Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why I Hate Literary Agents

I was reminded this morning, as I racked up another rejection in the Query Bomb(tm) Tracker, what I hate most about literary agents -- when they don't bother to respond to your query at all.  As I've written before, there's no real excuse for this.  I can understand agents not wanting to get into a dialogue with some "writer" who won't take no for an answer, but it's easy enough to set up an auto-rejection macro that comes from a no-reply email address so all you've got to do is hit "ctrl-N" (for "No") and off you go.  Let some pissed-off writer try to reply to that.  I don't know crap about computers, but even I could set that up.  I'm pretty sure I could.

So, what do you hate most about literary agents?


  1. Ack... it must be Opposite Day, because there's no way you'd post the word *whispers* hate on here... right? ;)

    I'd say what I hate most is the waiting. Don't we all? It really stinks to not have any control over the entire process. =(

  2. How about the whole power trip thing. Like they have the power to control everything about our publishing future, when in reality, they are supposed to work for us. Sometimes I wish I could hire one just so I could fire one.

  3. I hate all the namby pamby pseudo-relationship-esque language about "falling in love" they use to talk about the manuscripts they decide to represent; then they turn around and tell writers how this is a business and we'd better act like it.

    Relatedly, I can't stand the stock and meaningless phrases they use to describe what they're looking for. "A great story" and "writing that jumps off the page" and other such nonsense. Again with the analogy to relationships, it's like the personal ad writer who says they're looking for someone who "likes to have fun" or "likes to stay in and go out."

  4. Inconsideration is what I can't tolerate. And those who are intolerant. Don't like selfish very much either. Or people that build multimillion dollar homes in places where people are starving not ten feet away.
    Sorry. What was the question again?

  5. You hate literary agents? But they speak so highly of you, Trav. Where is this coming from?

    Yeah, I'm with Lt. I hate the euphemistic "agent speak," Ie., "not the right fit" in particular. I'd prefer it if they came up with a sort of quantifed scale of like. They could read your ms and rate it from 1 to 10. Then they could say, "I only sign authors who score an 8 or better on my scale of liking, and I only rated yours a 5."

  6. The worst type of Literary Agents are the ones who ask to review your material and then get back to you after they read it without being honest. Instead of saying they just don't like the story, they say "While the writing is good, unfortunately I cannot afford to take on any new clients as I currently have too many and it wouldn't be fair to them" It's like WHAT THE F***? WHY ASK FOR THE MANUSCRIPT IN THE FIRST PLACE! Most Literary Agents are as full of BS as A&R people are in music. They claim to go for what is commercial, but really they just represent what they like personally. IT'S A JOKE! DO IT YOURSELF!!



    1. Talk is cheap, pal. Either show us where your book is now available for sale, or step off.

    2. Yeah and STOP TYPING IN ALL CAPS WHILE YOU'RE AT IT! It's not only rude, but hard on the eyes. See my first sentence if you need any proof.

  8. I submitted a Sneak Preview for my New Book to my mailing list, and accidentally included a few Literary Agents, that I forgot to delete from my AOL mailing list. I received this message: "take us off of your listing" and I simply replied: "go to hell." They really don't need to respond unless they have something good to say. This agent was just mad that I let Publish America have the business. Good or bad, at least PA knows how to say YES!

    1. Yeah, I'm REALLY going to support a company that has had a history of lawsuits and serious criticisms filed against them and has even agreed to published "sting" (i.e., hoax) manuscripts meant to expose them for their lack of editorial oversight (SARCASM). Just look at their info listed on the Better Business Bureau's website, for crying out loud:

      Unless you can provide solid evidence showcasing that America Star Books has cleaned up their act since their Publish America days, then I'm sorry, but you're full of more tripe than the inside of a cow. Sure, most literary agents are self-absorbed power trippers who wouldn't know talent if it slapped them in the face, but I'd rather take my chances with such cretins in hopes of finding decent one amongst them all than put my faith in a publishing company whose history is ripe with controversy.

  9. The Rejection Slip

    Written from your heart, there are things you never see
    What a literary agent will have in store for me

    Filling pages with your flair; your book a work of art
    Until the old rejection slip slithers in to break your heart

    Not here this morning when we finished the manuscript
    Twelve long years for an acid-free, rejection slip

    Dearest Literary Agent – You will never know thee
    Apology a form letter, you want to save some trees

    Unfortunately, it’s over, should we read on anymore?
    Is that a rejection letter knock, knocking at my door?

