Agents’ Directory – A Good Idea?

Should we maintain our own literary agent's directory?

  • Yes

    Votes: 17 100.0%
  • No

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    17
  • Poll closed .
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AgentPete

Capo Famiglia
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May 19, 2014
Location
London UK
I’ve had an idea for quite a while that we might consider keeping a directory of literary agents here – both US and UK. I know there are a number of lists on the net, but to my mind they are mostly inaccurate, out of date or misleading.

I’d appreciate your views on this.

Key point: obviously, everyone would like access to a comprehensive list of agents. What I’m suggesting is a bit more than this, because it would involve members in actively maintaining it, both in terms of keeping it up to date and also reporting their experiences. In other words, it would involve some work!
 
Interesting idea. A good idea. My only worry would be if someone posts a bad experience (even with good reason) and an agent saw it and got upset about it. Slander, libel (or whatever it's called) and all that. I have no clue where that would leave the Colony. Maybe someone here has some 'legal' experience. Or am I seeing a problem where there isn't one?
 
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One more thought:

How fluid is the life in an agency? Do agents come and go at a speedy rate? It might mean the list is out of date just as quickly as on other directories. Maybe it would need a 'last updated on the *insert date*' kind of thing for each. That way we could see how new the info is.

OK, two thoughts:

How would it compare to the yearly 'Writer's & Artists' directory? Is there some angle that would differenciate? The experience bit, presumably?

I like the idea though, especially the 'reporting experiences' part (despite my above comment which was meant to eliminate pitfalls), which helps authors get a feel for an agent. (I already have my own little black list.) Some authors might prefer being left to their own devices, while other might seek more career involvement from an agent. This kind of thing would help us writers find the perfect match.
 
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I like the idea too, and I think the differential here between this and the 'Writers' and Artists' Directory is precisely the personal comments/experiences from other Litopians - we're all members of the same community, having engaged in conversations/feedback with each other regarding writing, and so I feel would generally be trustworthy regarding experiences/opinions of agents. I for one would much rather hear some feedback on an agent from Litopians (who however distant one has a relationship with) rather than the opinion (or non-opinion) of someone I don't know, have never met etc.

I very much feel with agents that one is often just shooting things off into the abyss and this sort of thing might help in shedding a little light on the darkness (although obviously I'm not referring to @AgentPete as an abyss - quite the opposite in fact!)
 
Yes, great idea. I think it would also be a starting point for conversation rather than list like A&W, and might maintain its currentness if it's being updated.
 
One more thought:

How fluid is the life in an agency? Do agents come and go at a speedy rate? It might mean the list is out of date just as quickly as on other directories. Maybe it would need a 'last updated on the *insert date*' kind of thing for each. That way we could see how new the info is.

Generally, there is some turnover, yes. More among the younger agents than older, who tend to have "golden handcuffs".


How would it compare to the yearly 'Writer's & Artists' directory? Is there some angle that would differenciate? The experience bit, presumably?

W&A is really just an address list, nothing more. They send a mailing out to agencies each year for updates - frankly, I don't always get round to it. What you see there is what the agency wants you to see, nothing more. EG in larger agencies, it would be useful to have more depth, specific agents, interest and clients.
 
A directory listing information under what headings?
Quantitative or qualitative information?
 
I think it's a good idea, @AgentPete, but would like to suggest, as you indicated, that there be clear guidelines. I wouldn't like to see it become a place to air grievances about particular agents. Rather, it would be helpful to have it become an informational list that members update. Particular about submitting, response time (if any), things like that. :)
 
Ever since joining the Colony, I've never been sure of how private what we write on the forum really is. In theory, The Back Room is restricted to signed up members, but anyone can create an account. I sound paranoid, but if we're going to be sounding off about the failings of literary agencies (of which I've been highly critical), then surely we're running the risk of being rejected as a potential client. @AgentPete saying "The directory wouldn't be viewable publicly" sounds reassuring, but with agents checking the online presence of unpublished writers, I can't help thinking that they'll be sneaking a peek at the Colony. One literary agent, who actually responded to my query, specifically asked for my blog address, Facebook page and contributions to writing forums. I didn't hear back from him! Was he put off by my minimal social media presence or by my mouthiness on the Colony?

@Katie-EllenHazeldine raises a good point over headings. How would they be organised to give consistency of reporting? Time to Respond, Who Responded, Reason given for Rejection could be some categories. I have a feeling that "No Response" would be a frequent entry, for of 500 queries I've made in the last four years 285 weren't answered in any way, not even with a form letter. Also, there could be a category for Who Responded? I've received rejections signed by someone whose name didn't appear anywhere on the agency website, making me think they were unpaid interns.

