she was a lawyer and doesn’t complain to her clients or potential clients how awfully busy she is. She just does her work.

    We all are busy. Writers tend to have day jobs that take up 40 hours+ per week and then they write at night or early in the morning. It’s a given. That’s just how you have to do it if you’re serious.

    I know that agents are busy and work long hours, but to me, that is their choice. If you don’t want to do those 12 or 14 hours days, then don’t. No one is asking you to read queries on vacation or on weekends. You are choosing to do that on your own.

  17. Anonymous said:

    ‘Tis true. Do your homework and only query compatible agents and editors. It’s not worth the angst to query the others. I’d rather go with

  18. Anonymous said:

    I’d have a lot more respect for today’s blog post if Kristin would’ve come out and said the same thing about the agents that participated in #queryfail.

    What good did THAT do but lump all writers together and make them sound like a vast sea of idiots? The same logic can apply — the writers that needed to hear (any actual helpful stuff, not the snide remarks) wouldn’t neccessarily BE reading them.

    I think the mistake “good” agents make (like Kristin, like N. Bransford) is that they assume most agents treat clients well. This is not the case at all. Just because an agent has sales or has a “name” in the industry doesn’t mean that act professionally with their own authors. Less than best-selling clients often don’t get their emails answered, often don’t get their new ms read for months on end, and often don’t get their submissions followed up on.

    Writers don’t talk about it much, but I know writers who sold books despite their agent not because of him/her.

    Just sayin’

  19. Anonymous said:

    I’m afraid I disagree too. If it was cathartic then it wasn’t a waste of time. It seems to me that agents are taking agentfail far too personally. It was a post that asked for venting – so of course people were negative on it!

    Queryfail did educate, but all the same it probably stung a few writers out there. But I bet it was cathartic for the agents too, right?

    Similarly agentfail may educate some agents out there. Most don’t need to worry because they’re pretty damn good already (including you), but I’m sure for some the comments will apply. Okay, so it probably stung some agents out there – but they didn’t seem to mind when it was the other way around.

    Having a go at writers for wasting time on a vent seems pretty pointless to me. A waste of time, you could say. It was one comment thread on one blog – at least it wasn’t spread across all of twitter! And it was kept anonymous.

    I’m not on either side. I didn’t read queryfail (or submit anything to those agents) and I didn’t comment in agentfail. But I am rather surprised at how bad agents appear to be at taking ‘rejection’.

  20. DebraLSchubert said:

    I agree with Kaz. Venting is often a healthy way to get something off your chest and move forward. Jessica knew she was taking a huge risk by opening up that particular can of worms, and the number and intensity of responses indicates something is amiss.

    You and Sara are fantastic examples of how to be professional, caring, respectful agents. If all agents acted with integrity as you do, AgentFail would have been a bust.

    “So I’m glad you had the moment of catharsis but could you have taken that same time and energy and sent out 20 queries instead?”

    With all due respect, Kristin, it takes MUCH longer to send out 20 queries than to post a comment venting your frustration. If even one agent happened upon the comments and said (like Garfield the cat) “I resemble that remark!” then the whole exercise was not in vain.

  21. Anonymous said:

    Kristen, I like your blog a lot in general, but you once posted about holding onto a full for five months before turning it down, and you’ve vented about writers who showed up at your office or kept calling you or sent stupid query letters.

    And while I know and appreciate that your blog educates writers, I doubt that’s the only reason you maintain it. It also gets you out in the public eye so that savvy writers will query you and conference organizers will invite you to be on faculty and probably because it’s can be fun to blog.

    I believe my own blog educates and entertains others, but it also has gotten people to buy the books I write and has gotten me invited to speak at conferences and is fun for me to do. I’m not going to pretend my blogging is only a charitable act.

    And I also think you shouldn’t be dissing agentfail, especially when no agents were mentioned by name, without dissing queryfail, where personal information about queries were included and insulted and even a writer’s name was publicly mocked.

