Online Agent Listings

I am getting increasingly frustrated with people querying me, acting like they know about me and about our agency, while they’re pitching something we don’t represent. Usually this means projects clearly outside of a Christian worldview, like astrological self-help, or memoirs of drug abuse and debauchery (without redemption), but that doesn’t bother me. The frustrating thing is that people think finding a listing on an online site such as agentquery.com or writersmarket.com or querytracker.com constitutes “researching” the agency.

Now, from where you sit, this might not be obvious, which is why I’m explaining it to you. Those websites that list literary agents can be a great help in identifying agents who might be right for you, but looking at them is not the same as visiting the agent’s website, or looking up their deals on Publishers Marketplace.

I know for a fact that I’m listed on countless online agent listing services, but here’s what you should know: Most of them have never contacted me to ask my permission to list me, or to get any information about what I might like my listing to say.

I am listed whether I want to be or not, and the part that gets me is that I know some of the listings are wrong or incomplete, because most of the inappropriate queries say that they found me on one of those websites. Those query-ers have not visited our website or my blog.

Honestly the thing that bothers me the most is the number of queries that take up space in my inbox that are clearly outside the scope of our agency, so I feel like it’s not a good use of my time when I respond to them. (And I DO respond personally to everyone.) Don’t get me wrong, I never look at writers as wasting my time, per se. But when a person could have learned a little about me and found out that I don’t, in fact, represent pornographic memoirs of Las Vegas hookers, then yes, I do feel a teensy bit like my time was taken advantage of.

Of course, all the people who need to read this post are most definitely NOT reading it. That’s my frustration… there’s no way to reach them. Aarrgghh.

Here’s my point: It’s a good idea to research the agents and publishing houses you’re submitting to by visiting their websites and reading what they say about themselves. Since so many agents have blogs these days, it helps to read the blogs, too.

But you’re already reading this one. So you don’t need my advice.

See? Frustration.

Rachelle Gardner is a Christian literary agent affiliated with WordServe Literary Group in Colorado.

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  • Sheri Boeyink

    >I can see how that’s frustrating, yes. I have been on the AgentQuery.com and it does look deceptively accurate and “matter-of-fact,” that’s for sure.

    I don’t understand how they can get away with it, I mean, if they don’t even contact you!?

    Thanks for the advice and heads up for those of us seeking representation. It’s very helpful to know.

  • Timothy Fish

    >I can understand your frustration. It’s an occupational hazard, but when I see a problem like this, I start thinking of a software solution. The first thing that comes to mind is for you to stop accepting e-mail queries and ask people to fill out a web bases form instead. That would do three of things. First, it would queriers to visit your website, at which time you could give them the information about what you are considering. Second, you might be able to eliminate some unwanted submissions by asking queriers to confirm that they want to submit a query that is outside your scope. Third, you could use it to help group queriers by similarities.

  • Holly

    >I’ve enjoyed reading your blog these past few months, and I’ve learned a lot. Thanks! Your kind responses to inappropriate queries may be the first/only contact some of these writers have with a Christian. Thanks for responding to them courteously in spite of the frustration!

  • Anonymous

    >Holly: That’s a good point!

    Rachelle: You go so far out of your way to help us new writers. It’s truly appreciated. I know time is limited but you are a light in a sometimes dark world. Keep walking the good walk :)

  • Gwen Stewart

    >I made reference above to a fairly well-known agent blog that is now archived. She had a ferocious query-eating dog–actually a poodle, of all things–but I realized the name of said poodle might be surprising to those who aren’t familiar with her archived blog, so I’m starting over sans the name of poodle. My point was that Rachelle could never be snarky, but perhaps a query-eating dog seems appealing at times, as long as he spits out a form response. A form response is better than no response, which is what quite a few agencies do, and I think more and more all the time.

  • Courtney Walsh

    >I see what Timothy is saying, though I would hate to see it come to that! I personally hate filling out web based forms, especially ones that don’t let me start a new paragraph. I think as a writer, I want my query to you to look as professional as possible, and being able to submit an email (and know what the email will look like when it reaches you) is important.

    Too bad there’s not a way to use web based forms only for people who fail to do their research! LOL

    Though I absolutely love the internet, it sure does make it easier for people to do less work and achieve the same results (i.e. reaching agents in one click of a button.) A good reminder for us to do our homework before we hit ‘send.’ :)

    PS… the pornographic memoirs of Las Vegas hookers?? LOL

  • Lisa Jordan

    >Rachelle,

    Your blog is one of the first ones I read each day. It’s bookmarked and listed in my writer resources link on my site and blog.

    You go out of your way to provide solid information about the industry and I thank you for that. I’ve learned so much since I’ve become a reader of yours.

