Nathan Bransford, Author

Friday, April 3, 2009

This Week in Publishing 4/3/09

Lots of links again, so let's get started! Also, thanks to the Hastings Entertainment Law class for hosting me this morning, you guys asked some really smart questions about the business. But then: you're law students. Of course you people are smart.

First up: Blog reader plugs! Reader Scott Rhoades has an article called "Great Writing Software That Won't Coast a Dime" in the May issue of The Writer magazine, which is in stores now. Mira started a blog called Come In Character, in which she offers prompts and writers respond in their characters' voices, which is undoubtedly a fun exercise. And longtime friend of the blog Ray Rhamey is turning his popular blog Flogging the Quill into a book version, so check that out as well.

This week's agentfail post at Bookends continues to spark reactions around the blogosphere. Victoria Strauss responds here and Jonathan Lyons here. Both, like me, are surprised at the venom. Only kind of unsurprised too. UPDATE: Jennifer Jackson weighs in here.

And to further respond to yesterday's post, I understand that agents sometimes fall down at the job and do some things that frustrate and irritate authors. We're human. But don't forget that: we're human. We're not horrible weeds in the publishing garden. We love our clients, books, and the publishing industry, or else we wouldn't be here.

Speaking of positivity, Bookends also started an Authorpass and Agentpass appreciation thread. Feel the love!

Thanks to Colleen Lindsay for sending along this hilarious publishing glossary. Sample entry: AUTHOR TOUR: A hazing ritual intended to make authors compliant to their publishers.

In actual book glossary news, Book Roast's own anonymous publisher breaks down terms like launch and sales conference and discusses how publishers go about allocating marketing resources. An absolute must read if you're curious about how that process works.

Influential blogger Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo recently bought a Kindle, liked it a lot, and then immediately began considering the potentially scary repercussions and the disappearance of paper books. A really nice summary of both the advantages of e-books paired with consciousness of their perils.

Remember how Klazart/Vineet sent Authonomaniacs into freakout mode when he (legally) brought some of his gamer friends to the site to back his novel? Lauri Shaw has an interview with the man himself.

Via Moonrat comes word that the late Robert Jordan's last book will be released in three volumes. This is big news to everyone who has read all 7,078,253,278,234 words of the series thus far.

Rachelle Gardner has a fabulous post on 10 things an author should expect out of their agent. Really a great list.

My client Jennifer Hubbard has another great writing post this week about what makes a book un-put-downable (and she should know, her upcoming novel THE SECRET YEAR absolutely falls into that category). She attributes it to a combination of a question to be solved and a compelling voice.

Reader Neil Vogler pointed me to an article that contemplates an interesting new avenue for writing: literary video games?

And finally, friend-of-the-blog Tanya Egan Gibson has a new book coming out called HOW TO BUY A LOVE OF READING, and she recently produced a really cool book trailer:

Have a great weekend!


Margaret Yang said...

Awesome quality linkage, Nathan. Have a great weekend.

Marilyn Peake said...

Wow, so many links, so little time. I'm going to check out the links over the weekend. Should be fun! In the meantime, I'm going over to the BookEnds blog to leave a cheerful PASS comment. :)

RW said...

Didn't even know there was such a thing as AAR. Thanks for the reading.

Bane of Anubis said...

Thanks for another great week of posts...

Robert Jordan could definitely have used some of SK "On Writing" advice about cutting down manuscripts - way overwritten and far too convoluted. May his editor in the hereafter have a nimble and active red pen.

Good luck to Jody on the tourney and to all the others who've got a horse in the query appraisal race.

Kristi said...

Thank for the links - the publishing glossary was gold.

I would also like to wish Jody good luck (even though I'm a Carolina fan). Jody - if you win the whole thing, you should really buy a Powerball ticket while you're on a hot streak.

Happy Weekend to everyone who won't be covered by a foot of snow tomorrow. To those like me in Colorado, hey, at least we'll have built in writing time (after we shovel and have snowball fights). :)

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

It's so hilarious to see so much anger in #Agentfail. People need to chill the F out.

Anonymous said...

So when do we get #querypass. ?? I know agents blog about what makes a great query, but how about live?
The great Daphne Unfeasible did this lately before her trip, and it was truly enjoyable.
Thanks for the links.

Tara Maya said...

What a great book trailer. I laughed and linked it to my friends.

Lisa Schroeder said...

Jenn Hubbard is made of awesome and I can't wait to read her book!

Happy weekend!

Anonymous said...

Literary games are old news. Final Fantasy has beeb leading that trend since the early 90s. BioShock was considered a great work of literature amongst gamers.

wickerman said...

I am highly amused at the whole agentfail fall out.

When writers send queries on pink paper and misspell the agent's name etc.. they are lazy and unprofessional fools who deserve things like snarky blog posts and queryfail.

When agents never get back to you, spell your name wrong or reject your book with a form letter that mentions someone else's book, you have to forgive them for they are only human.

Can we all grow up please?

Agent fail - whether Ms Strauss wants to believe it or not IS about queryfail - or rather the attitude that saw it degenerate into the sad little snipe fest it became.

That certainly does not excuse Agentfail for being an equally childish exercise, but please people. There are far too many 'Agents suck' or 'authors are stupid' posts and too few folks with the levelheaded responses along the lines of what Nathan has posted.

There were some good points name in the two 'fails' but unfortunately most of the good was swallowed up by the landslide of negativity and foolery on BOTH sides.

Jen C said...

OMG, that book trailer was awesome! Probably the best I've seen yet. Really, really funny!

"Are those pyjamas?"

Nathan Bransford said...


Not sure if I'd agree with your characterization of both sides of the typo divide.

And regardless of how authors felt about queryfail, they should have remembered what their mommas told them: two wrongs don't make a right. There were some nasty things said in that thread.

Anonymous said...

Forgive me if this dampens your weekend wrap-up, but I almost can't believe that agents are stunned by agentfail.

How out of touch do you have to be as an agent to not know that writers get pissy when they are asked to send partials but never get a response? Asked for fulls and then promptly ignored? Asked for rewrites and then the agent never gets back to them no matter how many polite emails they send?

Are these people living under a rock?

You know how you (as an agent) feel when an editor takes an interest in a project and then never gets back to you? Ever. No matter how many times you email them and no matter how many times they promise to get that read in?

Well, writers also feel that way in regards to agents. Why is it so difficult to understand human beings want the simple courtesy of following through on what is promised by an agent or an editor?

(signing on as an Anon 'cause I'm chicken).

Nathan Bransford said...


Here's what I do when an editor fails to get back to me: I move on. I might not submit to them the next time, but I don't waste my time and energy getting angry about it.

Look at it this way: if an agent isn't getting back to you after you even after you send polite e-mails following up, you dodged a bullet. You should feel lucky, not aggrieved. Worse is an agent who does sign you up and then stops paying attention to you. I wish those people didn't exist, but they do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your reply, Nathan.

Your quote: "... I might not submit to them the next time, but I don't waste my time and energy getting angry about it..."

Sure, and it's not like most writers are either. Most of us aren't moping around, cursing the skies, we are querying others or working on our next book. But BookEnds asked for what irked people about agents, and answers were given.