  22. Tabitha said:

    Well said. 🙂

    I understand where the commenters are coming from when they say that venting is healthy. Of course it is – as long as it’s done in an appropriate venue.

    I think some of the comments on the BookEnds blog got out of hand, and have no place on an agent’s blog who kindly asked for ways that agents can improve. I understand the need to vent – I need to do it every now and then, and I feel better for it. But it’s another thing to air your dirty laundry (so to speak) in a public forum like that. It’s unprofessional.

    In a public venue, venting isn’t going to change anything. Constructive criticism will. After all, what do we writers do when we get a critique that’s just a bunch of bashing? We ignore it. But we value (and learn from) the constructive critiques.

    Just my opinion. 🙂

  23. Anonymous said:

    There are two things going on here.
    On the one hand there are aspiring authors who are frustrated with the often pompous, self-congratulatory publishing industry, in which agents and editors believe themselves to possess some innate ability to spot talent. Yet the bookstores are still filled with books on the super-reduced buy-one-get-one-free table. Some of those books you couldn’t give away. The would-be author sees that and can’t understand why they themselves can’t breakthrough what seems to be an industry in need of something worthwhile. So they fume.
    On the other hand, we have the poor over-worked agent, who feels underappreciated. She panders on her blog for support and understanding, knowing all too well that she’ll find comfort among the like-minded and the brown-nosing want-to-bes. The great irony is that regardless of how many hours out of the day she works, she still makes her living off of the talent of others but still finds the time to complain about those who would love to help her earn more money.

  24. Anonymous said:

    I have to agree with Anon 9:07’s point. Blogging agents criticize writers for not having a “thick skin” all the time, yet they themselves, by the nature of their blog, have created their own ready-made place to vent (because apparently they don’t have a thick skin either):

    Anon 9:07’s Quote: “…She panders on her blog for support and understanding, knowing all too well that she’ll find comfort among the like-minded and the brown-nosing want-to-bes…”

    This is so true. So many writers are eager to agree with agents on any and every thing that an agent or editor need only to mention they are having a bad day and they’ll have eighty-five posts sending them well wishes and telling them they are wonderful. Likewise, they post about an “idiot” query and they’ll have eighty comments from other writers skewering that person.

    Writers don’t often have cheering sections and hundreds of followers pouring out admiration. All too often as a writer, you are slogging it out, day after day alone. And now it’s considered unprofessional and “wasted time” for a writer to to post on a blog that is ASKING you to vent for a day?

    Sorry, you can’t have it both ways.

  25. Anonymous said:

    And I also think you shouldn’t be dissing agentfail, especially when no agents were mentioned by name, without dissing queryfail, where personal information about queries were included and insulted and even a writer’s name was publicly mocked.

    That writer, by the way, also had a Twitter account and posted that he was the guy in question (it was apparently the real deal; the account had hundreds of posts dating back months).

  26. H. L. Dyer said:

    Well, we’re right back to empathyfail I guess.

    People are going to be frustrated on both sides of this equation. That’s a given, since not everyone is destined for publishing success.

    In the meanwhile, all anyone can do is keep working to create the best books possible and try to understand each other and the process a little better.

  27. Anonymous said:

    It was specifically asked for complaints about agents. Would bad agents waste their time reading it? Probably not. Would good writers take your advice? Probably not. If you aren’t the type of agent spoken of, then no problems. If you are, then maybe there are some adjustments to be made. I think you need the tougher skin; sorry.

  28. Ella said:

    I agree with Anon 9:32 & 9:07

    At the end of the day, it’s a power issue. Writers feel powerless because the agents hold all the power. When said agents set aside a day to twitter and mock query letters, that is only going to feed the flames. They should take the same amount of time it takes to twitter about it and respond to that particular writer as to why they’re being rejected. That would be productive.

  29. Ella said:

    But just as a rejection letter isn’t a reflection on the writer, only his work, venting about certain aspects of agent behavior isn’t a reflection on the agent as a person either. It’s just business.

