#agentfail, #queryfail, all sorts of fail….

April 7, 2009

So there was a big scandal a while ago about this whole #queryfail thing, where apparently some agents on twitter decided to tweet about the mistakes they were seeing in queries.

And writers FLIPPED. OUT.

They got very upset, and said the whole thing was unprofessional and mean. So now they have apparently lashed back with #agentfail. They are also over on the Bookends blog, talking about agents and all their gripes with them. (Kudos to Jessica for being cool enough to open her blog and take these kind of comments.)

This whole thing makes me so sad! Agents are not the enemy! Agents and authors are working toward the same goal — to get books published.

I really don’t think that the agents who participated in #queryfail were doing it to be mean — they were doing it to educate writers on the mistakes people make in queries. If you know enough to be on the internet following an agent on twitter, those mistakes probably don’t apply to you. But maybe they do! I think it was done in fun. Agents gain nothing by being mean to writers, or making fun of writers, or belittling them. Without writers, agents can find good books to sell, and without good books to sell, they don’t make money.

Among the things writers seem to have a problem with:

1. Agents that are spending lots of time twittering/blogging, etc. (Because they should be reading my query, dammit!)

Okay, um…if we’re going to use this argument, then maybe you should be writing instead of reading #queryfail.

Agents twitter, blog, etc. for a bunch of reasons.

One, they have personal lives. They like to blog and twitter, just like you. Now, it’s one thing if YOUR agent is writing five million blog posts a day about her dog when your manuscript is waiting to be submitted. But for an agent to write a blog post after she’s had your query for a week? Again, agents are allowed to twitter and blog, and if you think they’re not, then you shouldn’t even know they have a blog, because you should be writing.

Two, it’s a great way for them to get their name out there. A lot of agents use their blogs and twitters so people will hear their names, and think of them when it comes time to query. It’s also a great way to promote the books of their clients.

Three. THEY LIKE GIVING OUT INFORMATION. Kristin Nelson, Nathan Bransford, and Jessica Faust are just some of the agents who have great blogs that give out information on the industry, writing, etc. This is extremely selfless, and I’m sure they have helped countless writers along the way understand things about their writing, the query process, marketing, what goes on at publishing houses.. this is all priceless information.

2. Agents should be responding to my query in a timely matter, BECAUSE I SPENT A YEAR ON THAT BOOK AND I DESERVE IT.

Most agents do respond to their queries, partials, and fulls in a timely manner. However, just because it says on their website that they respond in twelve weeks, doesn’t mean you can hold them to it. Unfortunately, maybe in those three months, they’ve had ten client manuscripts come in, along with five contracts and an auction, plus an author whose editor is leaving, and another one whose book has been canceled.

The thing about agents is this — their first priority is THEIR CLIENTS. It’s not their queries, or their requested manuscripts. This is how it should be. How would you feel if an agent signed you, and was like, "Oh, I’m sorry, I haven’t read your manuscript that you want me to send to your editor, but I’ve had five hundred queries coming in today!" Now THAT is #agentfail.

Unfortunately, agents don’t owe you anything. They owe it to their clients to work on their behalf. A lot of them work at agencies where they have multiple jobs. Maybe they’re also the contracts manager or handle foreign rights in the afternoon. So now not only do they have two jobs that they need to be doing during office hours, but they have the third job of going through their queries and looking for new clients. Which all has to be done at night and on weekends.

If an agent’s not getting back to you, and it really bothers you that much, CROSS THEM OFF YOUR LIST. BYE BYE! It’s that simple. There are a ton of agents out there, so move on. NEXT!

Anyway.

There are a ton more agent gripes, too many to get into on here.

But the whole thing makes me sad, because I think agents and writers should be working together.

Is it annoying when an agent doesn’t get back to you on that requested full after she went out of her way to email you and call you and tell you how much she loved the partial? OF COURSE.