    A letter to the Author, an impersonal insulting note
    I have so many submissions; please excuse my need to gloat

    Excuse me Literary Agent, please don’t call me: “dear”
    Indignation on afire, get Debbie Downer out of here!

    Dear? Literary Agents and, “sorry,” “unfortunately”
    Just tell us to go elsewhere and spare us the niceties

    Edits from the moon to sun, don’t see rejection slips
    So thanks for respecting what we put into all of this

    Say nothing to the hopefuls if you’ve no good to say
    Let the Agent with the good news forward acid-free this way

    Save perfunctory for order, lest a lesson could be learned
    Spare the writer your rejection, no respect was ever earned

    Writing, editing sowing, planting seeds to change lives
    Dismissal to the Agent whom is dismissive of our strides!

  10. Let's see...I've had two agents at top agencies and both times I've spotted new imprints that were good fits for my work before they even knew about them. And I'm a busy writer with a real job! So yes, under this lens, everything mentioned here irks me. If you want to know what it's really like to have an agent, I'll tell you. You get signed, you get two months of attention. If your book doesn't sell then your life gets worse than having an agent, because your agent is now putting new writers in front of you but also telling you in the same breath that you cannot contact editors directly that you must go through them. In short they are now working against you. Please, writers, have some self respect. If your agent is giving you a bad feeling, dump him or her! There are hundreds if not thousands more out there and they all do the same thing. Why? Because it's your book that makes the money not the agent. The agent is just an annoying part of the whole publishing paradigm. When I see writers gushing over their agents, I'm embarrassed for them. Thank the trees for paper, the alignment of the planets, luck, but don't give agents more credit than they deserve!

  11. Here it is in a nutshell: Literary agents are no more than the real estate agents of the writing world.

    Some of them are lawyers (and even when not, they are far, far too like lawyers). They are just as often failed writers who have gravitated to this relative position of authority whereupon they can put their bitterness to its truest and best use. They are former editors who couldn't make the grade at a publishing house and were fired. Some are copy editors who've risen as far as they can go in their profession.

    To each of their delight, they have now become kings of their own particular hill. They've hung out their shingle along with tens of thousands of others just like them, each hoping to rake in a little piece of as many of us writers as possible—to take part in the Las Vegas of Manhattan, this lucrative racket—and like any other racket, it's a numbers game. They wheel and deal. They make canny arrangements that serve themselves above all (naturally). They are frequently pompous and arrogant. They claim to be harried and overworked yet still seem to find time for cocktail parties and lavish editor lunches. They make promises that are never kept. They ignore queries. They neglect to read requested submissions. They don't return e-mails. They stall. They make excuses. They use meaningless euphemisms in their rejections like "it just didn't draw me in as much as I'd hoped" or "it really didn't jump off the page" or "I wanted to fall in love with your characters, but alas, it didn't happen" or "I couldn't get on board with the voice…" I could go on and on.

    But paramount to any of those things is this: they have become jaded and desensitized to good writing. They have long since forgotten the difference between tripe and tenderloin.

    It is not quality and creativity that motivates literary agents to take action, to request pages, to offer representation. No, it is instead one magic ingredient (over which you have tremendous control). And that is where my methods come in.

    Read my book I HATE LITERARY AGENTS by U.B. Red, available on Amazon.

    1. From what I can see by your writing, you never needed a literary agent to begin with. You're brilliant in your description of this long, nasty, query-letter strewn road I've been travelling - I love your writing. Thank you for this post. It made me smile. And I'm going to buy many copies of your book.

  12. I'm with everyone here concerning how classless, narcissistic, and disgusting literary agents [at least mostly] are. It outrages me that they either promise to get back to you within, say, four to eight weeks (sometimes even ten to twelve) and never do or--worse yet--contact you within a matter of days or even mere hours after you send them your query with some bogus, makeshift excuse like those that have been mentioned already as to why they hate and refuse to represent your work. I especially LOVE (translation: DESPISE) such terms as "I'm busy" or "I've got to be picky about what I represent"--neither or which say anything about why your book is "not worthy" of them representing it to publishers. Richard Henshaw is especially notorious of saying such things, and I'm willing to bet that he hasn't represented a new client since 2007. Granted, I know the literary business can be pretty rough and impersonal at times, but he in particular just takes it to a whole new level.