    I disagree. I can only speak for myself, but J. Roberts (Erin Brockovich) said it best when arguing with Ed. “This is my blood, sweat and tears, my time away from my children and family. If that isn’t personal, I don’t know what is.” And if you can read between the lines when observing a person’s behavior, you most certainly can tell what type of person they are, ask any therapist worth their salt. A truly caring, sensitive type personality is not going to outwardly mock another for all the world to see.

  30. Maureen McGowan said:

    Fabulous post, Kristin.

    I only read the first 20-30 comments on that #agentfail thing… but was reminded of a few of the lines from J.A. Konrath’s recent blog about the difference between confidence and delusion:

    “Confident writers know luck plays a big part.
    Delusional writers think there’s a conspiracy against them.
    Confident writers believe they owe the world.
    Delusional writers believe the world owes them.”

  31. Anonymous said:

    I have a mild suggestion: agents should read two or so pages of a work. This is win-win because the writer doesn’t feel he/she was shrugged off AND the agent only has to bear two pages. (Not one to two chapters.) Look around next time you’re at the local bookstore. The people thumbing through books while sipping their coffee will invariably do the following: go to a book flip through a page or so and either put it under their shoulder or put it on the shelf. Read time, maybe two mins… (*This does not count the people sitting mind you, I mean the browsers…*) Having said that, the problem people face with querying is this: it’s byzantine, overly complicated and esoteric. Agents want a marketing plan before you even submit which is kind of awkward considering very few writers sit down and say the following.

    “Gee I can’t wait to get out this book marketed towards single mothers and school children aged 6-9. Perhaps it’d be a good coffee table book. Now I’m going to machinate on how to explain something in ten words or less.” It takes the whole point of being a writer and sounds like a fork going into a running garbage disposal. (An unfortunate sound.*)

    That’s the frustration. If you want a personal response you’re living in gaga land. Form rejections are a necessary evil, but being rejected without even seeing one’s work is what is degrading and it is my contention that is what most are upset about.

    (*This is as soft and gentle as I can be on the subject*)


  32. Anonymous said:

    I have to say that reading #agentfail–and some of the comments here–was a bit amusing to me. People really expect a LOT for a service that they’re getting for free, and writing in a closet for years has made some of us more than a little nippy. It’s not like any of us had to pay to submit our manuscripts to the agents. If you run across a bad agent who doesn’t respond, then obviously you won’t want that person as an agent. Just shrug it off and don’t query them anymore. It’s not a big deal.

    Aspiring actors and models don’t complain about how hard it is to get noticed by talent scouts or audition coordinators. The ones that become successful just put their noses to the grind and toughed it out. There are simply too many of us trying to break in. It’s not personal, no matter how much we want it to be. (And honestly, sometimes we do crazy things that deserve to be mocked!)

  33. Anonymous said:

    “People really expect a LOT for a service that they’re getting for free, and writing in a closet for years has made some of us more than a little nippy. It’s not like any of us had to pay to submit our manuscripts to the agents.”


    Agents work FOR writers. Writers hire agents. If agents are sifting through unsolicted queries, it is because they are looking for clients whose work they can sell.

    It is I, the writer, who is working for free. I’m the one who spends months, even years, working for free. With no promise I’ll ever earn money, btw. Only the hope. I spend money on postage and paper and ink. I spend weeks more crafting a query and synopsis and anything else agents want for no pay. I spend money on conferences and classes. And even if my book sells, I can wait months, and even years to be paid. So asking me to be grateful that an agent would consider my ms for free or that it is unreasonable to have some basic expectations when I’ve been entirely professional in my submission…no. Sorry. And professionals don’t mock publically. Ever.

  34. Anonymous said:

    Not so fabulous post Kristin. I’ve been amazed at the number of agents wanting to lash back. I think you guys (and gals) are not getting it, so I’ll sum it up for you.

    Authors submit via a one way avenue to agents who may or may not reply. Often, those replies are not helpful because they are merely form letters. This leaves said author feeling very upset and with no idea as to what they should do to better their chances.

