I am an agent assistant at a small agency and yesterday afternoon I got a call from a man who works for agentresearch.com who wanted some information on one of our agents. What do you know about this? It seems like a scam, or at least preying on the nitwits—an author pays $400 to get “six to eight full reports of agents who have a track record of selling similar material, are absolutely legitimate, and are open to accepting new clients.” Plus, he doesn’t seem to know what he is doing, and when I named houses my agent worked for in the past he a). seemed to have no concept of which houses was bigger b). thought Harcourt Mifflin was a company and c). didn’t seem to know anything about my agency, and clearly hadn’t even googled us or done much more than read Publisher’s Market. Nitwits in the slush pile are a pain, but I still don’t want them to throw away $400.
oh I remember the first of several calls I got from this guy. He said his name and then started asking questions. I had NO idea who he was or what he was doing. He was really miffed I didn't know him cause of his "length of time in the industry" and "industry presence" and it took me a couple minutes to figure out he wasn't a writer with a Writers Digest checklist in his hand.
Back in the day before you could google damn near everyone his biz was sort of like hiring a guy to stand in line for you. I can guess he's got an amazing data base though since every agent has heard from him at least once.
I am unalterably opposed to paying for these kinds of services. It's my unswerving belief that querying widely with good work is MUCH more effective than trying to narrow the list to agents who've sold "what you write".
I recently had a very enlightening conversation with a valued colleague who said she'd rather look at excellent work outside her normal interest area than not-excellent work for the categories she's sold previously.
In other words, write well, query widely. Spend your money on stamps, not advice.