The Guidelines all say different things!

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 You can rank the sources as follows: anything printed and published like "Guide to Literary Agents" is out of date the minute you buy it; website listings (like AQ or P&E or WD online) managers are able to update much more frequently; and, an agency's website info is the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.


Dave Kuzminski said...

P&E actually started out specializing in publishers, agents, and publications that handled speculative fiction. Since expanding to include all publishers, agents, and publications, we've been promised we could rule New Jersey if we assist in the evil plot to confuse writers. We're still thinking that over. ;)

Anonymous said...

I think if you want to drive us crazy you should change your listing and then send us back out letter and say "My listing doesn't say that- I can't possibly read this as you don't read directions." That will REALLY drive us over the edge. We'll start thinking we've seen imaginary listings.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Actually, it would be easy for an evil programmer to fix an agent's web site to come up with different requirements for each time the site is visited. Ah, instant pandemonium!

That is, of course, not a disease that causes pandas to play harmonicas, but it could happen.

doc-t said...

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?

Ah! This is Great! I'm writting a book aobut agents who try to dominate the world by driving all writers crazy and using them as pawns in their propaganda campaign.

Do you have time for an interview?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Rule New Jersey? Hummm ... Someone should. Might as well be you.

I say we beat 'em all with a stick, ask the government to make them have just one set of rules, and make them register with Homeland Security.

Of course, government mandated rules would still be confusing.

Do agents take bribes. How about a box of champagne truffles?

Maya Reynolds said...

Dave, rule New Jersey????

I think they need to at least throw in Baltimore to sweeten the pot.

The Beautiful Schoolmarm said...

I once wrote a fantasy short story about the evil overlord of New Jersey. If you succeed, I could market it as your memiors, right?

Anonymous said...

we've been promised we could rule New Jersey

Tony Soprano just called apparently he wants your home number..I think he wants a round of golf....something about balls and getting whacked...have fun.

litagent said...

Lots of times, writers' websites (i.e. websites geared to writers and getting published)pick up agent info from sources other than the agent. I get queries all the time from people who reference places that I've never heard of and where I've never actively listed myself. Recently, in fact, I've gotten a slew of queries for screenplays, which I don't handle. I'd say, stick with the submission guidelines on the agent's website. If there's no website, then go with the standard letter and perhaps a few pages.

Anonymous said...

Here's one that drove me crazy. Agent A says thriller is a subgenre of mystery. Agent B says he takes mysteries but not thrillers. Agents C says he takes all kinds of thrillers, but a later paragraph in his guidelines makes it confusing as to what "all kinds" actually means.