    So, writers gripe, but they do so in a very disorganized manner. Then the agents get together and have a “let’s make fun of writer’s” day. Granted, most of the stuff you guys get is garbage but the already frustrated writer can’t help but feel slighted.

    Then comes an admirable agent who provides the writers that feel they have no way of being heard an avenue to do so. They vent, much of it is probably ignored, but they feel better about it and life goes on. Or does it?

    Now we have a bunch of agents lashing back. You do so by not only complain about their complaining about your initial complaining, but even go so far as to tell them that it was all useless because no one listened to them. Talk about a slap in the face.

    I’d like to see you delete this post altogether and let things lie where they were. The back and forth is getting a little juvenile. Besides, it was an agent that came up with Agentfail anyway.

    And remember, criticism can usually be reversed. So let me ask you, how many queries could you have responded to during this blog? How many could have received some form of feedback? So on and so forth.

  35. brian_ohio said:

    Writers do NOT write for free. They write for the LOVE of telling a story. If they happen to get paid for that story, all the better.

    Now. Agents. There are good ones, bad ones, mediocre ones, ones desperate for new clients, ones that don’t care.

    That’s just how it is. We, as writers, must deal with that. It’s that simple.

    And be thankful for the agents that let us into their world through Tweets, Blogs or Conferences.

    There was a time when a reference book at the library was our only window into the publishing/agenting business. We’ve got it easy today.

    Just MY opinion.

  36. Elissa M said:

    A lot of these comments make me shake my head. Some people are just never going to get it.

    I honestly don’t see where all this anger and angst is coming from. You aren’t guaranteed anything in life, including respect. Agents aren’t half as dismissive as readers.

    No one “deserves” to be published. I don’t care how many years you spent slaving over your manuscript or how much of yourself you poured into it. I’ll buy your book if it looks interesting to me. I spend less than a second looking over titles and covers, maybe choosing one in fifty to pick off the shelf for a closer look. I’ll spend less than 30 seconds on that closer look, then I’ll put the book back saying, “Meh. Not for me.” Are you going to now complain on #reader fail?

    If you’re writing because you want to make money, you’re in the wrong business.

  37. Mike Harris-Stone said:

    I used to work in an office located in an off broadway theatre in NYC. Every now and again, casting agents used the place for an open call. I’d show up, coffee in hand and excuse myself past a very, very long line of very attractive, dedicated folks ALL trying for one small part. The odds facing the hopeful were obvious. No one in line was complaining about the lack of service. It wasn’t, after all, McDonalds! I hate to be harsh, but it seems like the imaginations of a number of writers fail to grasp the situation. They don’t call it “slush” for nothing baby! I agree with Kristen, its best to be proactive, keep one’s faith and keep going! With POD, etc., opportunities abound. Why gripe?

  38. Anonymous said:

    Heartily agreed, Elissa and Brian.

    Anon 1:50 pm, to be blunt, it doesn’t matter that you’ve spent so much of your personal time slaving away on your manuscript for no pay. Agents owe you nothing until they actually sign you. Yes, agents work for writers, but before they offer you representation, the relationship is reversed. You have to earn their respect. That’s just the way it is. It works the same way in just about every other part of the entertainment industry. Aspiring models and actors will all get the rough treatment until the day they earn the respect of a talent scout or director with, what else, their talent. Until then, there really is no incentive for an agent to go out of his or her way to cater to you. And most of them do, really do, try to be polite and professional to all writers.

    So suck it up. It’s the rite of passage. Go eat something yummy and don’t take this whole submission process so personally.

  39. Anonymous said:

    Honestly there is a lot you can vent about. But I have to say that I spent months working on a query that I sent you (NLA) last Friday and late Sunday night I received a rejection letter.

    Truthfully it stung a little but what rejection letter doesn’t. But my point is that I received a response two days later.

    And despite being rejected I will continue to check your blog as much as possible because I believe that you are ‘committed to educating writers.’ I’ve learned much from your blog about the writing world and can only extend a huge Thank You for it!

