Thursday, October 19, 2006

Things People Do That Are Just Plain Stupid #1

(Please note that this is different from "Things that make me laugh." These things do not make me laugh, or piss me off. I'm neutral about them, but it doesn't mean you should do them)

A lot of query suggestion websites recommend personalizing the letter by letting the agent know how you heard about them. This ONLY applies to people who know the agent through a special methods, like a convention meeting or they know a client of the agent.

Many people have, in their desperation and desire to listen to advice, written things like, "I found your agency in Writer's Digest." Well, of course you did. You had to get our name and address from somewhere and that's the first place people look besides the internet. It's like saying, "I learned about your agency from a phone book."

That's what Writer's Digest is: a phone book. It contains names, addresses, and other contact info the agent wishes to be made public, like an email address or a phone number. It also contains what genres the agent handles, and then a bunch of statistics that I'm pretty sure they just make up. I don't know of a single agent who can say off-hand what percentage of their client list is new authors, and I don't know of a single agent who's willing to put in the time to figure it out for Writer's Digest. Writer's Digest is full of filler, bad advice, and listings for unscrupulous agencies and writing contests. And, there's a decent chance that by the time it comes out, the information is invalid. Agents are always moving around, joining up or breaking off from larger agencies, or going out of business. Things happen very fast in New York City. I honestly would go to

And if you do go there, don't mention it in your query letter.


Bernita said...

It is very reassuring to have one's instincts confirmed.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Good advice, I hope writers take heed.

writtenwyrdd said...

I'm really loving this site. Thanks for making the effort. And for the information and perspective.

Anonymous said...

Good advice, as usual.

To continue the thought, how do you feel about a person mentioning a book the agent represents--saying something like, "I learned you are the agent for X book, which in a way is similar to mine-"

Advice is given all the time to do this--to go to a bookstore and find books that are "like" yours--find the agent and proceed.

Is this now annoying because people beat it to death?

s.w. vaughn said...

Since this is my first comment here, I'll first confess to lurking for a while. I was fortunate to be pointed here before Miss Snark's reference, and have been reading since your inception. Thanks for sharing some insight with us!

About this post: I agree that trying to fudge a reference (i.e. "I found your agency by Googling 'literary agent' and clicking on a random page number result') is stupid. However, one of your comments here fascinates me even more than this insight...

Writer's Digest is full of bad advice? I agree with this too, but I'm curious over why you've come to this conclusion. I'm sure your reasons are different than mine!

Anonymous said...

And if you do go there ('t mention it.

S@*#! And I just mentioned it in six queries. I thought I had to say SOMETHING about where I got the particulars. Something honest, even.

Anonymous said...

But does that statement REALLY hurt authors in the scheme of things? Maybe an agent DOES want to know where their information is being pulled from. If the query is good, who cares? I just can't imagine an agent tossing a query away for that reason alone. After all, it's the agent's loss if he/she is throwing away the "next best" whatever!