    I understand your frustration when people seem to pick your name out of a batch of agents. If they don’t take the time to do their homework, how will they know when they’ve chosen the right agent? Plus, it makes them look unprofessional to others in the industry.

  • Basil Sands

    >Rachelle, very good points. It is quite frustating being a new writer and trying to make that hit with an agent or publisher that will carry you to the top of your game. That’s my personal biggest frustation, not knowing if it’s the material or the subject matter, or just that I queried the wrong agent at times. I research, but still it can be hard to read someone’s mind at the moment to know if they are the right agent.

    That being said I have a question. What constitutes Christian Fiction vs. Christian Worldview ficiton vs. mainstream fiction?

    The reason I ask is that while my own work has at least one very Christian character (a persecuted Iranian woman, an African Pastor in a civil war, a Marine sniper turned pastor)and the story involves significant Christian thematic elements and thought processes, they also contain significant realistic violence and a bit of vulgar language to make it real-world believable. (no sex or f-bombs though).

    So would a book like that be acceptable by Christian resellers/audience or secular audience … either? neither?

    Just curious because while the are quite popular on the web as podcasts (over 10,000 listeners) but after scores of submissions have not landed any takers for the markets.

  • Anita Mae

    >Rachelle, the enemy will use any way to distract you from God’s work. The more you follow His will, the more the enemy will send ‘stuff’ your way. You can deal with it 2 ways:

    1. You’re important enough to cause the enemy worry so continue with your courteous reply, then brush it aside as the inconsequential attention grabber that it is; or

    2. You can allow yourself to be distracted and frustrated, thereby giving the enemy a victory.

    And yes, I like the accessibility of email vice web-based form but even if you switch, if the enemy wants to get to you…he can regardless.

    Just MHO.

  • Marcie Gribbin

    >Big grin to Gwen’s referencing the dog-wielding-snarky-agent. Said agent would NEVER host fun writing contests for blog readers! (Ahem, hint, hint…)

    Anyway, Rachelle said “Of course, all the people who need to read this post are most definitely NOT reading it. That’s my frustration… there’s no way to reach them. Aarrgghh.” and “But you’re already reading this one. So you don’t need my advice.”

    NOT TRUE! We need to read this, too! (But I get what you mean)

  • Rachelle

    >Basil — See the sidebar of the blog under “Find Posts on This Blog.” Click on “Christian Publishing” and it will pull up a bunch of posts. A few of those directly address your question.

  • Kat Harris

    >It’s interesting to hear online listings like agentquery.com don’t contact you for permission. It surprises me, but it’s not a stretch to believe.

    That’s yummy food for thought.

    In their defense, some people might be sending you stuff you don’t represent because they read your blog and find you so personable that they wish you could represent them. Or they may see that you have sold manuscripts to ABA in the past, and that’s what they have in mind.

    You have regular blog readers who don’t write from a Christian worldview. In fact, there’s one I can think of right off the bat who writes erotica and still reads your blog religiously. (pardon the pun, and no it’s not me)

    I highly doubt the people who are sending you mss you don’t represent are the devil’s minions sent to distract you.

    Think of it as a way, albeit through standard rejection, for grace to touch the lives of people who might not otherwise be touched. Your blog is a powerful medium for people, and I hope you include a link to your blog on your rejections.

  • Marcie Gribbin

    >Sorry to have cleared my throat so loudly earlier ;).

    I do have a question. Say, hypothetically, of course, you register for a conference and make appointments with agents and/or editors, feeling you will be ready to pitch when you get there (after all, you registered months ahead). Then, as the time draws near, your knees are knocking and you don’t feel like you are quite ready to pitch yet (not that I, uh, I mean, you-hyothetical-writer haven’t been working your tushy off trying to get it ready). Do you keep the appointments? Will they feel like you are just wasting a good 15 minutes of their precious time? Any advice?

    Okay, that was more than one question. Sorry!

  • Rachelle

    >Marcie, suck it up, keep the appointments, and make sure you’re ready. These opportunities don’t come along everyday. Make the most of them.

  • Richard Mabry

    >Rachelle,
    Congratulations on being featured in the article on agents in the current Writers Digest. Hope the folks who read the article also pay attention to your very specific description of what you do–and don’t–represent.
    As for the pornographic memoirs of Las Vegas hookers, wasn’t that at least a break from reading routine queries?

  • Marian

    >I made this mistake in a small way. An agent had asked me for a full, so I read through my manuscript, made sure it was as good as it could be, double spaced and in Courier, and sent it off.

    Then I read the agent’s website and discovered that she preferred manuscripts in Times New Roman, not Courier. :(

    It must not have been too big a deal, because she offered representation, but I still felt bad for not doing enough research beforehand.

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    Kudos for the blog article. Really Great.

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