    Don't even get me started, either, on literary agents' most favorite phrase ever--the most arrogant, euphemistic, puke-inducing amalgamation of words I've ever read or heard in my entire life: "Best of luck." Apparently, GOOD luck isn't enough; they have to slap the word "best" in front of the word "luck" to further mock your lack of success in the industry where THEY and the publishers have control over who gets to share their words with the world and who remains in the stranglehold of anonymity. I know it's supposed to be a formality of sorts, but really, it doesn't mean what it's "supposed" to. Basically, it's really nothing more than a euphemism for "Good riddance, you no-talent hack!" Yeah, that's just great...countless writers busting their butts off for months to years to even decades at a clip to fulfill their dreams and earn a living at what we're good at and love doing, and here you arrogant, narcissistic literary agent buffoons are lying to them about why they're apparently not good enough for you and are making things worse for them smearing their bad twist of fate in their faces by wishing them "best of luck." I'm sorry, but that especially brings my blood to a boil.

    If I could rule the world (which I obviously CAN'T, but hey, for the sake of this post...), one of the things that I'd see to would be that ALL publishers, big and small alike, would get to work directly with only the most talented writers and give them the platform they deserve to share their work with the world and that these unnecessary middlemen (and middlewomen) would be forever cut from the mix, never to hinder another author from earning what he or she truly deserves. Just think: no more need to spend thousands on self-publishing; no more annoying cycle of being rejected by rude, biased, condescending corporate suits who only CLAIM to have an eye for talent; and a niche for everyone who actually have the skill and passion for their craft. Alas, it's all but a pipedream, but hey, it's still a nice thought all the same.

  13. Literary agents are cocksucking bastards. They auto-reject anything that doesn't say "previous best seller" in the profile. Let all the best selling authors die or stop writing and see what they're left with, stupid fags. Bunch of morons that masturbate to pictures of themselves.

  14. they probably have sex with small woodland creatures

  15. It's curious how people assume that agents are the ones standing in the way of a direct editor <-> writer relationship. Actually, it's the editors. Do you think editors WANT to hear directly from writers? No, they don't: they are outsourcing the reading of crap and the winnowing out of any stray diamonds to the agents. Go read a few samples of queries on the Absolute Write forum to get a sense of the hell of the slush pile. Agents wouldn't exist if editors didn't want and need them.

    1. Yup. I think the whole system needs a critique, not just one aspect of it. From everything I've observed, easy and quick pitches sell to the gatekeepers. Anything that they deem unmarketable, or hard to sell, is unlikely to be given a chance. The problem is, they're chasing trends rather than setting trends. Most of the innovation is coming from hybrid authors who started as indie.

  16. bullshit. agents exist because Satan likes to butt fuck those little bitches.

  17. There is a special place in hell reserved for literary agents where the coal is extra hot!
    Let me tell you a particular story that sums up literary agents and will make your jaw drop!

    I have been writing for the last 20 years and am a successful self-publisher. I once had a literary agent and have applied or even been in direct conversation with virtually every literary agent in the world over that period. But one stands out as the most arrogant, crass and ignorant literary agent I have ever encountered in 20 years. That is British sole literary agent Susan Yearwood. I had the misfortune to contact her in 2013. She seemed very enthuastic about my work. I followed the standard required protocol, first query letter, then (asked for) sample chapters and then she asked for the full manuscript. Now as you know, anyone be it publisher or literary agent that asks for the full mss on the back of seeing the first three chapters is almost certainly going to sign / work with you. So naturally I was very excited and hopeful after so many years of faceless rejections.She even followed me on twitter! So I sent the manuscript and waited patiently. Three months went by and no reply. So I sent her a polite reminder. Still nothing for another two months. Finally in desperation I sent her a direct message through Twitter. At first she acted like she did not know who I even was despite following me on Twitter and the postal correspondence. Then eventually she responded coldly through Twitter that she had rejected my book months before and she was really not that interested anyway! I was flabbergasted at her sheer arrogance.

    It makes me laugh on some literary agents websites how they mention what they do in their spare time, i.e. going to the cinema, walking on the beach, even playing video games as if to demonstrate they are real human beings like you and me and not the monsters everyone thinks they are. Yes, they have blood in their viens, etc like human beings but they are nothing like you and me and to suggest otherwise is an insult to a writer's intelligence!