Monday, October 23, 2006

A Message From Agents and Assistants Everywhere

Dear potential clients/authors:

Stop calling us.

Seriously. We do not want your phone calls. We do not want the phone calls where you call to "confirm the address of the agency" (as if it's written WRONG somewhere) and then begin to pitch your book while we're on the line. We're on to you. We know your tricks. The phone line is for business purposes. It's gotten to the point where many agents don't pick up their phones, including my boss, unless they recognize the name/number - which is bad, because my boss doesn't have caller ID and can never remember my number, so I can't even call in sick because she won't pick up the phone. I have to email her.

There are established ways to reach us: by post or occasionally by email. Please use those methods. I think I speak for almost every agent when I say this.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. But, that said, could you explain how one is to identify the appropriate agent to whome we address the query if we cannot call and ask? Because not all agency listing have the names of the agents.

The Rejecter said...

If you've tried the agent's website, AgentQuery, Writer's Digest, and yet still cannot figure out who you should be querying, query the guy who the agency is named after.

ORION said...

You should already know the agent's name before you query. You should not be randomly querying agencies. If you do not know the agent's name how do you know they handle your genre? If you do not see what books the agent has sold how do you know they will sell yours?
I queried many agents before I obtained representation and I never had a problem finding an agent's name between and publishers marketplace.

Anonymous said...

Calling it "A A Message" -- does this mean this has driven you to drink?

I've known agents who toss out mail and submissions sight unseen because their names aren't spelled right. They seem to think it is discourteous for a writer not to know this.

Yes, you can check and crosscheck all over the Internet, but in the end, a call to confirm the office hasn't moved or been burnt down, or that the agent's name is spelled correctly, or that "Mike" isn't a nickname for "Michelle" -- that is part of doing business. So sorry if you're ticked, but that should be just part of your receptionist's job. Or, if your office is so small you don't have one, then an intern's.

If someone then segues into a pitch from there, a quick "please contact us in writing" should do, and hang up.

Or, put it on a voice mail system so you don't have to repeat information.

But don't go waggling your finger at writers because they're just trying to do due diligence. Shame on you.

Virginia Miss said...

I once called an agency to verify the spelling, gender, and mailing address of an agent, and low and behold, that agent no longer worked there.

Dear rejecter, not all agencies have web sites or update their sites and listings regularly. Some of these agents have actually advised writers at conferences to do their homework before sending a query letter--including calling to verify all the information. (In some cases they've even suggested we call and ask which agent would be most suitable for a certain type of project -- don't misunderstand me, I don't mean a phone pitch, merely a simple mention of the category).

Some of us writers do our darndest to avoid nitwittery and please everyone, but it just ain't gonna happen.

Kimber An said...

I could never understand this because I hate the telephone myself. I have caller ID and an answering machine. I keep the ringer off one phone and on low on the other. I don't have a cell and don't want one. This could get wierd if agents ever start calling me! I'd probably have to put them on hold to go change a poopy diaper in any case. Maybe if I get that far in this business I'll put a special recording on my machine just for them. "If you're an agent I've queried, please believe your call is important to me. At this moment, I am either changing a diaper, dealing with an enraged preschooler, or making an older child do her math, all while protecting my husband from them while he takes a nap because he worked like a dog all night. Please leave a name and number and..." This could get tricky.

Anonymous said...

I would never dream of calling an agent, unless they had called me.

Once again, I am astonished by what people try to get away with--how unprofessional they act etc...
Keep it coming, Rejecter.

It sure do make me looks good.

WunderDawn said...

As someone who does tech support for a living and spends about a third of my life chained to a phone, I do hereby promise (should I ever write an actual novel) that I shall never ever EVER call. Because I hate phones more than anything. I would rather endure a thousand papercuts than make a phone call. GIVE ME EMAIL OR GIVE ME DEATH!

Kimber An said...

Yeah, and I'll take lemon juice on my papercuts, thank you very much!

Dave said...

