In last Thursday’s post I talked about two of the “myths” agent Jennifer Lawler debunked in her June 1 Writers Digest article, 5 Myths You Shouldn’t Believe About Agents.
I found her article refreshing and comforting. But it should probably be read with a bit of skepticism. The truth is most of these “myths” come from agents themselves. I don’t know what agency Ms. Lawler is with, since her website is an author site for her own books (she’s written 32!) But I wonder if maybe she’s a new agent. I think the older, more established agents often still work with the old rules.
In any case, as I said in the comments thread on my first post, I’d read the specific agent’s website or blog before acting on this advice. This isn’t the only area where agent rules are contradictory.
Here are all five of Ms. Lawler’s “myths.”
1. The bulk of an agent’s time is spent selling her clients’ work.
Nope. She says most of her time is spent babysitting clients and looking for new ones (yes, reading our queries.)
2. A client shouldn’t waste her agent’s time with a bunch of questions.
Ask away. What they really hate is to be left out of the loop (and it creeps them out to see their clients asking questions on other agents’ blogs.)
3. No response means no.
I mentioned this in my first post. Apparently email gets lost way more than we realize. Several agents besides Ms. Lawler have blogged about the number of requested manuscripts that never arrive. Sometimes they take time to search for us by another address or phone number, but mostly they assume we’ve found other representation.
Always remember to put an agent's email in your address book after you query, so that dreamed-of request for a read doesn't end up in the spam folder--and if you don't hear anything within two months or so, it's OK to send the query one more time.
HOWEVER: there are other agents who say “no response from one agent in this agency is a rejection from all. Do not resend or requery any of our agents.” So look for one of those “one chance only” warnings before you requery.
BTW—I made the mistake of following Query Shark’s advice that it’s OK to requery if you’ve done a complete overhaul on a query. This is NOT TRUE for all agents and I’ve got the acid burns on my email program to prove it.
4. Agents should give feedback when they reject a partial or full.
A lot of us have been discussing this recently (And Creepy Query Girl has some hilarious posts on the pain of getting a form rejection on a requested manuscript.)
But Ms. Lawler gives convincing reasons for why she doesn’t offer feedback. She says rejections usually have to do with personal taste and current contacts, and she often has to reject books that have absolutely nothing wrong with them. If she gave advice, you might end up ruining a book another agent would love.
5. Agents’ inboxes are so congested with crapola, they’ll never notice your query of heartbreaking genius.
The bad ones are easy to weed out--and mock--but apparently most of us are doing our homework. The problem, Ms. Lawler says, is too many good queries. She has a hard time choosing.
But in the end, it’s all about homework. Do as much research as you can on agents before you query. Some are pretty quirky and cranky. (Usually in direct relationship to how established they are.) Don’t just check Agent Query or Query Tracker. Read every page of their website and Google for interviews. (If you write YA, the wonderful Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles does this for you. Her profiles are the BEST!)