The fact that some agents are aghast that -- gasp -- writers (especially those they asked for partials, fulls or those that they've signed up as clients) expect a few emails to be returned or some type of follow up, even if it is a rejection, simply boggles my mind.

It doesn't make me mad, it makes me a little sad, is all. The whole do unto others as you would have them do unto you thing.

Haste yee back ;-) said...

As to Agentfail...

When will I ever learn that an IDEAL is nothing but a beautiful mirage, but is incapable of providing the real camel, for the real walk, through the real desert, to the real water!

Haste yee back ;-)

Nathan Bransford said...


I don't think any of us are surprised that some of the things we do frustrates writers. That's not what I'm objecting to. What I object to is the level of anger in that thread. There's no sense in some (not all) of those comments that agents are human, even the ones who make mistakes. There's, in my opinion, a misplaced sense of entitlement among writers who have finished a manuscript and think their work is done and that agents then owe them their time.

Sure, sometimes agents are guilty of the same frustration demonstrated in that blog post. Doesn't make either side right when they do it.

Anonymous said...

I think it's sad that agents got defensive over the agentfail thing instead of using it as a learning opportunity. The fact is, some agents suck. Plain and simple. While the majority agents are great, there are those who aren't. Period.

Janet Reid's comments on AgentFail were "writer friendly". I suggest everyone check it out.

Anonymous said...

How did the writers who participated in AgentFail end up being the bad guys? The prompt on the blog invited animosity, specifically suggesting authors post anonymously.

It's very depressing that writers are always criticized, even by their fellows! Yes, some people responded with anger -- which was invited. Sheesh.

Anonymous said...

I'm Anon 3:21 and 3:35--

We'll agree to disagree, I think we are on the same page anyway. :)
Have a great weekend and thanks for your level-headed blog.

Nathan Bransford said...


Some of the people who participated left constructive comments, which is fine. And yeah, I acknowledged in my post about it that it was part of the prompt.

But "they asked us to" isn't really an excuse, is it? And certainly some people don't even need a prompt.

Chris Bates said...

Thanks for the Josh Marshall link.

Marshall’s view mirrors my own - not to mention many others - on the whole ebook thing. That ‘sock in the gut’ comment summed it up. It’s almost as if you caught your high school sweetheart kissing your best friend. You like ‘em both but you know that your world has changed irrevocably… and there ain’t no going back.

His comment about missing the magic of stumbling across those ‘peripheral’ articles in newspapers also rang true. Nowadays I read news online. I click the stories of interest, rarely giving a moment to read a one hundred word grab on some random subject. Those obscure gems escape me now, sadly. I suppose that is why community free-press papers will still survive: Obscure relevance!

As for agent/queryfail…

It’s always hard for anyone to take criticism – personal or professional. Of course, professionals expect it: they are paid to.

Budding authors will always be aggrieved by rejection. We’re timid creatures.

Nathan, I don’t really sympathise with your ‘just move on’ comment with regards to commissioning editors passing on your pitches.

You get paid to shop a product. Sure you have quota to fill, commission to earn, but I assume you get a retainer? The author, however, submits on spec. That SASE that is bundled with the manuscript isn’t empty. That sucker is full of hope and aspiration. If an agent crushes that, they crush that particular author.

That breakout ‘it’ novel that every agent and publisher is after isn’t written by hard-edged, self-serving, thick-skinned, egotistical, self-confident writers … it’s pasted together by emotionally-charged, often fragile, introspective home-bodies. Without these people there is no industry.

Conversely … you need criticism to achieve great writing. Constructive criticism.

Apologies for the usual essay.

Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

Mira's 'Come in character' was good fun - I could hear my character's voice changing at the imposition of being forced into an unfamiliar setting!
Tanya Egan Gibson’s 'How to buy a love of reading' is now at the top of my 'must have' list of books - Borders says 'No' and May is a long way off.
There were so many links to follow I've got nothing else done - great blog!

Nathan Bransford said...


When I'm submitting a debut author I'm submitting on spec too. I don't get paid if they don't get paid. There's a hundred hours of unpaid work riding on every submission. I may not be as invested in it as the author, but it's not far off.

Yeah, if I don't sell one particular project I'll probably still have a job, but the author doesn't lose their license to write books either.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

OMG, thanks for that link to "Come in Character."

Well, I guess I mean thanks. I might mean "Bad Nathan!" I just wasted about an hour reading it and leaving comments.

hannah said...

In the Agent Positivity category, one of our bloggers at Yapping about YA landed an agent today, and we're having an #agentwin party in celebration!

Jennifer Jackson said...

Thanks for the link, Nathan. :)

Chris said:
"Sure you have quota to fill, commission to earn, but I assume you get a retainer? The author, however, submits on spec. That SASE that is bundled with the manuscript isn’t empty. That sucker is full of hope and aspiration. If an agent crushes that, they crush that particular author."

Just wanted to chime in and agree with Nathan on this one. Most agents get paid on commission. We only get paid when the author gets paid. I know that every project I send out goes with passion and hope -- perhaps it's a bit of a surrogate investment, but it's a very sincere one.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, Your blog is must reading for me.
It keeps me informed, educates me,
and is entertaining as hell.
Thanks again.

Bane of Anubis said...

Anon - just because something is posted anonymously doesn't mean it should be done without civility. In fact, when posting anonymously or with an unidentifiable screenname (e.g., Bane of Anubis), I think it should be done w/ more civility b/c we have the added benefit of hiding behind a shield of invisibility.

WV: gooftyp - I do this frequently.

J. M. Strother said...

Oh, dear.

"AUTHOR BIO: A piece of creative writing whose length varies inversely with the attractiveness of the person depicted in the AUTHOR PHOTO."

I'm going to need a very long AUTHOR BIO. :(

Chris Bates said...

Nathan & Jennifer:

I understand where you guys are coming from.

The difference here is that the average author throwing out a query is an industry virgin. They've never exposed their work publicly. They've never been challenged with a professional critique. They've never faced the cold reality of the business.

You, on the other hand, know the ropes. And yet I bet the first week in your job was anxiety filled. How many times did it take to ‘throw your arm in’? Two deals? Five … ten?

Good ole Joe/Jane Novelist is timidly stepping out onto an NBA court and looking to sink a three pointer from the get-go. And here’s the thing… they’ve only ever played the hoop on their garage wall.

Can their game cut it in the big time?

Let’s cross to the talent spotters… which is what you guys are. You spot talent for the big teams. You sign talent. What spotters shouldn’t do is kill those working on their game. Sure, an author should research the industry more and many need to work harder on their submissions. Doesn’t mean they need to be denigrated, publicly or privately.

Nathan, the visitor numbers you have on this blog would suggest that people are coming here not merely for industry info but for something else as well. I bet it has something to do with respect.

I know agents have a ton of crap manuscripts in the slushpile. 99% of them will make your eyes roll and pray for salvation in the form of a decent read. The holy grail.

I guess civility is the key.

These days many business operators - large and small - Google prospective partners and associates for evaluation. Personally, if I found a string of negativity attached to such a name, I'd scuttle the deal ... or the representative.