    What good does complaining about things really do? Like the previse comment says ‘suck it up’ and I agree with Kristin to be ‘proactive.’

  40. Tabitha said:

    I wasn’t going to say anything more, but I feel the need to say this.

    I don’t think agents work for writers. They work with writers, as a partnership. And finding an agent is like interviewing for a job. The agent is looking for a specific set of skills manifested in specific ways, and we are looking for an agent seeking our particular skills. But that doesn’t mean the writer or the agent will be the ‘boss.’ It means the writer will join the team, just like most office jobs.

    I also have to agree with Anon 3:37 – it doesn’t matter how much time and energy we spend writing and searching for agents. It’s our choice to do so, and we know what we’re getting in to. Which kind of takes away our right to complain, since we’re walking into this with eyes wide open. 🙂

    If we’re not, and we find we don’t like the way things work, then we need to reassess why we’re still here.

  41. Imelda said:

    Many aspects of this business stink. Many aspects of many businesses stink. I think writers perhaps get more outraged by the stinky stuff than people in other businesses because we don’t enter it as a business (as a rule). We write because we want (or need) to write. The business part is a necessary evil. And we, coming from our very personal, creative place, where we have invested so much of ourselves (time, talent, energy, soul) in our ‘product’ sometimes find it evil indeed.

    Of course, there are times when people behave badly and it is fair enough to be annoyed and complain about that – just as you would in a regular business when a colleague, supplier, courier, or whoever, let you down, or ignored you, or otherwise made your life difficult or unpleasant. But personally, I doubt if I would dwell on, or blog over, such matters if I worked for the post office and I can’t see the point of doing it about the writing business either.

    I choose to write. I want to be published. In order to achieve that aim I will engage with the business side in a business-like manner and if people I approach don’t do likewise, I will move on until I find someone I am happy to work with. I will try to remember that even the rude and unbusiness-like ones are still people and that my five minutes contact with them might not have caught them at their best. I will remind myself that tit-for-tat may relieve my feelings right now, but is neither sensible nor helpful in the long term. I will vent, when I need to, to my friends, not to the world at large and particularly not in writing in front of the very people I want to impress – most of whom are probably NOT the rude, unbusiness-like ones. I can always look forward to the day when I am so successful that it is they who will be trying to please me.

    And I will endeavour to remember that I chose this. If I find it too, too dreadful, I can always choose to do something else.

  42. Anonymous said:

    Personally, I think all agents should stop blogging and just maintain websites with guidelines. The blogs are a huge time-suck that agents could be reading more queries and repping more clients with. You’re just preaching to the choir with the blogs anyhoo-how–same ol’ wannabe’s piping up with how much they agree with the agent, and “oh no, I would never do that!”…it accomploshes absolutely nothing, for the wannabe’s or the agents.

    The wannabe’s need to be learning how to write, andthe agents complaining about how innundated with Q’s they are do not need to be out on the web rustling up more potential business and letting us know what they’re listening to on their fraking iPods!

    No wonder more new writers are eschewing agents altogether. The agents AND those who think they need an agent before they’ve even written anything are both missing the point, which is to SELL BOOKS, not talk about selling them, but actually sell them. And that’s not what blogs do.

  43. Elissa M said:

    Anonymous 4:40, blogs DO sell books. I’ve bought dozens (including some repped by Kristin) just because I read about them on agent blogs.

    The fallacy you’re operating under is the assumption that not blogging would actually free up enough time to handle the hundreds of queries piling into agents’ inboxes. I think the benefit of a blog well outweighs answering a half-dozen extra queries out of the 400 waiting.

    If we’re going to demand agents quit blogging, perhaps we should also tell them to never take vacations, walk their dogs, spend time with their families, bathe, brush their teeth, etc.

    I have enough trouble managing my own time. I don’t think I have the right to tell anyone else how to manage theirs.

  44. Anonymous said:

    I just don’t think it does agents any good to have a blog. They can say what their guidelines are on the website. Any serious writers who want to query them know where to go to find out the format, what they are accepting right now, etc.