For a few years, I worked in a Division where all the office were located within hearing. I could hear the phones start , office, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, and then mine - it was always the same clueless bosses and he'd ask me to physically go check to see if so-and-so was physically in their office.

You can't imagine how much I hate the phone system.

Or how about having to sit through 40 people in two conference rooms on a speaker phone or a video setup for three hours, and hours, and hours, and hours.

I hate the phone.

Or sitting at your phone for two hours listening to phone messages drone on and on, knowing that another thrity minutes of messages are piling up behind these?

I hate the phone.

How about sitting in an important meeting and having to stop each time the boss's cell phone rings? It's only a million dollar deal and he has to referree the wife's argument over dog droppings.

I hate the telephone.

Or how about being stuck in the washroom with a boss and his cellphone, blackberry, a beeper and two walkie talkies (because the two safety offices can't share the same frequencies)..

I hate the telephone.

Do these situations amuse you, I can assure you they are not amusing to live through.

Dave said...

Another example of phone awfulness...

One of our hired consultants, a college professor, and I were to meet for lunch. When I passed his office he said that he had one e-mail to listen to and that he would follow.

I went, I sat and waited, 15 minutes later I got lunch, ate and finished and went back past his office.
FORTY FIVE MINUTES had passed and the phone message was still going. IT was a complaint from one of his professor buddies about office politics and was 60 MINUTES long.

Anyone that leaves a message like that - well - Insanity just doesn't hop, skip, and jump in their family, it gallops at great speed! It skips with delight! It veritably cavorts with glee!

I hate telephones!

Anonymous said...

Dave, your pain hath brought entirely inappropriate giggles to mine workplace. Thank you kindly.

Anonymous 6:12, learn to care about something that actually matters. Go get laid, or something, 'kay?

WunderDawn said...

Okay! Dave! you win! like by a lot! LOL! Anytime you can incorporate animal feces into a conversation of "who's got the worst story" it's an automatic (if cheap) win.

And may I take a moment to say that cellphones and in particular blackberries are the devil? Technology was supposed to set us free, but more and more people have to carry these devices that force them to take their work home with them, and to the movies with them, and to visit their parents with them, and to the bathroom with them (presumably).

Man is free, but everwhere he is in chains.

j h woodyatt said...

Dear Agents and Assistants Everywhere,

Please keep your web pages, particularly your contact information and submission guidelines, up to freakin' date. Also, please remember to renew your domain name and your hosting service before they expire.

Thank you.

j h woodyatt

Anonymous said...

Maybe THIS is why I can't reach my agent on the phone when I need to tell her that my editor has just asked me to send that proposal ASAP.

Only problem with e-mail is apparently they don't answer that in a prompt fashion, either.

I e-mailed first, waited for a week, called, left a voice mail, waited some more ... so finally I just put the proposal in the mail myself.

Reading this, I don't know whether I'm steamed at the droves of people calling or the agent for not at least listening/reading messages.

Miss Rejecter, what would you have advised me to do in my aforementioned situation? Have I burnt my bridges with my agent?

Dave said...

Anytime you can incorporate animal feces into a conversation of "who's got the worst story"

Uh, Wunderdawn, dear...
Who said I made it up?

WunderDawn said...

oh Dave, I never doubted your honesty at all. :) It's just interesting the kinds of stories we can experience in our life, and vicariously through the people who tell them to us.

Some stories really are too outrageous to make up. In comparison all I got is a guy who called tech support while he was taking a piss. Not exactly the best place to troubleshoot and I'm certain he didn't wash his hands after. And I had a woman who was convinced her house was haunted and that's why her computers kept dying. Pretty mild by comparison. Like having a pair against a straight flush.

JJ said...

I totally understand your concern with rude callers trying to make a pitch when they shouldn't. But I must say I'm a bit dismayed by your implication that somehow writers have nothing to do with the business and therefore shouldn't be using a phone line meant "for business purposes."

The Rejecter said...

