Okay. I know we usually keep things light and fun here at the League, mainly because none of us are really capable of rational thought. But I have to say something, because for some reason in the last week or so I've seen a bunch of issues regarding this in various places online. So forgive me if I'm simply preaching to the choir.
So here it is. Anybody can call themselves an agent. That doesn't mean they can actually be agents.
The thing is, most of us are pretty good people. So we assume others are good people too. And they probably are. But being a good person doesn't make an effective agent. Deciding to be an agent doesn't make you an agent. Setting up a website for your agency doesn't make you an agent.
Think of it this way. Being an agent is like being a tight-rope walker. You don't just wake up one morning, roll out of bed, head for the nearest circus (yeah, I know, stay with me here), climb the ladder, and run nimbly over the rope.
You need a lot of training. You need a lot of help. You need experience, you need to know other tight-rope walkers, you need to know people who run circuses (yes, the analogy loses cohesion here, but the basic point still works.)
And too many times in the last week or so I've seen writers at a loss because they can't get in touch with their agents, or it's been a year and their work hasn't sold and their agent doesn't know what to do next, or their agent expected an offer and it didn't come in and the agent doesn't know what to do now, or whatever.
So I ask them, have you contacted any of the agent's other clients? Well, they don't know who those people are, or how to find them, because their agent isn't on Agentquery or LitMatch or any of those other sites. And my mouth falls open.
I've never spoken to any of my agent's other clients. But you bet I know who they are--maybe not every one of them, but most of them. They have books in stores. They have websites and blogs. If I had a problem, or hell, even if I just wanted to say hi, you bet I could get in touch with one of them in less than ten minutes.
All agents are NOT the same. Why are you querying someone if you don't know anything about them?
I am not one of those writers who thinks of their work as their "baby". At all. But my work is damn fucking important to me, and I would never just hand it to some total stranger about whom I know nothing just because that person calls themselves an agent, any more than I would hand my children to any stranger off the street who calls themselves a babysitter. Hell, no.
I understand how frustrating the agent hunt is. I understand how frustrating this whole business is. It's big and confusing and it hurts sometimes. But that doesn't mean--that's no excuse--for just grabbing at any amateur straw with the word "agent" written on a business card.
An agent should have connections in the industry. An agent should have clients and sales you can verify. An agent should keep you informed.
Seriously, guys, this is a big deal. This is extremely important. Put some thought into it, put some time into research. Don't settle. Please.
Sorry this isn't a fun post. I'm just not feeling very fun right now. I promise I'll be fun again next week.