Dear Miss Snark,
If the agent info in Writers Digest (that says query with SASE) differs from the same agent's info on agentquery.com (that says query, SASE, and first three chapters) (and yes, this does exist!) am I to assume I follow agentquery as the most up-to-date source?
Or am I to assume that agents are just trying to drive us crazy?
Yes, we are trying to drive you crazy. It's all part of our evil plan for world domination. I think it's going pretty well, don't you?
Here's the thing: y'all pore over those listings like they are the Holy Grail. We, on the other hand, fill them out once and forget about them until such time as it's clear there's something really wrong.
For example: If I got a dozen query letters for science fiction saying "I saw you on AgentQuery.com" I would drop them an email saying "hey guys, does my listing say SF?? If it does, can you take it off, cause I don't". AQ is pretty good about fixing stuff and getting back to me so I have some confidence in the site.
I don't update my listings, or even look at them very often. I don't even look at my website very often so it's entirely possible that of seven listings including my website, there could be seven different "what to send" instructions. (well, ok, you know Miss Snark is obsessive so there aren't but there COULD be).
Here's the way to deal with it: check as many listings as you can find. You can rank the sources as follows: anything printed and published like "Guide to Literary Agents" is out of date the minute you buy it; website listings (like AQ or P&E or WD online) managers are able to update much more frequently; and, an agency's website info is the default guidelines.
THEN, when you query you write in your cover letter "as per the guidelines on your website (or AQ or whatever) I am including" and then say what you're sending. That tells me where you got the info. It also helps me figure out if the instructions or the listing aren't clear.
And now, off to make other writers crazy.