Here at Books & such Literary Management, we work hard to stay positive and non-judgmental in our interactions with potential clients but there are a few things that annoy us no end. Let me enumerate three for you.
Contacting an agent before you’ve done your due diligence
This is a perfect example of how to annoy an agent. You are asking this person to join your team, to help you shape your career for a lifetime. So why do we get questions like, “What would you like to see?” Our website has all the information you need to know about what steps to take in contacting us and what we specifically need to see at each point of contact. If you ask a question that is clearly spelled out on an agent’s website (and we all have websites) it makes us think you are just taking a scattershot approach to seeking representation. We definitely notice when someone contacts us via query or at a conference and has researched us and knows our preferred approach. And every agency has different preferences depending on their tracking system.
Contacting an agent for the first time about representation through social media
Let me repeat this easy formula: our website has all the information about how to contact the agent. If it is a query, it goes to a special email address. If you’d prefer to meet an agent in person first, our travel schedule of conferences is updated regularly and listed on our website. Sending a message through Facebook only makes an agent sigh. We have no system in place to capture these queries and work on them in a chronological sequence. We simply have to ignore these. Some of us do not regularly check Facebook messages. It’s a guaranteed fail.
Instagram is even worse. Each day I get more notifications that a user wishes to “send a message” than I could possibly even read or answer. I never allow someone I don’t know to send a message. (I know. . . I might be missing a great marriage proposal.) And, of course, we all know you don’t just pick up the phone and call seeking representation. Or worse, have your administrative assistant call. Our office time during the day is usually blocked out and phone meetings set up in advance.
Contacting an agent directly through the agent’s email (as opposed to the agency representation email) unless invited
You might ask, how does one get invited? If we’ve met you in person and heard your query, then asked to see your proposal, that is an invitation. We’ve probably given you a card and asked to see more. Or if we’ve read your query and asked to see a proposal, that is also an invitation. I regularly get the strangest queries, usually from a writer who has no idea what kind of books I represent. It’s as if they’ve dug and dug to come up with an email address and treat it like a secret code to win the prize. I got a query just last week to an email address that is twenty-five years old. (Not AOL, but close.) I still monitor that address but how in the world. . .?
If you are cringing because you have made one of these agent etiquette faux pas, let me reassure you, I don’t make notes or will ever recall your name or even your query. I don’t think any of us do. We offer the same grace to you as you offer us as fallible agents. I know we annoy you as well, but in order to coach you in best practices for success, I thought it important to mention the ways that don’t work.