When I say "business purposes," I am pretty much exclusively talking about forwarding the material of the writers on our client list. That's the business we're in. We're not trading stocks here. My boss comes in every day and spends her day on the phone and at her computer, trying to get deals on manuscripts, editing manuscripts, talking to publishers, talking to publicists, scheduling interviews, reading contracts, and then reading submitted material in search of new clients. Just to clarify.

tinkerbell said...

Hi Rejecter. What about if a well-known and successful best-selling author who has read some of your work, (because he happens to be a mate) gives you the direct phone number to an agent he knows, whom he thinks will like your work, and tells you to give this agent a call, mentioning that you are a friend of his? Wouldn't it then be churlish and insulting to assume that you, as a first time novelist, know better and to use another form of communication?

tinkerbell said...

ps...Hi Dave, yet again, very funny! (waves at Dave.) Gosh, it's becoming so incestuous, this online literary coffee circle, innit? :) (waves at Kimber An too.)

Good blog, by the way, Rejecter. Interesting.

Linda said...

Perhaps a better phrase might be "non-client writers." If they're not clients, then the calls are more like telemarketer calls.

kitty said...

And then there's this from Dystel & Goderich: common sense would dictate picking up the phone or dashing off a note to confirm receipt of one's material if one hadn't heard back in, say, a month or two.

Termagant 2 said...

My ex-agent made a habit of not picking up (or returning) my phone calls, so I guess I got out of the habit. Relax, Ms. R. Your agency and all the others are safe from my predatory phone-nature.


The Unpretentious Writer said...

Heh, I'd almost be afraid to call even if the agent asked me too, just out of fear of annoying someone. ^_^

Anonymous said...

I'm the assistant that asked her to post this. My issue with potential clients calling is that I cannot see your writing over the phone, so the call is a waste of time, time I need to get through the slush pile. Our receptionist handles the address/salutation questions, and of course if you've been referred by a client a phone call is fine, especially since they didn't give you an email.

But remember, just because you sent us an unsolicited letter, email, or phone call doesn't mean we owe you anything. Want to guarantee no one will ever represent your work? Assume that agents owe you editorial comments, query advice, and time. Agents cannot and will not provide free services.

I try to care about writers' feelings - I don't request things I'm not sure about because I don't want to get anyone's hopes up. If I read your entire manuscript, I will write an editorial letter, because I feel like your writing deserves it. But man, a potential client with an attitude can sure sour the day, and my outlook on the rest of the slush pile, honestly. I've been called a bitch, I've been called stupid (two masters degrees, mind you) and I've had authors email my boss after I've rejected them. (He's on my side, just so you know)

Just a little consideration, is all I'm asking for.

Rashenbo said...

You would think that consideration would be a natural ability or concept for one to possess. I, however, have discovered that many people either do not know what consideration is or they do not know how to offer it.

Personally, I hate the phone and I admit to never checking voice mail. I hate leaving messages. However, common sense is often the rule of thumb. If you've been considerate, followed the guidelines, then I don't think there would be a problem with making a call... it all comes down to the situation and the events leading up to the situation.

ishmael said...

i admire the bold futility of your plea.

of course, every would-be writer thinks they're the exception to the rule in an industry where the rule is frustration and obscurity.

if we weren't, as a rule, totally delusional, we would never have polished our little turds in the first place.

those who write for the sheer joy of writing either keep diaries, blog, or POD.

please expect my call.

Manic Mom said...

So Dave, do ya "hate" the telephone? You're so elusive in your posts! ; )

J H Woodyatt--I second that!

Good blog, found you from Snarky Snarkerson. I'll be back. Hey, maybe you're the assistant who requested a partial the other day?

j h woodyatt said...

Oh, and while I'm pleading with Agents And Assistants Everywhere to be more diligent about administrivia, I'd like to reiterate my standard bleat that email communications work better when your service provider isn't a greedy and incompetent corporate megalith, with anti-spam measures that 1) don't work and 2) silently filter legitimate messages at the expense of your business and your potential client's valuable time.

Really. I want to call you on the telephone even less than you want to pick it up when it rings. Don't believe me? Wait until it's your turn to try to reach me on the telephone.

Thank you, again.
j h woodyatt