Earlier this week I read an enlightening post at Jennifer Represents, the blog of literary agent Jennifer Laughran. In this particular entry, Jennifer posts a great mock conversation with her and an agent agent (which I won’t reproduce her but I urge you to click the above link to read the entry), as well as the following, which I’ve included here to explain what an agent agent is:

Much more often — every couple of weeks at least — I get the same basic thing but in email form:


Hi Agent, I’m Random McNoname, and I’m writing to reffer [sic] my client Author Sapsucker to you. Sapsucker has a pHd in Neurocathology [sic] and 78 followers on twitter so he’s the real deal. The manuscript is attached, I look forward to hearing from you by next week.

If you’re not quite following, this is the gist: Jennifer is an agent. Authors need agents to send their manuscripts to publishing companies that won’t deal with unsolicited submissions. Agents are easy to get hold of – they have to be, because their livelihood depends entirely on having authors to represent. Somewhere along the line, deceitful cunning people have created a new job, that of the agent agent – an agent that an author pays to find them an agent for their book. As if getting published wasn’t hard enough…

Jennifer further explains:

These are what I call “agent-agents” or third-party queriers. They convince authors that their “services” are necessary to query (aka spam) literary agents*. Authors who are totally new and/or desperate will take the bait and pay, in the hopes that it will give them a leg up on the competition. 

But it won’t give a leg up on the competition, all it will do is frustrate or anger the agent, cost the author a lot of money, and all but guarantee their work is rejected on the basis that the agent agent is causing problems. The agent agent works on the premise of ‘if you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will stick’ i.e. hit up enough agents and one may show interest. As such, they don’t take the time to research each individual agent and find out what books or categories they represent; after all, a rejection doesn’t matter to them, it matters to the author, so they need no qualms about accuracy. Spamming an agent is the quickest way I can think of to alienate an agent – and the very last thing any author wants to do is alienate agents. If they remember the title of the author or the book, that can haunt the writer if they approach the agent directly after ditching the agent agent – we all make mistakes and act in ignorance, but agents can afford to be picky about who they represent and who is going to want to recommend someone who doesn’t do basic research into the appropriate steps to take?

Remember, budding authors, agents represent authors. By virtue of that fact, they need to hear from you, get to know you, and communicate with you and you alone. Querying is a step that authors need to take for themselves, and authors are already being represented – by their books.

Querying can be time consuming and tedious, but it isn’t hard. It’s made much easier by agents, because they post visibly on their websites how to approach them and clear instructions on what to include with a query. Paying someone else to do that for you isn’t just expensive, it’s alienating.