T. Anne said...

Cool book trailer. Thanks for the links Nathan.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Nathan - Thanks for the Book Roast shout out. Ms. Spitfire is a great resource for info on the publishing side of life.

I have noticed a marked increase in the amount of negativity by anonymous commenters. Not just here or from people in publishing. Even news stories have nasty comments in the thread. It seems the cloak of anonymity gives some people carte blanche to be disgusting.

A co-worker of mine died in a car accident recently and some of the anonymous comments were unbelievably cruel.

Ethics are what you would do if you think you won't be caught. Apparently, there are a lot of unethical people out there. Not a real surprise actually, but it is sad. Thankfully, there are even more ethical, decent people - even in blogland.

I'm seeing some double standard with the reactions to #queryfail and #agentfail. Snark can be cruel - period - no matter which side of that fence you sit on. And neither the agents nor the authors agreed to be the subject of that fail thread.

But yes - if you're given leave to express your anger, should you? Is it appropriate as long as someone gives you permission?

Rachel said...

Bane of Anubis--

I totally agree with your comment at 4:23. Every posting should be done with civility, something that a lot of writers should have thought about before they posted on agentfail. I read some of the comments but it was too painful to keep going.

Thanks to Nathan for all the information you pass on to us.

Rick Chesler said...

Thanks again for the info, Nathan!

Jo said...

OMG! I can't believe that anyone thinks there was "so much anger and vitriol" in the agentfail comments. You think that's anger? You don't know what anger looks like. That was frustration.

The frustration comes from agents expect a certain level of professionalism from authors but don't feel the need to be professional in return.

(Anger, BTW, is what I've seen in my day job in the past month, and it's going to get our office manager fired. Yelling, swearing and throwing punches will do that.)

As Nathan recently pointed out when discussing GRRM's blog responses, when you have public discourse, you invite people to feel familiar with you. One needs to think twice about EVERYTHING that goes into a public forum. Even if it's private, you have to know your audience. And whining about the number of people who want to be your date for the prom is tacky. A polite no will do. Fortunately, many reputable agents understand this. The ones who don't will reap what they've sown.

As far as how an agent makes his money, I LOVE the system. I don't trust anyone who wants to do me a "favor" out of the goodness of his heart. I don't believe in the goodness of a stranger's heart. I want to know where they're making there money. That an agent makes his money in same proportion that I do is a wonderful thing. It means he/she is motivated to do the absolute best they can for me because it's also good for them. That I trust.

Nathan Bransford said...


No, I'm sorry, I stand by what I said. Some of it was just frustration, but a lot of it was anger. And I don't think much of it was justified.

Rick Daley said...

Excellent strategy, provide enough links to satiate us until you post again on Monday. Plus it gives me the chance to use big words like satiate.

COME IN CHARACTER is a lot of fun, Mira has done a great job moderating it so far!

WORD VERIFICATION: prick. Seriously. Dude, are you trying to tell me something? I can tone back the comments...

Nathan Bransford said...

I'd also like to add that this all is probably a bit more real for agents than it is for the people who participated in the thread. They might have just been venting anonymously, I get scary e-mails. I'm concerned about the level of anger out there about agents, particularly when people are already so tense because of what's going on in the world.

So a little more calmness out there would be much appreciated.

Bane of Anubis said...

Threats/stalking are things most of us don't have to deal with. It sucks that you or anybody has to deal with that (and nothing, absolutely nothing - in terms of professionalism or lack thereof - justifies that.)

WV: intely - Hope this is a good omen, b/c I'm waiting for an answer from Intel - hopefully a Y :)

L.C. Gant said...

As always, you've outdone yourself with the linkage, Nathan! I've got enough reading material for the whole weekend. Thanks a bunch!

I'm also sorry about the scary emails you've been getting; that's awful. General frustration is one thing, but I'd hate to think any writer would consider harming an agent over a rejected manuscript. Definitely not cool.

wickerman said...

Sorry Nathan, I have to stand by my analysis of the Agent Fail reactions. I can see where you would argue with it - after all, you are not one of the ones who anything I read on Agent Fail applied to, but there is - from this side of the fence anyway - a double standard.

Upon rereading my post I think maybe I came off a little more harshly than I intended and I certainly didn't mean to level the criticism at you or any other specific person, it was a general observation about some of the exasperated agents who have responded around the web. There seemed to be an awful lot of consternation among some folks who followed queryfail with a big fat 'Get over it - if you can;t take this you'll never make it in the Pub biz.'

nevertheless, I will freely admit it would sit differently with me if i were the guy getting death threats in my email box.

I respect you and others like Janet Reid and Jessica Faust too much to argue it further.

My point - poorly put at that - was exactly your own - the Agent Fail did nothing but heap bad form on top of the already pointless venom spewed by queryfail.

Group hug??

Chris Bates said...

"I get scary e-mails. I'm concerned about the level of anger out there about agents, particularly when people are already so tense because of what's going on in the world."

Okay, okay... I apologise for the 'rodent squashed with rice sack' pics... I only meant it as a harmless joke.

Beatriz Kim said...

Thanks for the links. Have a great weekend everyone!

Mira said...

Nathan, you get scary e-mails? That's horrible!

Boy, I was relieved to see your post today. You posted late, and I left work early to go do stuff, so I wasn't sure you would post. I was actually getting teary in my car worring that you'd been hurt by stuff that was said yesterday. Which, I just want to say, is nuts. Nuts! I don't even know you. Not that I would want to hurt someone I didn't know either, but you know. It's nuts.

But I hang out here alot, and in a odd way, I really care about well as many of the posters here. Not in a stalking, sending mean e-mails kind of a way(by the way, whoever is doing that, stop that this instant! What is wrong with you!!?), but in a......weird, I post on your blog and don't even know you but care about you anyway kind of way.

Anyway, I'm very glad you're doing just fine.

I, however, am not, being nuts and all. But there you go.

Mira said...

Oh. Very important. Thank you for linking to Come In Character. I wasn't it, and I was totally blown away.

How awesome of you!!! Thanks, Nathan.

And Rick, you, too, thank you too.

I really hope people enjoy it. I'm having a blast there personally!

Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, everyone. And I don't mean to complain -- I feel lucky to have the job I have, I think all this goes with the territory, honestly, the craziness doesn't usually faze me. It's easy to laugh off.

I'm just saying that the stakes might appear a little different to us than it does to the people who leave comments anonymously. Maybe it's just the news these days, but it all unnerves me a little, and agents have written me who were pretty distressed. Say what you will about queryfail (and I didn't participate), but what was in agentfail was an order of magnitude greater in terms of the anger and negativity. I really would like to do what I can to dispel some of that by explaining our side.

This isn't an umbrage war and we all have our frustrations in the business, but I don't think many of the comments in the agentfail thread should be defended (nor do I defend queryfail). Hopefully perspectives are restored over the weekend.

Anonymous said...

