Agent web sites

Dear Miss Snark---

First there was the Stone Age, followed by miscellaneous other Ages, and now presto! It's the Internet Age. Does everyone in publishing not know this? Why do some agents not have websites? Are they lost in the Bronze Age or what?

And why do some agents with websites feature nothing but themselves? Like big pictures of their chubby face, some dry dull long bio of themselves, a list of their appearances, a pitch for their books? And nothing about their authors' books. I see that, I cross their name off my list. These are either scammers or marketing idiots. (err...)

Then there are the unbridled control freaks. There's one guy who requests a list of everyone you've ever subbed to and what they said. He must be kidding, right? Or stark raving wacko. Does he require knowledge of all my blind dates, too? It's a beautiful thing that he has a chance to manifest his inappropriateness from the outset, so the author doesn't get a rude surprise after signing.

Another website I found the agents were dead, died of old age years ago. Looks like the administrative assistant keeps it going, somehow. To cash royalty checks on the backlist, I guess.

Then there are a couple of agencies that list publishers as their clients. Not authors. What's the deal, there? (publishers have agents too; what, you didn't know everything?) They're skulking around on lists of literary agents for authors. But this would be like hiring an attorney to defend you from his other client, a big multinational corporation. Guess who loses? Another place turned out to be a film production company. (what list are you looking at anyway?)

I'm not planning to sub to anyone who doesn't have a competent website featuring the usual relevant info plus lots of pictures of books that I suddenly want to go buy and read. Is there some reason that'd be a mistake?


You want an agent who knows how to sell your books and negotiate a good deal for you, and keep you published for years to come. None of those have anything to do with how to build or maintain a website. It's like picking a spouse based on his appearance. How you look has very little to do with how you act.

You are free of coure to make submissions to any agency using any criteria you want.
I know I won't be hearing from you again.


Judy said...

In America looks are everything. Image is all that counts.

Many people believe this.

Dave Kuzminski said...

Aw, gee, go ahead, anonymous writer, and mention that it's probably P&E. Am I right?

And yes, we're guilty of all that because we're trying to put information out there. In fact, as details emerge, since we search all over for information, we constantly update the information to be as accurate as possible. On a typical day, P&E adds one or more listings and may make corrections or updates on as many as twenty or thirty other listings all over its pages. Usually we concentrate on select pages so we can make the update process a bit smoother and easier to track so only about two to fifteen pages are reposted each day. That's fairly significant since there are just shy of three hundred pages in the P&E sites.

By the way, anonymous writer, have you notified P&E of any corrections that need to be put in place? We're doing this to assist all writers and not just you. We rely heavily on other writers to give input in return when they can, so remember that you can help it become better and more accurate.

Ski said...

I'd be willing to bet that this letter was written right after its author realized just how difficult it is to get a book published. Turns out that sweating over every word and comma was the easy part. Getting someone else to like it enough to risk capitol is the hard part.

Whoever you are I sure empathize with the frustration, but I'd humbly suggest that you don't make that agent list too short. I'll be sending my "stuff" to anyone who is selling books, looking for new authors and is breathing, and I'm not too picky about that last part. I hope by tomorrow morning you'll feel the same. Who knows, you might hit big with that agent living in an old refrigerator box in Peoria. Good luck to you and to all of us.


Janet Black said...

If I were an agent I wouldn't accept queries via email, because email makes it way-y-y to easy for the crappy writers and the idiots to contact me. At least snail mail slows them down, and might even eliminate some of them entirely.

Gerb said...

>>I'm not planning to sub to anyone who doesn't have a competent website featuring the usual relevant info plus lots of pictures of books that I suddenly want to go buy and read. Is there some reason that'd be a mistake?<<

Erm, yeah. Can you say Barbara Bauer? A website with lots of cool pictures does not a good agent make.

Writerious said...

There's a reason that agents want to know where you've been submitting the manuscript they're looking at: they're not miracle workers. If a publisher has already refused a manuscript, an agent would be wasting her time trying to talk them into buying it after all. Thus it's not "inappropriate" at all. It's good business sense. After all, how nitwitty would an agent look if she sent a manuscript to a publisher and the publisher said, "Uh, you know, we actually saw that rejected it months ago." Kind of like a dating service arranging a blind date with someone who turns out to be your ex.