    What purpose does the blog serve?!

  45. Anonymous said:

    I tell you I have to agree (to a point) with the above anon. When i sign with an agent, I don’t want my agent speding their business hours blogging to the unwashed masses, I want them out their beating the bushes with MY book! That’s what I’m hiring them to do. That said, of course how an agent spends their time is up to them, but I do concur to some degree that the blogging is somewhat of a non-productive area for agents, as they are mostly interacting with the same group of people repeatedly.

  46. Anonymous said:

    “When i[sic] sign with an agent, I don’t want my agent speding [sic] their business hours blogging to the unwashed masses, I want them out their[sic] beating the bushes with MY book!”

    I doubt blogging is unproductive for agents or their clients. I am willing to bet top dollar that the “good” agent blogs (Nathan Bransford, Kristin Nelson) attract good authors who feel like they get to know the style of those agents, and in a fight for authors with great books, that gives those agents a competitive advantage.

    If you look at what some of Kristin’s clients have said, there are people who have said that her blogging influenced them to choose her (off the top of my head, Jamie Ford, Sarah Rees Brennan, Sherry Thomas).

    And why does that matter to you, the author? If there’s an agent that’s getting a higher proportion of the top talent, she can afford to be pickier, so editors will know she doesn’t do scattershot submissions, which means if you sign with them, you get read faster. And if you have problems later in the process (like bad covers), the editor will be more likely to bend farther rather than risk pissing off an agent who represents (and will continue to rep in the future) truly top talent.

    So, yeah, a little competitive advantage goes a long way. I don’t doubt that Kristin’s blog more than pays for itself in time spent–both for her, and for her clients.

  47. Anonymous said:

    I have to say that I find this very disturbing. I recently sent you (Kristen) a query and found that you responded well before you promised you would. Though it was short and impersonal, I believe the failure to sell my manuscript is my fault…not yours. And instead of getting bitter (which would certainly do me a whole lot of good), I took it as confirmation that I need to re-work the query letter…or possibly write a different manuscript. Either way, I don’t see what the point is complaining about agents. I’m sure the agents are fully aware that any oversight on their part would only be a detriment to their own bank account (just think of all of those who turned down J.K. Rowling). I agree with you. Turn your anger into something constructive, people! Life is too short to whine about everything.

  48. jimnduncan said:

    Agent blogs are not a waste of time, for those who seem to want to question the time agents spend blogging. Most do not blow off ‘work hours’ blogging. It’s generally done during what little down time they manage to get. I believe Jessica Faust generates a lot of her weekly blogs over the weekend to post during the week. There’s a lot of useful information to be gleaned from the blogs of agents/editors. Not only do you get inside views of the industry (something many writers need to see), you get the opportunity to connect with other writers who blog, who also have useful things to say. In short, they’re a good thing.

    I’ve posted elsewhere about the whole ‘whining’ issue in regard to agents, but I’ll toss it out here too. Far too many writers don’t have a very clear understanding of how the industry works. They don’t really get just how insanely difficult it is to get published, regardless of how good their writing is. You need talent to be sure, but you need a hefty dose of timing and luck. There are WAY, WAY more hopeful writers out there then there are slots for books. You have less than a 1% chance to hit that window of opportunity when it comes around. The odds just are not favorable. It is perhaps a bit ironic, but writers would be far better off assuming that the answers they will get will be no. It generates far less stress if you send out your 100 queries with the assumption that you will be lucky to get requests from five of them to see more material. You assume the answer is no, not because you don’t believe in your writing or because agents don’t know what they’re doing, but because it’s honestly that difficult to get your foot in the door.