"I don't remember seeing any comment that stated every agent on this planet did everyone of the things listed. Not one. The agents weren't being lumped into one big sum. These for the most part were complaints about many different agents, the bloggers were told not to name names. I hate it that all of the agents that were not necessarily being talked about think that it was about them. It is sad that the whole ordeal was seen as every post there was by an angry or unpublished writer. There were many published writers and the majority of complaints were hopes for a better future, and yes there were a few over the top angry people. Just because someone blogged doesn't mean they agree with every complaint. IDK maybe some of these sensitive agents see something in theirselves we can't see. I saw some anger, but I also saw a LOT of justified stuff in there." This is from another blog, but I thought you needed to see it.

I would seriously like to see you go in and re-read those posts. This time don't connect them. Read them as individual people blogging. Then tell us how many of those are truly scary posts. IDK why this has struck such a nerve with you and a few other agents.

As for your moving on when you get ignored, I love what Wickerman said, but have this to add. You are an experienced agent, you are already proven, and you haven't heard over and over agents expect to be treated like their the only one you are querying, individualize each query, etc. Agents don't want us to mass query, and by gosh if they ask for our mss and want an exclusive we are not going to do anything that might blow it. We toil over every letter we write, terrified of misakes. Can you imagine an agent talking to another agent and find out they are looking at the same MSS as each other. We can! A bad name for us can be spread throughout all the agents. I have heard that several places. Do you know how long to give a publisher? We don't, and by the time we figure it our window might be closed. I just can't see that you could possibly feel like those "virgin" writers.

Back to queryfail now. Those writers they were making fun of weren't bad writers, they were new writers. They hadn't learned the ropes yet, but some of them will if they don't get crushed. Do you think they are going to query those agents when they do? The agents that did the things people were griping about are seasoned people, they are not learning the ropes. Now you tell me which of those two fail sessions were wrong? They are not the same. Those writers would have learned how to query properly by reading blogs like yours, JR's, and JF's, which the majority of writers really appreciate, and not been crushed. And I honestly think they were griping about the queryfail not your daily blog.

Those horrible letters in your slush pile, maybe the perfected dream letter in someone elses in a few months.

I have to say my eyes were truly opened by the different agents reactions, and some of my original opinions have really turned around for the better.

Nathan Bransford said...

How about this one anon?

Look - I don't feel personally implicated in this. I don't do a lot of the things people were complaining about. I'm just trying to explain some of the reasons why I disagree with the reasons behind the anger. And yes, there was real anger. Some of it really unjustified.

And yeah -- there are hoops to jump through in this business. That's just the way it is. It's not always fair. People can get mad, or they can get working.

Chris Bates said...

Something to lighten the mood:

How many agents does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A1: Sorry, we're not screwing in any new light bulbs anymore. But have you considered turning your light bulb into maybe... a candle?

A2: Oh yes, I screwed in your light bulb, but I haven't had a chance to turn it on yet. I'll get to it as soon as possible. It's just that we're already sitting under too much light.

A3: Loved your light bulb. Great light. Lots of illumination. Unfortunately, the agency's decided to remain in the dark indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

I pick number 3.


Cussing isn't scary to me. Have you been in a highschool or worked out in the public? Yes that person was angry, but that was one (and yes I know there are others) out of 275. I saw just as many angry people on your website just after queryfail. And I did read all of them up until and hour ago. Those Anons do not share the same rationalizing because they use the same name.


Anonymous said...


Sorry Chris. I gave Wickerman all of the credit for the stuff I agreed with. You hit the nail on the head also.


Bane of Anubis said...

Marie, the internet can be cathartic, but it can equally fuel the rage... Anonymous cussing doesn't bother me, either, but the feeling behind it does. There's ANGER there that can become destructive (self or other)... and then there's the part of me that says... you know what, if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen...

Rejection's hard. Impersonal rejection makes it more difficult. Sure, an agent just blew off your masterpiece and query that you spend two hours crafting in less time than it takes to sneeze - guess what, it's not a masterpiece and your writing might not be good - at least not to that agent. Don't stew... just move on. Yeah, they're are asshole agents, just as there are asshole authors (and author wannabes)... the world's a large place, filled with lots of people, and none of us are as special as we'd like to think we are - but some have power and if we want to stay in the game, it would behoove us to adhere to the rules and stay on the level. Or if you want to take your ball and start a new game, go for it and good luck to you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe another positivity week is in order?

I'm sorry that the frustration/anger of the agentfail comments has disappointed/frightened/discouraged you.

I think the world is just a miserable place to be right now. It's always been hard for writers, but now that many have lost their day jobs, things are even more depressing.

I didn't participate in agentfail, but I have noticed I've been incredibly grumpy for several months, now. I used to be a cheerful person, but those days are gone. I, like many others, have been laid off from my job. I was an attorney at a large firm in New York. Now, I'm living in my parents' basement in Indiana. I recently applied for a retail position. I didn't get the job. The manager said, "we're looking for long term candidates. You'll go back to the legal community as soon as you can." Okay, I'll admit that's true; no point in lying about it. I have eight years of higher education from reputable schools; I never thought I'd be begging for the opportunity to fold clothes at the Gap.

The point of this incredibly long post is simply that everyone is depressed and angry these days. I'm sure it was very difficult as an agent to read some of those comments. Try not to take it personally, difficult as that is. I suspect if the prompt had been "take the opportunity to vent about doctors/lawyers/bus drivers/husbands/wives/puppies/rainbows" the responses would have been just as harsh. It's just a reflection of the times.

Genny said...

Thanks for all the great links. I read Rachelle Gardner's post earlier today and thought it was great too.

Jen C said...

The point of this incredibly long post is simply that everyone is depressed and angry these days.

That's a pretty random generalisation to make about over 6 billion people. I'm happier right now than I have ever been in my life. Just because the world is going through a tough time financially isn't a reason for society to completely disintegrate.

Gees Louise. Here everyone, have a unicorn *throws unicorn*. Now, I'm going to go and put my hands over my ears and go "la la la la la la la"....

Word Veri: peessest. Teehee!

Jil said...

I have not read agentfail and don't plan to. But sometimes don't you think people read anger into posts when the writer isn't angry at all but just stating a thought? I've often seen people get all worked up over something I didn't recognize at all. Perhaps if one is in a bad mood to begin with everything reads like an attack.
Let's just hope any threats were really jokes - if not we'll be your guards, Nathan.
By the way, why is the little figure after "word verification" in a wheel chair? Most ominous!
Oh yes. I'm enjoying Mira's ComeinCharacter too.

Other Lisa said...

@anon 9:08 PM - I am so sorry to hear about your difficulties. This is a tough time for a lot of people.

I just read the linked comment and could feel this person's anger and desperation. Then you have absolutely insane outbursts like the man today who went into the center for immigrants and killed 13 people. I don't think things are completely falling apart but there is an awful lot of free-floating anxiety and rage.

On the other hand, I took a nice long walk today - unlike the bad 80s song, some people do walk in LA. I walked up Rose Ave. and then through the Santa Monica Airport. It was a lovely walk. A beautiful day.

I'm not sure what assumptions people make when they see me on the street - maybe they're thinking I don't have a car, I'm some crazy person, who knows? And there weren't many pedestrians on this route.