Anonymous said...

I had a similiar observation today while researching agents. For the past two years I've been sweating every word and comma only to find quite a few agents' web sites that were terribly sloppy.

I try to keep an open mind, but so many of the sites just needed a simple edit to catch their errors and secure my confidence. It's almost insulting.

I'm not necessarily crossing these people off my list, but they aren't in my first batch of queries unless they have other redeeming qualities.

katiesandwich said...

Though I understand the frustration with a website that's not as informative as you'd like it to be, you shouldn't rule these agents out. If I remember right, Ethan Ellenberg doesn't have the best website, but he's a very respected agent. "Don't judge a book by it's cover." How would you like it if someone based their opinion of your writing ability on the quality of your website, when they'd never seen your work before? It seems like this is what you're doing with agents. You might be passing up your dream agent this way.

flannerycat said...

"Why do some agents not have websites?"

Some have no websites because their reputations are stellar, their lists are close to full, and to save time and grief they only read mss from writers who come recommended by current clients. Those agents do not need websites, and you won't find them listed in many of those agent guides, either.

I too suggest not making your agent list too short. The right agent for you is not necessarily one who conforms to the way you personally like doing business--she's the one who loves your work and has the business contacts to sell it. I've always thought the best way to research agents was to pull every book you love that's remotely similar to yours off the shelf, read the acknowledgments, and cross-reference the names there with agent-listings and/or web research to get an address, if nothing more. If it's a fabulous book and a respected publisher and the agent is warmly thanked, my feeling is you're probably safe querying.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but I remember seeing that guy who wanted a detailed list of every conversation the potential client had with people in the industry. I remember thinking, "Gee, that guy's been BURNT by someone. Or he's just a little unhinged."

My agent's agency doesn't even have a website, and I don't think they have use for one. They don't want to be contacted via email, and they seem to get more than enough queries, anyway.

I'd rather my agent were shoppin'-mah-sh*t. He's certainly made it THIS far without all the headshots.

Zappadong said...

My German agent doesn't even have a website, but so far, he's sold my first three books to a big publisher with an excellent reputation, and he represents - amongst others - one of Germany's biggest topshots.

Caitlin said...

I guess it's also supply and demand. The reason some very good agents don't have fancy websites is because they don't need to - they get enough clients through the door anyway and probably don't really need any more.

Rik said...

Websites take money and resources. Agencies are businesses. Some agents will choose to invest in their website as a marketing tool to attract the submissions they are interested in. Other agents will choose to spend their time and resources on other areas where they know they can get results.

A snazzy website is not an indicator of a good agency, it's just one more source of information to add to the research a writer needs to compile when hunting down agents interested in the sort of book s/he's written.

I do like the idea of online submissions, but not by email. A nice web-based form with areas for appropriate salutation, pitch, synopsis and writing example on the submitters end, and a functional back office page for the agent's assistant to reject or request partials/fulls at the click of a button. Bonus points if the reject button comes with a big fat raspherry sound whenever it's pressed.

Anonymous said...

Although I think the questioner's attitude may have been out of place, I think he makes some very valid points.

Ultimately, an agency is a business and in business it's important to present yourself in the best possible light. A sloppy website is akin to spelling errors and missing pages in a manuscript submission. It makes it seem as though the agent isn't serious.

Also, in this day and age, there really isn't any excuse for a poorly designed site. I agree that hiring a professional designer can be expensive, but asking a local tech-savvy teenager would only set you back around $30-300 depending on the complexity of the site. Outsourcing to India/Romania is even cheaper.

lizzie26 said...

If an agent ever signs this dude on, I have a feeling the agent will regret it.

Jim C. Hines said...

I have a website for the purpose of attracting readers. I need all the readers I can get.

My agent, on the other hand, has no need to attract writers. Writers seek him out.

And personally, I'd rather my agent was busy calling my editor about my third book as opposed to spending a lot of time updating HTML or working with a web designer.

Maria said...

I like agent sites that spend significant pages talking about their client's books. It's another sales tool for the books and I know this because I am generally there to see what they have sold to publishers and to buy. I often pick a book or two to go read to see if it is remotely similar to what I like to read and/or write.