But you know what? If you can’t handle that, you might not be ready to be a professional writer. Because, unfortunately, in this business, there are disappointments. Much bigger ones. Editors who say they’re going to make offers that then fall through. Marketing plans that are promised and then scrapped. Books that get pushed from launch lists, revision letters that don’t get sent for months, decisions that aren’t made until weeks past what you were promised.

This industry is not like any other industry you’ve ever encountered.

I’m not saying be a total doormat. But a lot of the things people are complaining about can be prevented by doing your research and LOOKING OUT FOR YOURSELF. If you make the decision to give an agent an open-ended exclusive on your manuscript, and they don’t get back to you for five months, then there’s definitely a bit of #writerfail going on there.

I’m not saying there aren’t bad agents . (Trust me, I have stories.) But the real #agentfail happens with an agent who’s not responding to you when you’re a client, or who is sending your book out to the wrong editors, or not submitting widely enough.. And you know what? THEN YOU CAN LEAVE THAT AGENT!

Writers have to take the power back. Write a good book. Act professional. Keep sending it out. Over and over and over.

If an agent doesn’t respond to your query, send a follow up. If they don’t respond to that, move on . There are hundreds of agents. If you go through them all, write another book. Stop getting caught up in things that don’t really matter.

FOCUS ON THE WRITING. Make each book better than your last. Read agent blogs for the information they provide. Educate yourself. Look out for yourself. But realize what battles are important and which ones are just part of the process.

Agents are not the enemy. They make little money and work so hard because they love books. (Um, kind of like most writers. And editors.)

We’re all in this together.

So seeing all this strife makes me sad….

(And a P.S. to Agent A — you are the definition of #agentwin and I am so lucky to have you on my side..)

More later,
xx

Posted by Lauren @ 11:04 am  

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Comments

  1. mandywriter says:

    thank god you said this, becuase when I was reading the bookends comments, I found it SO FREAKING IRRITATING. These are the same writers who will probably gripe, once they have an agent, that the agent doesn’t respond quickly enough–maybe beucase said agent is readding slush all day?

    I love how they all say, “it only takes a minute to reply….” or whatever.

    Honestly, what other industry is out there where you get to have your work assessed by a professional at no cost to you. Dozens and dozens of professioanls, at that.

  2. mandywriter says:

    thank god you said this, becuase when I was reading the bookends comments, I found it SO FREAKING IRRITATING. These are the same writers who will probably gripe, once they have an agent, that the agent doesn’t respond quickly enough–maybe beucase said agent is readding slush all day?

    I love how they all say, “it only takes a minute to reply….” or whatever.

    Honestly, what other industry is out there where you get to have your work assessed by a professional at no cost to you. Dozens and dozens of professioanls, at that.

  3. cyn2write says:

    I really agree on this; agents are NOT the enemy. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that the majority of communication a writer receives from them is, unfortunately, a rejection. Rejection, even encased in a pretty package, isn’t a positive thing, but this is a business. I remember feeling so daunted by agents when I was at that stage, and I can see that translating into negative feelings.

    During my second agent search I came to realize how amazing most agents are. I came to realize that they’re people, not heartless robots, who just want to succeed in their careers. It was very eye-opening, but I think unfortunately some writers need to get represented/published before they will learn this.

  4. cyn2write says:

    I really agree on this; agents are NOT the enemy. I think a lot of it stems from the fact that the majority of communication a writer receives from them is, unfortunately, a rejection. Rejection, even encased in a pretty package, isn’t a positive thing, but this is a business. I remember feeling so daunted by agents when I was at that stage, and I can see that translating into negative feelings.

    During my second agent search I came to realize how amazing most agents are. I came to realize that they’re people, not heartless robots, who just want to succeed in their careers. It was very eye-opening, but I think unfortunately some writers need to get represented/published before they will learn this.

  5. scottwrites says:

    AMEN, LB. You are SO right about all this. A-fricken-MEN!

  6. scottwrites says:

    AMEN, LB. You are SO right about all this. A-fricken-MEN!

  7. sbennettwealer says:

    “If you can’t handle that, you might not be ready to be a professional writer. Because, unfortunately, in this business, there are disappointments. Much bigger ones.”