But as I was walking down Bundy, which is a busy street that borders the Santa Monica Airport, I passed a fellow, a man some years younger than I am, and you know, there's that whole urban, do I need to have my armor on here, as a single woman? But nowadays, I go out of my way to smile. Maybe a little tentatively, but I try. And this guy smiles back, says, "Hi, how're you doing?" or whatever, just a nice pleasant greeting, and I smile for real, thinking, you know, two strangers passing on a sidewalk in an unlikely place can make the day a little more pleasant for each other. We're not all enemies here. We're in this together.

Brenda said...

Being the introverted, shy, afraid of the dark writer, (working on my first novel)I have never thought to blame the agent or the publisher or another writer. I have always thought if there was a problem with the writing then it was within me. And if the agent or publisher didn't like my writing than I should move on to one that did.
Agentfail like its predecessor worries me. Is this what the publishing industry is all about?
Should I rethink my passion?
I sure hope not.

Barb said...

I'm a little confused about this "given permission" thing. Don't you decide how you are going to conduct yourself in every exchange? Regardless of whether you are posting as Anon or under an open name you are the only one who can decide if you have just communicated in a polite and fair manner.

A lot of the gripes seemed to be about a lack of respect, but they were written without respect.

If someone doesn't treat you professionally, don't deal with them again. If your work is good enough, you will find the right person to rep you.

Writer from Hell said...

When you speak in anger, people only hear your anger not what you say.. I don't remember who said that (coz I'm WfH) but I remember these words when I feel angry.

I think Mr. Bransford (ah thanks somebody for correcting me) you are such a sport but I feel sorry the writers' anger is getting to you (even though it is not meant at you but in a sense at 'all agents'). I understand, I don't envy you your job.

Pls.. not all of us feel that way and do see agents as worthy partners and important value adds in the chain.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Right, well there goes the rest of my morning! Great links - thanks!

eatsyourface said...

I second the comment about Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy VII is, in my incredibly biased opinion *g*, one of the greatest games ever. Brilliant plot and awesome characterization done subtly. (The music and worldsetting is gorgeous.)

Thanks for the other links. I probably wouldn't have heard the news on the Wheel of Time, and the other ones were interesting.


Anonymous said...

It's not just the internet the whole world is like that. I had a real flesh and blood stalker for 3 years who happened to live right down the road from me. What's worse it wasn't just me. My daughters were young. I had to call the cops on him 8 times. He did everything from dump a 6 foot pile of garbage he dug out of a ditch in my yard to threatening to beat me, my husband, and my 5'4" fathers a**. We were called every name in the book, he cut our fence he would drive in the field right next to my house spinning his tires and shining his headlights in our window. He even aimed the bucket of his tractor neck level and drove straight at my parents in their car to block them from coming to my house. I could go on for hours, but I think you get it.

This was a prominent business man, no one believed it. It took collecting evidence for a very long time to get it stopped.

My point is you could cram every bit of that anger in Agentfail, and times it hundreds of times over and it wouldn't equal one hour of his fury. You are cramming hundreds of writers into a little blog spot, all of them have been told to tell what their Agentfail is, it is going to look angrier than it is. People cuss like that all around me (I don't, my mom would wash my mouth out) It's a part of life. I am not kidding when I say I hear that kind of language all of the time and it is in flesh and blood, not on a computer screen. When you have a little post to vent your anger, you do what you can to get noticed. I am not saying it's right. For all we know that person who typed that is 5 foot tall and weighs less than a hundred pounds. It's life, everyday life to hear frustration like that. So please people move on, and learn from it.

BTW people believe me now, and he doesn't bother us anymore.

Anonymous said...

Oh, forgot tto sugn my name.

Marie Anon 6:22

Anonymous said...

Hate it when I make typos.

That should have been sign. I'm sure there are others, but that one glared at me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Jil said at 10:55

Her Quote: "...But sometimes don't you think people read anger into posts when the writer isn't angry at all but just stating a thought?..."

So, I've read all of AgentFail now. You know what, it feels good to know that other writers out there struggle like I do. As a writer you are trapped at your computer for months and months, trying to create something out of nothing. The only lifeline you have sometimes is the hope of your email inbox, that maybe it will be an agent request for a partial or full...

I've had an agent. A bad one. For the longest time I thought it was just me, that if I wrote better that woman would've been nicer to me or tried harder to sell something. At AgentFail there are posts about agented people whose agents don't read their books for 4-5 months -- that happened to me. There are posts about how people's agents stopped sending their books out after one round. That happened to me. Posts about how agent's wouldn't even return their own client's emails. That happened to me, too. It's a relief to know you aren't the only one.

I didn't see most of the posts as scary or rage-filled. I saw quite a lot writers confused as to why they feel so disrespected in the business.

Scott said...

I have a MAJOR bone to pick, here."Walking in LA" is not a bad song. Tsk, and here I was all ready to join Other Lisa's group hug. ;)

Thanks for the links, Nathan.

Mira said...

I was so caught up with everything yesterday, I forgot to look at the links. Awesome. So much good reading.

Can I make a fellow plug? Since Rick Daley was so nice to mention my site, can I add how useful I've found his? The Query Slush Pile is a place people can post queries and get feedback from peers. There's nothing like it that I know of, and it's been really helpful to read!

I don't know how to post links, but if you click on his profile, his blog is right there.

Also - Jil, thanks. I love having you at the blog.

Ink said...

Sports metaphors!

I always think of a slushpile as an open tryout for a sports team. Who all's been there with me? You got a bunch of hopefuls in a gym or on a field, and you play and compete while the coaches wander around evaluating everyone. And at the end... well, let us say it's usually not an individual conference with every player that recounts their strengths and weaknesses amidst the reasons they did or didn't make the team. It's a list of names on a wall. A short list, with a lot of white space around it.

And there's always going to be people looking at that list in vain, trying to will their name onto it when they don't see the right letters arranged into a familiar and particular pattern. Stare hard enough and poof! it will magically appear. They'll stand there thinking "Hey, didn't they see that great crossover dribble I pulled on Joe that made him fall down?" And sometimes that might be all the person wants. A nice pat on the back and a "Great crossover back there. Better luck next time." Not knowing, getting no feedback... well, there's two options. Either the coaches did see you and didn't think you were the best choice for the team or they actually didn't see you, at least not clearly. Fair? Maybe not. But intentional? Not likely. Being furious, and even being right, won't help you get on that team. I remember a friend once, in highschool, who when he got his grade for Gym went to the teacher and said "Hey, this isn't the right mark. I think you mixed me up with Andrew..." He, um, didn't get his grade changed. The only thing to do is get ready for the next tryout. If that team isn't the right one you try out for a different team, and maybe that's the one that will see and recognize your skills and give you a chance to play. Maybe this team's desperate for a point guard with a nice crossover dribble.

I think Agentfail was a mixed bag. Some useful stuff, some non-useful. I think the idea was constructive criticism, but the result for some was simply a chance to vent. And often you could see the real reasons for anger showing through. I spent all that time working long hours for years writing this thing and killing myself while working two jobs and taking care of my family and all so agents can reject me and sometimes without even a response back, the SOBs! Now, are they really mad at the agents? A little displacement there, I think. Perceptions of their own failures pushing outward and finding a target, the only one avaiable: the agents. And posting anonymously... why hold back? Get it out, let the damn burst. Maybe they'll feel better afterward. I can hope, anyway. Carrying that anger around can't be good.