I don't care if there are headshots of anyone. I like to see the book covers. I like a blurb from the agent describing the book or the back of book description.

I prefer that the site make it appear as though the agent can spell and has taken a few moments on the site.

I also happen to have a personal preference for agents that request pages with the query letter.


Ryan Field said...

"Then there are the unbridled control freaks. There's one guy who requests a list of everyone you've ever subbed to and what they said. He must be kidding, right?"

This paragraph is a killer.


"Another website I found the agents were dead, died of old age years ago. Looks like the administrative assistant keeps it going, somehow. To cash royalty checks on the backlist, I guess."

I know of one agency that does this and it's actually a very good place with an excellent record.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me the market savvy agent understands that agent seekers are also prolific readers and frequent book buyers. Some agents make great use of their websites to show off the work. Including new editions of the classics they represent and soon-to-be-released titles by their first time authors. What less expensive, better targeted, publicity could you possibly find? I think it's brilliant and that's the kind of agent I want. Not some old school type who can't be bothered because they don't want more slush and book publicity is someone else's job.

Rei said...


Do the words "buyer's market" mean anything to you?

desert snarkling said...

If an agent doesn't have a web site, it may simply be because they have enough of a client list -- and a reputation -- that they don't need to actively advertise their services.

MTV said...

desert snarkling - Amen.

Many "good" agents with good client lists don't need to attract more work. And further, for some agents you need a recommendation from one of their clients to submit. Need more be said?

Websites - great! If that's what floats your boat. Has nothing to do with client list or effectiveness. What it boils down to is whether they can sell YOUR work.

So I say use whatever discriminator you want that you feel works for you. At the same time be careful of your judgments as they will come back and haunt you. And, rightly so.

Anonymous said...

What less expensive, better targeted, publicity could you possibly find?

I think you may have missed an important point about effective agents. Writers aren't their target market. Publishers are.


The Unpretentious Writer said...

I was a bit suspicious of an agency's site where the only books they displayed were the ones written by the founder of the agency and information on what workshops they attend.

There was nothing noting what authors they'd worked with or titles they'd sold.

I clicked 'Back'.

long march said...

I don't care if the website is pretty or has hot-and-cold running Java. I don't really even care what the agents look like. I just want some basic information:

Who are your agents?
What are they looking for (if anything)?
How do I query you?
What's your address?

Extra credit if you give me a list of the books you've sold recently. Special mention if you provide the links to the appropriate Amazon pages.

That's it. One page, no graphics. Everything I need to know to decide whether to query the agency, and how.

Too expensive? What I've outlined above may set an agency back $30 a year. If it can't afford that, I don't want to deal with them anyway -- they'll go belly-up just after accepting my MS.

Some of the other comments mention "buyer's market" and "they don't want any queries." How do I know an agent isn't taking queries? What AQ or PM says may not be today's real deal. Have a website? Big letters: "NOT ACCEPTING QUERIES." There, done, now I know.

What gets frustrating is when an agent's AQ listing says one thing, and their PM listing (if there is one) says another. Which one is right? I tend to believe what's on the agency's website, simply because the agency has some control over it.

Agency websites tend to be a reality check, also. When the PM listing says "Represents: Every genre known to man," and the website says that an agent only wants paranormal Westerns, well, thanks for the info, I'll go elsewhere. When the AQ profile says "Represents: Every fiction genre you can name," and the website only lists non-fiction sales, I get the idea the agency doesn't really want (or know what to do with) fiction.

It would be helpful if agents would check their PM and AQ profiles every once in a while and make sure they're complete, up-to-date and say the same things. Then there's less of a need for an agency website.

Linda Adams said...

Chances are these sites are probably done by someone in the office. Getting a Web site professionally done is extremely expensive, and a lot of small businesses just can't afford it. Plus, their focus is on selling books, and the Web site may just exist so that the information is available for potential clients.

By the way, a laywer friend says the same thing is a problem for law firm Web sites.

Anonymous said...

Then there's that one agent (and I'm sure everyone here has queried him at least once) who rejects you then sends you an ad to buy his book. Uh, hello, you reject me but want me to buy your outdated book. NOT! I sent him my own rejection letter and said, "Your book doesn't seem right for me at this time."

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