It's never enough, is it?

Miss Snark:

I have recently sent a query letter to an agent and this was his answer:

Hi Steven,

This sounds ambitious, and could have potential, but I wouldn't be the right agent for it – you might try the [Name of Agency] on this, or [Name of Agency].

Best wishes,
[Name of agent]

What exactly was his point? If it has potential why didn't he want it and "threw" me to other agencies?

This is called a referral. You thank your lucky stars for it right fucking now and send him email saying same.

Clues are on special this week at Wal-Mart. Stock up.


Anonymous said...

Gads, I'd bow down and kiss that agents feet. This is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"Clues are on special this week at Wal-Mart. Stock up."

God, I was beginning to think she'd gone soft on us. Welcome back, your Snarkiness.

Zany Mom said...

You can lead a horse to water...

I've learned over the years, there's no helping some people. If this were me, I'd be jumping up and down and querying the suggested agent. It would mean my stuff doesn't stink.

Anonymous said...

"Not the right agent for this" means he doesn't believe he can sell it. You want an agent to be able to sell your manuscript, don't you? I'd take a referral with both hands (and feet) if I got one. They don't throw out names to sound nice. If they do this, they mean it. Thank the agent and try the other agency. Mention the agent's name in your query.

angie said...

Hee hee! Unfortunately, Wal-Mart has run out of clues in my size (extry, extry large valu-pack o' clues). At least I can get a raincheck.

That is pretty damn cool - the referral, not the worry-waffling. As a paranoid person, I can sorta see how this writer would be unclear what exactly this meant. When you're convinced it's all gonna go horribly wrong, you get good at snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Anonymous said...

She's baaaaaaak.

Clues are on special this week at Wal-Mart. Stock up.

Love it!

Anonymous said...

Another little clue, gratis: agents are people, and people have likes and dislikes and areas of expertise and areas of ignorance. This agent knows that your piece runs on electricity, and he's a plumber, so he's giving you the name of an electrician he'd recommend.

Much better than picking one with a pin in the telephone directory. And when you mail the electrician, saying his friend Mr Plumber has referred you, Mr Electrician is a darn sight more likely to come round, and promptly at that.

Kit Whitfield said...

This is good news, so congratulations.

Agents never, never say something that encouraging about a book unless they genuinely like it. Encouraging a writer whose work you don't like is a sure way to get them phoning you every week, bending your ear just when you're busiest. It's creating a stick for your own back - or in this case, for the back of a colleague of his, who's going to be mad if his pal wastes his time with importunate authors. The guy meant exactly what he said: he thought it was good, but not the kind of thing he sells, but maybe his colleague would want it. Hundreds of writers every day pray for that much encouragement.

It's very rare for agents to refer writers. Lots of authors ask, and agents almost always refuse. What you're in the unusual position of being able to do is write to this new agent, saying 'so-and-so recommended I contact you'. This will get the second agent's attention, and ensure your book is read sooner and with a friendlier eye.

He didn't 'throw' you, he did you a favour. But, and this is important, you're going to learn to see things from the agents' point of view. You can undo the good of a referral very quickly by receiving favours with ill-grace.

This is the basic rule: anything above a standard form rejection is a favour. It's time and thought that the agent didn't have to spend on you.

Seize the opportunity. If you thank the first one promptly and gracefully, then send a civil letter mentioning the referral to the second agent, you'll be starting to build a reputation for yourself as a nice person who's easy to work with. And trust me, that's important. You have to be a million-seller before you can get away with bad manners, and sometimes not even then.

Just Me said...

Omigod, dear nitwit:

A personal referral is the kindest, most generous, most gallant thing an agent can do for you. When my own dear agent of many years felt that he couldn't handle my latest (I'd switched genres), he gave me the names of two friends of his who turned out to be among the most esteemed for my new work on the planet. When I said: My Agent X sent me to you, they both jumped at it with both hands. X and I parted on the best of terms; he will get a special acknowledgement in the forthcoming book.

For bloody hell, agenting is all about relationships, it's all about the right agent knowing which right editor is buying what right book right now. When an agent is big enought to admit they don't have the contacts for your book, thank them most humbly for their gift to you....
Best wishes,
-Just Me

David Hodges said...

Thank you, Miss Snark. All I need now is directions to Wal-Mart and a small loan.

Anonymous said...

I continue to be astounded at how people don't get that agents AND publishers AND editors have niches and areas of interest!

It's really no different than admiring a piece of art or a piece of clothing or a book in a bookstore, and appreciating it although you know that it's nothing that you would ever take home with you. Not crap -- just not right for you. End of story.

Sheesh! For some of us, writing is a professional pursuit -- not a high school popularity contest. Please get thee over yourself!

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark, I rarely comment here but I have to say, today you cracked me up. Though it might have made me bust a stitch (quite literally), the laugh was well worth it. Amazing what one well written line (like that one about finding the clues on special at Walmart) can do for the soul.

Anonymous said...

I guess clues, and miracles, are on special this week at Wal-Mart.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Talk about ungrateful.

Anonymous said...

That means you can use his name.
Run, don't walk, to the P.O.!!

Bernita said...


Bryan Catherman said...