I do think much of the problem arises from that sense of perceived failure. Except that whole idea of failure is dangerous. I think you have to write the stories for yourself. I think you have to write them not for validation but for your own sanity and growth and creative engagement with the world. Publication is icing on the cake. You can't let it's lack demean your personal accomplishment. You've done something important for you - that's what matters. Giving your sense of self into the hands of others is a recipe only for frustration and anger.

Maybe you really wanted to play in the NBA, and those coaches ignoring you really hurt... but that wasn't why you started playing. I'm guessing there was a moment when the ball spun out of your hands in a perfect arc, a weightless flight, and descended with a silky snap through the mesh of the hoop... and in that moment you felt a rightness, a moment of personal exultation that you knew you needed, that you had to find again. The sound of the ball hitting the court was both an endpoint and a beginning, an invitation. An invitation to a space where there is only you and the ball and that orange rim draped in its inverted crown of white cord, and in that space all is perfect and tryouts are far, far away.

My best, as always,
Bryan Russell

Mira said...

Also, in the spirit of mending bridges...

Nathan, a few weeks ago, I was going to ask Janet Reid to represent me to you, so that you'd represent me. I didn't do this, because....well, I chickened out.

So, I was thinking. I thought: I know! I'll represent myself. I'll become an agent and represent myself to you so that you'll represent me.

I know!!! No, don't call me brilliant. Well, you can. Actually go ahead. But really, it's not me. I obviously have no control over what pops into my head. It's a gift.

Now, I'm not sure what you have to do to become an agent, but I figure if I just start calling myself an agent, that must be pretty close.

And how does this mend bridges? Well, now that I'm not only an agent and a writer, but my own client and my own agent, fighting with myself would be give me such a headache, I'd probably implode. That's an incentive to get along if I ever heard one.

So, you can expect to hear from me soon on behalf of my client. Me.

Chuck H. said...

Nathan...Mr. Bransford, Sir.

You bounced my query back in about 15 minutes and it hurt but I don't hate you. At least I know you got it.

To quote that great Canadian philosopher, Red Green, "We're all in this together and I'm pullin' for ya. Keep your stick on the ice."

Love, Peace, Flowers in your hair, Etc., etc., etc.

Tanya Egan Gibson said...

Just wanted to say that I LOVE Bryan Russell's analogy.

And Nathan, though I've already done it via e-mail, just wanted to thank you publicly for posting my book trailer!

P.S. - Readers of Nathan's wonderful blog, if you have a story you'd like to share about how reading changed your life, submit it to my site and make your voices heard.

L.L. said...

I visited Mira's Come In Character blog because of this post, and joined in the fun today. A great way to get the muse going.

Ink said...


Thanks for the kind comment. And I must say that's the best book trailer I've ever seen. I've seen a lot of cheesy ones, that pushed me away more than encouraged me to buy, and a few pretty good ones. But that one was very slick, and I definitely got a hoot out of it. The x-ray vision beams coming out of that kid's eyes... priceless.

My best,
Bryan Russell

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just read what I wrote about my neighbor not bothering anymore. It makes it sound like I killed him. The prosecuting attorney finaly got involved. He no longer bothers us, but he is doing it to other people now.

Sorry for sounding like a psycho.

Mira said...

Dear Mr. Bransford,

I am contacting you on behalf of my client, Mira. I represent her in her seach for representation.

As an agent myself, I have oddles and oodles and oddles of prescience and can tell you that representing Mira would be the best decision you ever made. In your life. It would solve all of your problems in one fell swoop. It would bring untold riches and power beyond your imagination. It would bring you lifelong contentment and happiness. It would give you eternal youth and the power to fly.

Now, if that's not enough, let me tell you about my client.

a. She has written exactly one and 1/2 pages and says at least half of what she wrote is semi-intelligble. She promises to write another page if you represent her, and more pages after that if the mood strikes. I think the benefits of a client like this speak for itself. (I hope so, actually, because I'm drawing a complete blank here.)

b. She has exactly 49.5 ideas. She says some of those ideas are just as good as the one where I represent her. I know!

c. She has tons of potential. Why she has so much potential dripping from her fingers, gushing from her ears, and oozing from her pores, that I can barely stand to look at her.

d. She has told me that if I don't get you to represent her, she will fire my ass. I really need my ass. Frankly, I'd beg you if it wouldn't be unprofessional (oh my god, please represent her, on my god, please, please, please, please.)

I think you can see this is the deal of a lifetime. I'll expect her from you soon. You can e-mail me at Mira's address. She'll forward it to me.

In fraternity,

Mira, Agent representing Mira

Mira said...

There. That should mend some bridges.

And get me a signing contract.

A good day's work.

Writer from Hell said...

actually thats not true. We are the ones doing unenviable jobs!

n this blogpost has the most open, honest, creative n varied discussion that I've seen on any blog. And thats coz the blogger here is really inspiring n a good sport!

L Violet said...

I read most of agentfail before growing weary. I found it heartening. It's always validating to learn that you're not the only one in a frustrating situation.

Not being a literary agent, I didn't perceive great hostility or anger in most of the posts. If the topic had been the incompetence of one of the professions I've worked in, I guess I would be feeling the hate.

Just as queryfail was instructive, in a negative way, to writers, agentfail ought to be instructive to literary agents.

Apparently, the great majority of agents with an online presence are quite young--and have the brashness, sense of invulnerability, and entitlement of youth. The young eventually learn how the other end of the stick they're wielding feels. It's a reality check, kids.

It's subjective, but I really don't see much vitriol in the agentfail posts. There's disgust, frustration, outrage, and a few tears. Those are normal reactions to bad treatment.

wv: disho. The fun kitchen game I'll be playing for the next hour.

Sarah Laurenson said...

OK, Nathan. I read the comment you linked to as an example of the anger at #agentfail.

There was a lot of anger there, maybe, but it seemed like a lot of self-pity to me. Yes, writing is a hard business. And yes, a lot of us have day jobs and families and what all taking up most of our time and we squeeze our writing into the little cracks and crevices of our day as we can.

That's the way this business works on our end. And that's the choice I make to pursue my dream of being published and perhaps, one day, financially supporting myself with my writing.

I have made choices with my day job that led to my being successful in that respect. And that, too, involved having a talent for that business as well as learning new things, taking risks, dealing with wacko managers, and companies that do not have my best interest at heart.

I think there's an expectation with writing that it can be some kind of magical career that means living joyous, happy and free with lots of money and attention. Perhaps it's this perception of the life of a writer that leads to so much anger from the disappointment of reality.

So, I see self-pity. I see disappointment. I see dashed hopes and dreams. But I also see choices that were made by the writer without a realistic understanding of what this business really entails. I think most of us come to it from this perspective. And the learning curve can be steep and harsh. Having a few bad agents and a few bad policies that seem to be popular only exacerbates this emotionally charged, rejection riddled profession.