    It goes far beyond the, “If they just read the pages they’ll see what a publishable novel I have.” It doesn’t work that way. Agents know full well that they pass up on good stuff all the time. Publishable stuff. But most are looking to take on a handful of new clients per year, at the most. 15-30,000 queries a year, and they are trying to find 3-5 new authors with publishable material. Even if 1% of those queries could yield someone worth taking on, your talking 150-300 novels to attempt to sift through and cull out the few they think will work out best for them. You can’t look at all of those. No way, no how. Writers complain that they don’t get responded to, or some agents say they only will respond if interested, or that it takes forever and all they get is a, “thanks, but not right for me.” It only takes 15 seconds to respond to my f’ing query, so what’s the deal? At 15 seconds, 20,000 queries is over 80 hours of response time. Two weeks of the work year gone just to say no. Not exactly how I would want to use up that much of my time, not when there isn’t enough time in the day to get the stuff done that needs to be done.

    So, where does this sense of entitlement come from? Why do so many writers feel like they are owed a response? It’s a courtesy, not an obligation. Many agents feel they should respond, that it’s the professional thing to do, and I honestly appreciate the time they burn up to send me that, “thanks, but not for me.” I don’t need to hear that. I assume it, because I know that’s how things work. I just want to hear the, “yes, send me more.” I’d prefer agents take the time to deal with more important matters. As a writer hoping to be published, I hope for those replies. I watch my email daily hoping for that yes, but my presumption is no. We aren’t entitled and agents aren’t obligated. We’re both just hoping for that serendipitous coinciding of talent, timing, and luck. A lot of writers would be wiser to educate themselves more about the industry and understand just what is involved. If they did, they wouldn’t be whining nearly so much.

    Are there bad agents out there who don’t have author’s best interests at heart or who are just plain incompetent? Yeah, but they are few and far between. Most have a deep love for books and sincerely want to find that author they can sell. They work long hours to do so. They hope as much as we do because they know how hard it is. So, quitcherbitchen, write well, query your heart out, and hope for that yes, but quit worrying about the no’s.

    Note: I generalize here a bit, not all writers are whiners. It just seems to be more prevelant these days.

  49. HeatherM said:

    Bravo Kristen! You’re right of course. What’s wrong with the query system is all the people who send out their queries thinking their manuscript is the next big thing, and they haven’t even edited it, or had it read by anyone for advice, or worked on it much at all. I see too many writers self-publishing their work because no one will publish them. It would be wiser to spend their money on a good writers retreat to find out what’s wrong with their manuscripts! Writers who just throw their stuff out there without a lot of sweat, blood, and tears put into it, make it harder on the rest of us. Thus the slush pile is created.

  50. Anonymous said:

    Agentfail was a great opportunity for agents to improve their business practices. Instead, they complain and defend themselves and make excuses.
    Is it any wonder writers are frustrated when we’re expected to “put up and shut up”?

    Aain, the named writers continue to suck up to agents in the hopes they’ll get noticed. The anonymous writers have the courage to tell it like it is, whether you agents want to hear the truth or not. Seems like many of the agents are getting a tad defensive since the criticisms hit too close to home…

  51. Anonymous said:

    At least three of the agents responsible for my bad experiences have posted about agent fail. They read it.

    One admits to hurt feelings. I’m sure the shoe fit. One claims his agency doesn’t do any of those things. That’s nonsense and he knows it. One claims our time would be better spent not complaining and seems to see our complaints as insignificant. Our experiences are valid and they do matter, if not to agents, at least to the writers who made them.

    I don’t believe anyone who posted on agentfail thought their post would reform anything. It won’t. But it does let agents know how we feel. And the agents whose behavior was behind my post on agentfail all blog, and all of them claim to support writers and writing. There is a very vulgar phrase of two words that covers their claims. Blogging is not proof that an agent cares about her clients or potential clients.

    Most of the agents who commented on the agentfail thread focused on the least important of the criticisms. There are four key complaints. Few of you even noticed them.

    I’m published by reputable publisher. I have no agent, no longer seek an agent, and do not feel I need one. Not all my experiences with agents were negative. Four negative experiences do not make a trend. But those four experiences represent all agents to me. Unfair? Perhaps. But given the degree of frustration and anger found on the agentfail thread, perhaps you should re-read the posts and see if you can find yourself in them. I see you there. You are one of the four agents behind my post.