I love the idea of having a maintained directory of literary agents on the Colony, for as a profession they're as mysterious in their workings as Freemasons! As an example of this, I've queried one agent three times, at three different agencies. Does this mean he's ambitious or just not very good at his job? Annoyingly, he looks like an ideal match for my Cornish Detective series. Such is life....:confused:
 
I think it's a good idea. But I wouldn't put a person's personal experience up. Both sides are human and make mistakes so maybe one person's experience shouldn't be the defining behaviour of one agent for the rest of their career (even the writers).

To keep a directory neutral only facts should be kept. So in addition to agents list with their links/details, a members nametag can be checked by that agent to show who's submitted and maybe when.

For any of us who want to find out more info we can approach them privately or leave a public message that we'd like info on an experience with that agent and leave it to members to take it privately in their own time from there.

This makes it personal to this forum and allows us to access fellow writers with that experience if we so choose.

My tuppence.
 
I think this is an excellent idea. Quite often agents tweet or post about something they’re looking for or keen to see more of and by having it Litopia maintained we will be able to capture some of this :-)
 
I agree its a great idea. I like the idea of flux; new ones arriving, people re-opening their lists. A brilliant way to keep up to date and ensure submissions are relevant
 
What would be its aims, function description, target audience & visibility.

1 - To help members locate an appropriate agent / construct a hit list of agents. One of the big problems seems to be narrowing in on agents who would be suitable for you / your material. Most authors use a random scattershot approach at the moment.

2 - Hmm, not sure, suggestions welcome.

3 - Just Litopians.

4 - Just Litopians.

Less interested in “reviewing” agents (I have my own views about who is good and who is not so hot. But others’ views might be quite the opposite.)

Probably searchable by tag, e.g. YA / Christian / Scripts, etc.
 
I'll save myself like £20 or £25, seeing as I buy the WRITERS AND ARTISTS BOOK every year.

Also I think it is a great idea to share both our positive and negative experiences too regarding submitting.
 
From the admittedly limited experience I have with researching agents, the biggest problems I've encountered are out-of-date information, generic descriptions of what they are looking for (e.g. fantasy—but there's more than one kind/style of fantasy), and what authors they've worked with/track record (which can also indicate their preferences). Finding this information often has me scrounging (*ahem* stalking) through websites, social media and book acknowledgement for hours.

Something that actively compiles what agents are looking for right now (i.e. something akin to their Manuscript Wish List), and their representation history would be very useful.
 
@Nmlee fab idea a produced or up to date Agent wish list would be great. As I find it’s often a grey area regarding submitting. Agents like readers must have a favourite genre even they were kids once and also it would help us writers to know if Agents just go for trends, the latest book market or for pure classic storytelling etc.
 
Twitter has all sorts the matter with it but it can be helpful for agent news. The Bookseller tweets and so do major publishers and it builds up to a live snapshot. Agents share there if they are open for subs, and what they're looking for. It's not as good as a directory...you have to search, catch stuff on the fly or else search the agents who use it, but pending a directory, it's current and free.
 
From the admittedly limited experience I have with researching agents, the biggest problems I've encountered are out-of-date information, generic descriptions of what they are looking for (e.g. fantasy—but there's more than one kind/style of fantasy), and what authors they've worked with/track record (which can also indicate their preferences). Finding this information often has me scrounging (*ahem* stalking) through websites, social media and book acknowledgement for hours.

Something that actively compiles what agents are looking for right now (i.e. something akin to their Manuscript Wish List), and their representation history would be very useful.

you mean something like this? -- The Official Manuscript Wish List & #MSWL ® Website

Sounds like a great idea. One more reason to stick around Litopia.
 
Great idea. I agree we must be careful of personal views of agents or publishers. This is so subjective. One acquaintance claimed she was given the runaround by a well-known agent and the (excellent) publisher that agent had found for her. It didn't take much listening to realise the writer was the one with the ego problem (three of us reached the same conclusion). No wonder they dropped her. That said, anything that shines an up-to-date light on agents' track records, what they're currently looking for – and even when/if they bother replying to submissions – would be a fantastic resource.
 
I love this idea! I'm using Jericho Writers at the moment (what used to be AgentHunter) but some of the information is out of date and some links are broken. As I write children's picture books, it's not too hard for me to filter, as the total search result was only 156, and I'll be weeding out around a third of them. But if I were writing adult fiction for example, the list quality would be much more of a problem. So I agree with AgentPete that it would need work to keep it up to date if it's going to be really useful.
 
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