And it's Saturday morning and I haven't had breakfast yet. My rambling opinion, FWIW.

Other Lisa said...

@scott - Missing Persons is one of those downfalls of New Wave bands for X's "Los Angeles"...

Do I still get my hug?

(It's okay, I'm not really a hugger)

Scott said...

Fair enough, I like X, too. But "Words" blows anything they did away, in my humble opinion. Maybe they lacked a certain street cred that X had, but that's one tasty tune.

And in the spirit of agreeing to disagree...*hugs her anyway* :)

debmarshall said...

HAH! LOVED that book trailer, thanks for sharing it. Ya. I think I saw myself (and my brother in there), when we were littler-ish (g).

Jenn's post was a great way to start a day of revising, thanks for that, too. Looking forward to her book.

valbrussell said...

Lawyer = smart, NO
Lawyer = crafty. The two are not the same. ;) Agents are brokers. Period. Make them money and you make them happy? Correct? It's all about the money honey and not one thing more. If you can't write, you won't make money, if you can write, you will make money. If you have a flair for self promotion as well as writing talent and are prolific, you will make lots of money. Think Big Mac Meal and not filet mignon and you won't be far off with what sells. Pity really, because there are so many artists out here toiling away at work that is interesting, daring and complex, but they will never see the light of day because the masses are so intellectually stupid. One story that never fails to rub the cat's fur the wrong way involves the publishing history of a little work of art called 'A Confederacy Of Dunces.' Poor John Kennedy Toole.

Nathan Bransford said...


Definitely a great analogy, and I think when you add in a bit of desperation, whether that's induced by a bad financial situation or a family who maybe put up with the amount of time it took to write a novel but wants results, it dials things up to an extreme level. When people start getting desperate they can't bear to blame themselves for their own lack of success, and they find a scapegoat. It's pretty easy to blame agents or the query process and to catalog our shortcomings.

And I understand the view expressed by some here that agentfail was a simple matter of people blowing off steam. And to be sure, maybe some people were.

But my concern is that threads like agentfail validate some authors' sense of aggrievement in an unhealthy way, and they wind up being more extreme in their anger and sense that they've been wronged.

I don't think the belief that agents owe prospective authors should be validated. I just won't agree with it. It's not realistic, it's not productive, and I don't think writers should convince themselves that they deserve it. What happens when 30,000 people are sending me their queries? 50,000? Where will it end? The only people I owe anything to are my clients. Everything else I do because I believe in courtesy and going the extra mile and I'm trying to help people, but I'm not doing it because I owe anyone anything. I'm drawing a line in the sand on that one, for myself and for the perfectly wonderful agents who have no-response policies.

There have been psychological studies that found that when you put people of similar views in a room on a controversial issue, not only are their existing views reinforced, their views tend to become more extreme. And I think you saw that as the thread went on. Things grew gradually more extreme when people got riled up by the angry views that were already expressed.

And I think agents have every right to be unsettled by that. I'm really surprised that people can read those posts and not think there's something unsettling about them or that it represents simple venting. Can you even imagine if an agent went on a ranting, cursing, raving post about how horrible authors are, even anonymously? Imagine. The Internet would probably catch fire and explode with the ensuing outrage.

It doesn't make it right for agents to be out of line and unprofessional and I won't defend them when they are, but I also am surprised people are defending all of the posters in that thread.

Ink said...


I'd agree with that. I hope a lot of them just blew off steam and got back into normal moods afterwards. But I understand the danger. I think the request to post anonymously backfired a bit on that thread. I think Jessica just wanted every one to feel secure so that they could offer honest constructive criticism without worrying. Instead it became a chance to vent anger and go headhunting. Not nice. A bit of the snark on queryfail, to me, was unprofessional, but there was no anger. I mean, I think some of the agents might get tired and annoyed by the repetition of the task... but there was a lot of rage on Agentfail (though a number of constructive and honest comments too). I agree that there's a difference. And I agree that group "vents" are dangerous.

Reminds me of that old prison study. They took college boys as volunteers, and took them to a prison. Some became guards, and some became prisoners, with realistic moments of interaction between them. Within days there were horrible abuses going on and many of the "inmates" were breakind down from the psychological stress. The study was called off. Group behavior is spooky. Being part of a group hugely weakens inhibitions. Someone made a suggestion about having a "What would your ideal agent be like?" day, which I think would be better, because it's framed constructively and postively (even if the content might be similar).

Lol, you'd think as writers and agents we'd be more conscious of language effects. It's why I hate the binary idiocy of the whole internet pass/fail language. Yes/no, black/white... while most of life is lived in the graded areas of greyness in between. Life is a little more subtle and complex than pass/fail. I think that's one of the reasons I like it here, as there are a lot of people willing to wade into the grey areas.

Oh, and you can use the analogy in that future bestseller Everything I Know About Publishing I Learned from Sports. I'm going to pre-order from Amazon, myself.


Elaine 'still writing' Smith said...

While everyone commenting got ever more defensive and protective of you - 'as yeah sow ...'

Irreligious I may be - apt it certainly was!

Surely it must be fun in the sun time?

Bane of Anubis said...

Marie, I get what you're saying, but my focus is on the idea that nobody ever knows the psyche behind the words. People snap and you never know what's gonna push them over the edge. You can see some people breaking from miles away, whereas others you never know until the proverbial too late - as Nathan alluded to, the problem is what I call the cow mentality. When everyone's in a room saying "moo," you want to say "moo" louder and longer than the rest and eventually that cathartic/enraged nonsense can help tip the balance into crazy-land - a place where we never know what's gonna happen.

Some glibness aside (and some added), it's excellent to hear that your stalker went bye-bye (and being a retributive cow that I am, if that's in a dark place filled with worms, it bothers me not).

Bane of Anubis said...

Bryan, I remember that prison study - absolutely awesome how facocked we humans are.

Nathan Bransford said...

Definitely, Bryan -- the Stanford Prison Experiment, in case anyone is interested in reading more. I took a class from the professor who conducted the experiment, and he talked about how he got so wrapped up in the experiment and how exciting it all was he wasn't able to see that it was becoming psychologically damaging to the participants and that he was becoming complicit in the mental abuse that the "guards" were inflicting upon the "prisoners". It took another professor to wake him up to what was happening.

He talked about it as an illustration of how difficult it is to think clearly in a group setting that has its own inertia. The prisoners could have opted out at any time, but for some reason they stayed in as well. It's a really fascinating/horrifying study.

Ink said...

And for anyone who wants to hear him talk about the Stanford Prison Experiment in person, you can check it out here.

Warning: disturbing and graphic photos from Abu Ghraib.

Interesting stuff, though.


Jen C said...

When everyone's in a room saying "moo," you want to say "moo" louder and longer than the rest and eventually that cathartic/enraged nonsense can help tip the balance into crazy-land - a place where we never know what's gonna happen.

I'm the type of person who, when everyone is saying moooo, will roll my eyes and say baaaa just to be different.

But Nathan and Bryan, I think you've really hit the nail on the head with the psychology behind where #agentfail ended up.

Chris Bates said...

