Thursday, April 2, 2009

Oh dear... #agentfail failed

I have now seen both sides of the spectrum and am forced to regretfully conclude that #queryfail participants showed more respect, restraint and professionalism than the majority of #agentfail participants.

As a writer I am frankly embarrassed. We were given a forum in which agents requested us to discuss things that we think could be improved and there is only one conclusion for what followed.

Writers behaved poorly.

There was unmitigated agent bashing and it only served to make writers look like petty, arrogant fools. Not only that, but the majority of those that behaved foolishly felt free to go all out and not pull any punches because they could do so in perfect anonymity. I think this was the beginning of the problem. #queryfail happened on twitter so we knew exactly which agent made what comments. They were held responsible for the things they were saying.

Many of the writers participating in #agentfail apparently felt no need to respond in kind. By far the majority were anonymous posters.

I'm not going to go into details of the many complaints on #agentfail that I believe to be unjust, disrespectful and flat out ridiculous. Instead, I'm going to highlight the relatively few valid points that were made.

1 - Writers don't like a "no response means no" policy to queries and submissions. They would prefer at the very least an auto-response stating that they received the material and a notification that they would be in contact IF they were interested.

2 - If an agent requests material then the agent should try to be ready to respond in the time frame they have requested, if not, the agent should drop us a note telling us they need an extension and how much longer they will need.

3 - Agents should keep their submission information up to date and available for prospective clients.

4 - Agents should be professional in their communications with writers--just as they would like writers to be professional with them.

this last note was my only contribution to #agentfail (I did not post it anonymously by the way)

5 - Agents should be more environmentally/technologically friendly and be accessible for e-mail queries and internet submissions.

If any of my writer friends would like to have a concise list of what should be expected from an agent. Please check out agent Rachelle Gardner's blog for an awesome post on that exact subject.


  1. Well said, Jenn. There are things that agents can do to make things easier for writers, but that got lost somewhere under all the angst.

    I also posted some things I thought certain agents could work on but they were mostly from second person experience. This one is number one on my list: email submissions, even for partials.

    Thanks. I also blogged on #agentfail today. : )

  2. Awesome! I'm heading over to check it out now :D

  3. I blogged about #agentfail today as well (, and we highlighted most of the same valid points. I will say that I'm gaining a better understanding of agents who DON'T take e-mail queries as it cuts down on things such as the mass e-mails and repeat e-mails from queries. Only people who are truly serious and willing to put in the effort will snail mail. However, I DO think that once past the query stage, snail mail should go out the window as mailing partials and fulls is just not environmentally friendly or necessary.

  4. I went over and read your blog, but it wouldn't let me comment, I was disappointed. I'm glad you found your way over here though :)

  5. I only read about half the submissions, I guess I didn't get to the major angsty ones. I felt valid points were made and didn't understand why people felt like they needed to be anonymous. But, whatever. I think that both ideas (#queryfail and #agentfail) are flawed. The people reading them are the ones that don't do the things complained about. And query fail scares me to death because the last thing I need to think about when I'm sending out a query is that it's going to put up for public ridicule. As if I need something else to fret about in that moment.

  6. Some great ideas that I wish they would think about. I sent in to an agent and he referred it months later to another in the office and months later-- still have heard nothing, A poltite thank you would have taken seconds.

  7. Kasie - Very good point about queryfail and agentfail both being flawed. If you consider that both set out claiming to educate people about the process and ways to improve... combined with the fact that few of the people making those mistakes were the ones reading them--then absolutely, both are very flawed.

  8. LOL! Can I just say I LOVE MY AGENT!!!! Okay, um, great post. And I'm so glad you're on the agents side. And I'm so with you on the email submissions! they are awesome! Jenni

  9. Personally I couldn't get past the first 50 comments; many of those were bad enough. Not sure I want to see the really awful ones.

    While some of the writers made some pretty valid points, I agree with what a lot of folks have already said--the good stuff got lost in the crud. It really is too bad.

    I had high hopes that #queryfail and #agentfail would allow for some productive discussions to take place between agents and writers, but both events just seem to have resulted in more hurt feelings and anger.

  10. That's too bad. Anonymous punches-how cowardly. But happily, in the end, agents can't live without writers and writers can't live without agents. And anonymous bullies won't change that.

  11. I couldn't bring myself to slog through the complaints. I found it much less useful than #queryfail. I'm more interested in what writers can do better than what agents can do better, because, frankly, the agents I query are universally wonderful tot begin with, or I wouldn't want them as an agent. ;) Still, I appreciate the summary.

  12. I heard some of the fall-out from this. Too bad it had to end up leaving bad feelings on both sides.

  13. I couldn't agree more. I only read the first twenty or so comments and couldn't stomach any more. I didn't even get to the ones that bashed agents for using twitter and facebook. Like agents don't deserve to have downtime or something...

    The Caren Johnson Literary Agency had a great post about #agentfail yesterday, in case you want to check it out:

    Thanks for sharing your views on this. I'm glad to hear from authors who aren't raging about the unfairness of publishing. After all, we've chosen this profession, and everything that goes with it. :)

  14. Sound like I missed a heckuva crap-storm. I'd go now, but I don't want to ruin the fairly good morning I'm having.

  15. I didn't see the actual discussion, but I think the difference between the two forums is that agents are probably working agents that have professionalism built in. Writers have more or a range, and anyone who has written for two weeks can call themselves a writer. From my experience, successful writers are quite respectful and intelligent (as you show us yourself in this blog post), so I haven't lost faith in us as a group. Thanks for this great summary!

  16. Wow, I didn't see any of this, but I sure have heard about it. Writers, just like anybody else, can be dumb and rude. I agree with Davin. Successful writers are the ones who act professionally. Everything you say online should be carefully considered. Including comments in something like Twitter or blogs.

    Thank you for keeping us posted! Much appreciated.

  17. Terri - I've been paying attention today to the response of agents to #agentfail. Some were very upset(and reasonably so), but the ones that impressed and surprised me were the ones who dug through the angry posts to the ones that were warranted and have humbly addressed the areas they found they could work on. Some good things have come of this. :)

    Jenni - Yeah, your agent is awesome! Congratulations :D

    L.C. - Don't give up hope yet. I'm posting again in a minute with a link to a very positive thing that has come from this! :)

    Jessie - very good point!

    Tara - those were my thoughts exactly. If you are having that horrible of experiences with the agents you query then maybe you need to query different agents.

    Melissa - healing is happening as we speak. hooray!

    Tabitha - Great points and thanks for the link! I think the majority of writers who are serious about this and consider it a career and not a hobby are the ones that are behaving as professionally as the agents.

  18. Big Plain V - Absolutely, reading this post gives you the highlights. No need to wade through the muck anymore :)

    Davin - Great comment! I wonder how many of those anonymous posters were writers who just started or view it as a hobby. I would like to think most of them. :) That's a nice idea.

    Lady Glamis - Very true. I think professionalism is crucial to success. I always try to be careful to consider the repercussions of anything I post.

  19. I hear ya girlie. I posted about the craziness on my blog too. Great post!

  20. Thanks for stopping by Karen :) It is so nice to meet other people who use the term girlie. I'm pretty sure that makes us buddies ;) I am going to check out your blog now!