If it really didn't have potential, would the agent have used one of the Agentese phrases anyway? This looks like a damn fine letter to me. In fact, I wouldn't even consider it a rejection letter.

Hopefully this person really does try [Name of Agency] or [Name of Agency] and remembers to mention that [Name of agent] suggested that Steven try them.

Cathy in AK said...

Does this person want an engraved invitation or something? Cripes! I'd give a kidney for an agent to have referred me to one of his or her colleagues. Well, someone's kidney anyway.

Word Doctor said...

Ha ha ha ha ha! I love it!

Anonymous said...

Holy smokes Batman, give the guy a clue stick will ya? And shove it up ... no never mind.

verification: ddrip (the sound of this guys brains leaking out his ears)

Anonymous said...

Keyboard completely destroyed, coffee up nose, curious disapproving stares from co-workers over my unladylike snorts of laughter and rude comments.

Aedon said...

WTF? It doesn't get any more self-explanitory than that!

Rei said...

Holy heck, that's clueless. A custom letter, and the netwit is complaining? Haven't they read your continual rants over the past years about how an agent can like a book but not think that they personally can sell it as well as another might be able to?

Clue gun!

Anonymous said...

*sigh* Few things are more depressing than seeing prosperity wasted on the thankless and the uninformed.

Anonymous said...

This guy is an arse. I don't think the cluegun will provide enough firepower this time. Possibly, and I'm hesitant to even mention it, the cluecannon may be in order. (dun, dun, dun)

Anonymous said...

I'm actually a bit stunned that anyone would react to a referral the way that Steven has. Is he from Earth?

Anonymous said...

This can't be real. No one could be that dumb.

The agent CLEARLY states what he is thinking. The agent couldn't be more clear if he was a clear thing on a clear day shooting clear rays from his clearness.

Author must be pulling your leg, Miss Snark.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear dog. Are we all this over-analysing? We are, aren't we?

This means what he says it means.

You have potential.

Try this agent.

End of Story.

Maybe Agent A's roster is full. Maybe he loved it but thought Agent B would sell it better. Maybe it's not quite what Agent A normally sells but he know Agent B will look at it - especially with a refferal. And Agent B will probably love it.

Agents do not willy-nilly suggest that you bother their colleagues because bar fights with broken gin bottles can so ruin their day.

Take it as written and rejoice. Most agents who get things that don't quite fit would have just sent you the form response. What you wrote made Agent A rise above that.

And good luck, though it sounds like your MS doesn't need it. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the writer should consider joining a writers' group. In addition to critiquing each other's work, members share information about the publishing industry -- an invaluable resource in an industry that can be tricky to navigate.

Anonymous said...

I'd send an extra gin pail to any agent nice enough to do that for me. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

Yo Steven,
Perhaps the agent wasted their efforts just to tell you in a secret-code-way that your writing sux.

I'd probably ignore it completely and never send a thing to the agent who you've NOW BEEN GIFTED WITH via a referal.

Na, I'd just quit writing altogehter.

Okay, enough sarcasm. Either you're very new at this or you were attempting funny. If you're new, learn. If it's the funny attempt, didn't work.

And good luck. You must have written something that soooo didn't suck.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean?

Maria said...

Pure and simple--that agent doesn't rep what you wrote or isn't taking on that type of project right now. So you got a referral because the writing didn't suck. It's a good thing and a rare thing.

Anonymous said...

Please, Miss Snark, Wal-Mart's destroying this nation.

Anonymous said...

That letter made me cough up my skull. Here I sit, skull-less, wondering how someone could be so ungrateful and clueless.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

I'm sure you'll get some malicious chuckles from this one:


Especially the fact that it is "written as literature."

Anonymous said...



Brady Westwater said...

And this guy is for real! Friends of mine live next to his sex club and it's only a mile from where I live.

"I'm sure you'll get some malicious chuckles from this one:


Especially the fact that it is "written as literature."

MWT said...

Well, I guess that answers my nitwit question from a few entries back. ;)

Angus Weeks said...

If I'd received the same letter Steven did, I'd probably be as confused as Steven. I certainly wouldn't have understood I could actually use the name of Agent 1 in a query to the other agents.

So we're both lucky to have Miss Snark's blog.

Anonymous said...

The only part that's not obvious, I guess, is the fact that it's perfectly okay to mention that Agent X said that Agent Y might be a better fit. Otherwise, I can't see how 'try x' can be interpreted as anything other than 'try x'.

Anonymous said...

Hey, people defending the clueless (but lucky) Steven: he didn't just not get it; he "didn't get it" in the rudest possible way. That's what led to the title.

Here the guy's getting a referral (which we all know is gold, or at least silver), and he's pissed and snotty, trying to tease out an insult and insult the guy back for being lame and/or cowardly not to take him on.

Some people don't deserve success.

Tina said...

I disagree. I'm inclined to see Stephen's response as a reading comprehension problem.

When MS said:

This is called a referral. You thank your lucky stars for it right fucking now and send him email saying same.

I think he was reading "send him an email saying same" to mean "send the same query to the same agent".

After scanning the existing responses here and finding out that he is 15 and very likely operating in English as a Second Language, I'll stand by my original impression: Steven is grappling with the syntax.

Guess those rocket launchers are loaded with Acme F-bombs.