Nathan said: People can get mad, or they can get working.

And there it is...

Look, I gotta tell ya all this failure stuff is wreaking havoc on my ability to sit down and work.

I have the biggest love/hate relationship with the internet ... and this site of yours, Bransford.

I have no idea why I'm even here - hell, I'm not even looking for an agent!

Time to log out and ... "get working."

camelama said...

Apropos of nothing, I just have to say ... my "ha ha ha AS IF" pick of Michigan State in the final two ... is jaw-droppingly coming true. ZOMG. Who lit a fire under the Spartans?!

Jan said...

I firmly believe that agents owe nothing to people who submit queries or unsolicited materials. I don't *like* the "no answer means no" thing but that's just because I don't like it, not because I think writers are owed better.

However, I think as soon as the agent steps up and begins a relationship (any kind of relationship) the agent does "owe" something to professionalism.

I don't think the agent owes a detailed response or even a personal response to requested material (again, it would be nice, but not owed), but I do think the agent "owes" an actual notice of severing of the very minor interaction he began...he owes a rejection. Form is fine, rejection is rejection, it all means "no" and means it quite clearly.

And I believe these is a steady increase in what is "owed" to professionalism as the agent asks more and more of the relationship (minor though it is). If the agent actually asked for revisions (for example) then a short but personal note (not details, just a "thanks for trying this but it still isn't working for me and I don't want you to invest more time into something where I'm probably not the right match for you." would meet what is "owed" by professionalism.

What a writer ideally wants is going to tend to be pie in the sky, but I do think that to be a courteous professional, some things are required just by that standard. Once you start something, you should finish it...and finish it to at an ever-increasing level of courtesy depending upon what you asked for.

Agents don't start the flood of unsolicited (except perhaps by merit of not slamming the door shut...but calling that an obligation on the agent is just unfair). But if the agent steps up to purposefully continue the relationship to further steps by the author, I do think professionalism does require certain things of the agent, IF the agent wants to (1) consider himself/herself a professional and (2) if the agent wants snarking rights when writers act like jerks who totally ignore professionalism in their own behaviors.

Of course, no one owes me agreement on these points, but naturally, I think I'm right...sadly, I mostly always do.

Anonymous said...


I don't have time to read ALL of the posts here. I don't know if my saying this will make anything better. There are writers out there that get it.

I've been writing for seven years. I'm not published. I don't have an agent. I write because I love it. It's exciting and fun. It's a thrill to send my work out there and see what people have to say.

One really awesome author gave me the best advice once, and I will never forget it.

If it's not fun, why write? Sure it's a lot of work, a lot of "mystery" for some... but If I had the level of angst that some have on agentfail and also here...

I wouldn't have these manuscripts (2 that were really crappy ( I am not just saying that for pity... I'm talking x-men meets lord of the rings and the characters top it off with a regency era ball crappy haha)... but with awesome advice and feedback from an agent and editors... I learned how to write something better...)

So, I am a little confused at the anger. It would really take the fun out of it for me, and I'd have to stop writing.

Find the fun! Write something better! ... Forget about it, and don't let it stop you :). And annon or not, don't give into bad attitudes that could effect your creativity. And thank your agents and editors, they are the ones who will someday-- if you don't give up-- push you to create your best story.

The only one stopping you is you, and move on, find something else... or write something better.

~from Annon the writer of the space regency with demons ;)....

Mira said...

You know a good way to get some of the anger off the agents right now?

Let's do publisherfail. Boy, you think you saw anger last week.

That would be so much fun. (I'm a writer. I LOVE drama.)

I also want to say calming down is good. Having productive discussions is also good. Sure once people get going all anger about everything in the world can get directed at one source. Mob/group 'think' is real - and it also happened on queryfail (imho)- but there really is one inescapable fact here.

Many writers are very, very upset with agents and have had some really, really bad experiences.

This is not a good thing. An industry as a whole that is ignoring the importance of developing good will with their suppliers (because that's what writers are) is extraordinarily short sighted.

Group think can also convince people that they aren't doing anything wrong, people were just upset, out of control, whatever label you want to give it.

You don't get that degree of anger without something real at the bottom.

Don't believe me? Do Tulipfail. ChocolateChipCookiefail. WhenWillSpringComefail.

See how much angst you get then.

Mira said...

well, maybe not Tulipfail.

I'm pretty miffed at those tulips.

Nathan Bransford said...


I agree with you there. When agents request material they should respond. I was a little appalled though, at the number of people in that thread who never bothered to follow-up with an agent. We're dealing with a loooot of manuscripts. Mistakes happen. Sometimes I'll e-mail people and it goes into someone's spam filter or they just don't get it. It's the author's responsibility to follow up.

If they follow up and the agent still doesn't ever write back: bad agent. But if the author never even follows up: bad author.

Marilyn Peake said...

Nathan said,
"...the Stanford Prison Experiment, in case anyone is interested in reading more. I took a class from the professor who conducted the experiment,"

Wow, that is so cool that you took a class from that professor. When I was in graduate school, earning my Masters degree in Clinical Psychology, that was one of the experiments that made the biggest impression on me.

Experiments like that one plus the experiments that I conducted for my own Masters thesis made a huge impact one me, in terms of demonstrating how irrationally information can be interpreted and how much mob mentality can influence behavior. My Masters thesis is a 115-page paper entitled An Attributional Analysis of Social Tolerance for Institutionalized Uses of Torture. My thesis advisor and I later presented the results at a Conference of the Eastern Psychological Association. The experiments involved writing newspaper articles in which I varied tiny, insignificant bits of information about fictional victims of torture and then asked each subject to read one version of the newspaper article and answer questions about the victim's situation, including whether or not they thought the victim was guilty. The results were startling: insignificant types of information influence major conclusions about a person's guilt or innocence and whether or not they deserve to be tortured. If you'd ever be interested in reading the thesis, Nathan, I'd be happy to send you a copy. The results of that experiment plus reading about the Stanford Prison Experiment and other experiments taught me to always step back, look at how much evidence is really available, and not to jump to conclusions based on limited information or mob mentality.

Jan said...


I agree with that, writers need to follow up, but some folks I've met have an almost pathological fear of "bothering" agents with follow-ups, especially in light of the long response times some agents actually do have.

Author phobias aren't the agent's responsiblity, of course, but do you have a suggestion as to any sort of universal non-pestersome follow up period? I'm not actually looking for an agent as the work I do doesn't need one, but I do get asked a lot by writers so if you want to venture a good "follow-up rule of thumb" -- I'll adopt it and pretend it's my advice :)

Jan said...

Oh, that whole spam filter thing reminds me. I'm in a position where I respond to manuscript submissions for a couple different venues, one of which is a paying market. It drives me crazy when I respond to an email sent by an author and I get a notice that the author will NOT get my email because I'm not on an approved list...and then gives me the hoops I can go through to be on the list. That is blindingly rude, in my opinion. If you want me to buy and pay for an article, don't ask me to play games with your spam guards.

Every time I run into one of those, I wonder how many times that author will just never hear back on a submission. There are worse things in the world than spam...and spam filters just might be one of them.

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