I've just started sending queries out on one of my projects, so I've got the proverbial fingers crossed. As anyone who's done this knows, it's a tedious yet exciting, hurry-up-and-wait, dancing in the dark process.
As to be expected, the responses have been mostly no's, but there have been a few bites here and there. One positive response was a bit baffling, and I wanted to share it with everyone to get their feedback. The name of the agent has been redacted to protect the (perhaps not-so) innocent, and what follows is the agent's response to my query:
Thank you for your query (I ordinarily do NOT look at queries by email). But I actually read your query and thought it very intelligent. If you are not sending this simultaneously to other agents or publishers, then you may send this same query, a one page synopsis and the first three chapters or first 50 pages to me if you like. (Please tell me if you’ve sent this to other agents or publishers previously and if so which ones and what sort of comments or feedback did you get.) Mark the outside of the package “Special Request – per XXXXX.” Then in your cover letter be sure to mention I asked you to send this after reading your electronic query. Include a list of books (with dates and publishers) of books you think are competition. Include an author bio and list of other books you’ve written (with dates of publications and publishers). These are things I must know in order to give your project its best consideration. Finally, how you found my agency and this email address. It is usually unpublished, but I recently changed my email address, so it would help if I understood how you found this email. I always need to know ALL this information. Thank you for your cooperation.
If you have any questions, feel free to call me. I appreciate your thinking of my Agency.
Let me explain why this response is so strange. For starters, this particular agent's website lists the email address I sent the query to and specifically advises writers to send queries to that address. So I was left scratching my head when the agent asked me how I got the email address and stated that he/she does not generally look at e-queries, when the website says otherwise.
The request for a list of competing books is a bit off-putting. I know a few agents ask for this information up front from writers, but at the same time, aren't they supposed to be the experts on the market? The oft-repeated advice from agents is to write what you want to write, the idea being that writers shouldn't chase some market or trend for a dollar. Agents say they'd prefer writers create something personal and thus unique. Also, I get very little time to read anymore, so I know for a fact I'm not as up to speed on the market as an agent would (should) be. I'd be hard-pressed to compile a credible list of competing books, and it would be mostly guesswork on my part.
But, the most troubling aspect of this agent's response is the request for a list of other agents/publishers I've queried, including their feedback on the manuscript. Why should this agent need that information to do their job? I have no idea, but he/she should be able to form their own opinion on the manuscript without having to review what other people have said.
After a little more research, I discovered this agent used to charge a fee for reviewing a manuscript. I don't know if that's still the case, and the agent did not ask me for any money, but that's obviously a big no-no. (To any non-writers out there: money is always supposed to flow TOWARD the writer, never away.)
I'm not going to pursue a professional relationship with this agent based on this response. It seems to me this particular agent wanted me to do his/her job: figure out the market and then supply him/her with an accounting of what other agents and editors have said about the manuscript.
Has anyone else ever gotten this kind of response, one asking for detailed information about other agents/editors and their feedback?
By the way, Blogger has gone crazy apparently. It seems that all comments left on posts pre-dating the January 30, 2010 Gene Hackman post have mysteriously vanished. So I'm going to ask you all a favor: if you've ever posted here before, please leave a comment on this post. Reason I ask is, agents and editors might be checking out this blog now and in the near future, so it would be a big help to be able to show them people do read this blog. Thanks!
11 hours ago