    Amen! Well said, Lauren!

  8. sbennettwealer says:

    “If you can’t handle that, you might not be ready to be a professional writer. Because, unfortunately, in this business, there are disappointments. Much bigger ones.”

    Amen! Well said, Lauren!

  9. mandywriter says:

    Also, i am amused that everyone who has answered so far once shared an agent. (and you, too!)

  10. mandywriter says:

    Also, i am amused that everyone who has answered so far once shared an agent. (and you, too!)

  11. newport2newport says:

    I agree. This truism is applicable to all relationships. We’re human beings first and foremost; and as such, we disappoint and are disappointed.

  12. newport2newport says:

    I agree. This truism is applicable to all relationships. We’re human beings first and foremost; and as such, we disappoint and are disappointed.

  13. jbknowles says:

    Go Lauren! Great post. Thanks! 🙂

  14. jbknowles says:

    Go Lauren! Great post. Thanks! 🙂

  15. jo_no_anne says:

    I seriously scratch my head over the agent hate.
    I’m so grateful for mine because she handles all that is scary and unknown AND has similar thoughts as I do on my material.
    I thought the agent tweets on #queryfail were funny. Honestly, some writers (much like American Idol contestants) DO need to have everything explained to them.
    5000 words ISN’T a novel, a rapist SHOULDN’T be your protagonist, and the fact that your bowling team, the Pinheads, loves the manuscript DOESN’T mean the agent will be “bowled over”.

  16. jo_no_anne says:

    I seriously scratch my head over the agent hate.
    I’m so grateful for mine because she handles all that is scary and unknown AND has similar thoughts as I do on my material.
    I thought the agent tweets on #queryfail were funny. Honestly, some writers (much like American Idol contestants) DO need to have everything explained to them.
    5000 words ISN’T a novel, a rapist SHOULDN’T be your protagonist, and the fact that your bowling team, the Pinheads, loves the manuscript DOESN’T mean the agent will be “bowled over”.

  17. annatheunknown says:

    Agents aren’t the enemy. You’re right and someone should say that. But Queryfail was still mean. I appreciated it–don’t get me wrong. They covered things that you simply don’t get in some of the very helpful how-tos out there. One of the query fails was something that I had done–something that made complete sense to me (and clearly many others who would be rejected out of hand no matter how brilliant their story), was not warned against in any how-to. I’d been lucky to have two writers further along in the process looking over draft, or I might have sent out an auto-fail query. Queryfail could be really helpful to anyone who doesn’t have access to a good writers’ group or others who have been there, done that.

    But reading your words in real time with a #queryfail tag before you even get the form rejection letter has got to hurt. Knowing that this private work you’ve sent is being posted for public view and nationally snarked on even if no one knows it’s YOU they’re giggling at has got to hurt.

    Talking about the whiny response to queryfail while ignoring any legitimate downside sounds a lot like “We’re insiders and you’re not. You don’t get to complain.”

  18. annatheunknown says:

    Agents aren’t the enemy. You’re right and someone should say that. But Queryfail was still mean. I appreciated it–don’t get me wrong. They covered things that you simply don’t get in some of the very helpful how-tos out there. One of the query fails was something that I had done–something that made complete sense to me (and clearly many others who would be rejected out of hand no matter how brilliant their story), was not warned against in any how-to. I’d been lucky to have two writers further along in the process looking over draft, or I might have sent out an auto-fail query. Queryfail could be really helpful to anyone who doesn’t have access to a good writers’ group or others who have been there, done that.

    But reading your words in real time with a #queryfail tag before you even get the form rejection letter has got to hurt. Knowing that this private work you’ve sent is being posted for public view and nationally snarked on even if no one knows it’s YOU they’re giggling at has got to hurt.

    Talking about the whiny response to queryfail while ignoring any legitimate downside sounds a lot like “We’re insiders and you’re not. You don’t get to complain.”

  19. bostonerin says:

    Brava, Lauren. This is a great post.

  20. bostonerin says:

    Brava, Lauren. This is a great post.

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