Monday, 14 April 2008

Literary agents' websites

I've been trawling through the lists of agents in Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, crossing off all those who do not look at fantasy or consider Young Adult fiction. Then I went to look up the websites of agents on my shortlist.

But quite a few did not have a website. How is this possible in 2008? To make a relevant submission, and to find the right person to send it to, one really needs to know more than the brief facts listed in W & A Y. I do not wish to waste their time or mine.

When I looked at the websites of those agents who did have them, on the whole they were not inspiring. If I was a published author, I would want my agent to have an exciting website, where there would be a section on me, showing pictures of my book covers, with a link to where you could buy the book, plus a link to my website. Hardly any of the agents I looked at had this.

As unpublished authors, we are told we need to be extremely professional for our work to be considered at all by a literary agent. I am happy to do this. But is it such a buyers' market that the agents don't need to bother to be the best they can be?
Final thought: maybe, right now, the next soon-to-be-hugely-successful author is comparing agents' websites, deciding who to send three chapters to...


  1. What I have found over here is that some of the agents/agencies have very much gotten into the whole website thing. As a matter of fact, at least a couple I have checked out are so tricked out that they take way too long to even get to the home page and could use some scaling back.

    But it is also true that some of the most sought after agents haven't converted and my guess is they may never feel the need. They get clients through referral, through writers' workshops, through reading literary magazines and probably oftener than we might suspect, just from acquiring top notch writers who for one reason or other are not satisfied with their current representation.

    In the relatively closed world of publishing, these high-powered--and often very small office--agents don't necessarily need the exposure of the web and couldn't handle it properly anyway without sacrificing their duties to their clients. When I scan the lists of agents on the Preditors and Editors website I see a lot of names that I know are movers and shakers with a great stable of writers and they do not have weblinks. You want to get in touch with them, you are obliged to do your research, see who they represent, what sales they have made lately, what their mailing address is, and accept that they still do business the 20th century way. Then, if you're lucky, you'll get a nice, handwritten rejection complimenting your proposal but begging off due to workload constraints.

    One of my most prized rejections (only a fellow writer such as yourself would understand the logic behind that) came from Philip G. Spitzer, one of those very successful agents who, at least at the time of my submission, had a one-man office. This is what he typed:

    Dear Mr. Hutcheson,

    I can't take on any new projects at the moment, as I'm a one-man office and months behind in my work. thank though, for having thought of me.
    I am sorry (he actually double underlined "sorry") not to be of help.

    Best wishes,

    (insert actual signature in blue pen here)
    Philip G. Spitzer

  2. I'm with you on the over-elaborate sites; one's patience on the internet is measured in seconds.

    But it's the contrast between all the hoops we, as unpublished writers, are told we need to jump through, and the minimal effort evidenced by the websites I looked at that struck me.

    And I remain convinced that an agent should promote clients' books wherever he/she can. I've read with interest the details of books on agents' websites, and been tempted to buy.

    Nice rejection from Mr Spitzer. A friendly rejection warms the heart. Though it's not, of course, as welcome as a request for the full manuscript...

  3. Just keep trying. You'll find the right agent. My publisher, Kunati Books, accepts unagented submissions-- check them out!

    Best Wishes-
    Beth Fehlbaum, author
    Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse
    Chapter One is online!

  4. Beth, I love the creature that pops up on the Kunati site when you move the mouse to Fantasy.

    Best of luck with your book.

  5. I met the author of "Rabid", which is published by Kunati. She was doing the "sitting at a table just inside the front entrance of Borders" thing one day I walked in. We chatted, I bought her book (which one would never have associated with such a sweet and charming young lady, so good for her!).

    Best of luck with your book, Beth.

    I have sent material to Kunati and never received a reply, positive or negative. I imagine they don't do rejections, just toss the ones they don't want. They're not the only ones. Oh well.


  6. Some good agent blogs are:

    Good info to help writers do their homework before submitting.

  7. Thanks, Norm. Queryshark made me laugh (#40 especially) but the query letter n'existe pas over here, thank goodness. You just have to write a letter that has no typos, and does not make you sound insane.

    Many struggle with even these simple requirements, I believe.

    There, now I'm being horrid.