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Everyone Who's Anyone
Gerard Jones is a bit of a nutjob, in my opinion, but an admirable nutjob nonetheless. Adnirable enough that I even sent money to support his massive, incredible website.
To give the site its full name, Everyone Who's Anyone In Adult Trade Publishing, Newspapers, Magazines, Broadcasting, and Tinseltown, Too is an astonishing effort that covers the US, Canada, and the UK. It lists the contact information for--well, almost everyone. In many cases, it also prints out Gerard's correspondence with the agents/publishers/editors/whatevers while he tries to get his novels published. (Since he doesn't own the agents' side of the exchanges, over the years he has been forced to expunge much of the material, thereby eliminating much of the fun.) If you need Binky Urban's e-mail address, look here.
The site isn't organized the way you'd like it. Tough. Jones is an uncompromising sort of guy, and you can take it or leave it. I'd take it. It's useful and it's free. But I wouldn't recommend Mr. Jones' approach to dealing with agents.
For folks in the US, I'd say that overall this site has become the first place on the web to look for agents who are accepting clients. AgentQuery has a clean format, a nice, searchable database, and a number of little extras in the forms of articles. It gives concise details on both agencies and the agents inside them, and gives good background on who is looking for what. In the US, it has expanded rapidly until it has pretty much overtaken Everyone Who's Anyone in coverage. It isn't complete, or one hundred percent reliable, but neither is anything else when it comes to agents.
Preditors and Editors
Dave Kuzminski's long-running site is dedicated to sorting out the real folks from the hoaxers. The entries are short, but cover an amazing number of agents, publishers, etc. The details note only the contact info and whether or not the person/business is legitimate. Those who engage in shady practices receive a *NOT RECOMMENDED* rating (sometimes with an explanation). In the case of agents, there is also a "$" mark denoting whether or not the agency has made verified sales.
The coverage is intended to be global, but is slanted toward the US. But, then, we have the greatest number of scammers. P&E is a great site.
Agent Research & Evaluation
AR&E is a unique service. It tracks the details of sales made by agents (and by agencies as a whole), and then sells them as profile information. But it costs you--as little as $25 for the goods on an agent with a limited history, and more for the big sellers.
How do they get this information? The same way anyone else would--by scanning the press (especially Publisher's Weekly), and asking around. So why should you pay for what is essentially public information? Well, you don't have to. But most of us haven't been tracking all the reported sales in the industry for years and years. If you are ever in the position of choosing between offers of representation from two agents, you might find it worthwhile to shell out the cash.
AR&E also has one service that is free--their "Agent Verification" service . If you log in there, you can type in the name of an agent, and they will tell you to the best of their knowledge if the agent is legitimate. In other words, if the agent has made sales AR&E has recorded, and has no known history of disreputable conduct, they will tell you the agent is legitimate. However, they have much better data on sales history than on disreputable conduct, so they will sometimes give you a 'legitimate' reading on someone who has made sales but is also a known scammer.
AbsoluteWrite.com is an amazingly active forum/bulletin board. A number of established writers post there on an ongoing basis, and even act as moderators. (The composition of authors seems more than a bit biased toward the Science Fiction and Fantasy crowd, but there's nothing inherently wrong with that.) There are lively (sometimes overaggressive) discussions on every aspect of writing. And, unlike many websites, AbsoluteWrite is useful to folks on both sides of the Atlantic (and elsewhere).
The most useful aspect of the fora from our perspective here is the Bewares and Background Checks Forum. The massive Index steers the user toward threads on every agent, agency, publisher, or editing service that has ever been examined by this hypervigilant community.
A problem I have with AbsoluteWrite, however, is that many of their most active members have 'scam' on the brain. Anything that deviates from standard large-house New-York practice will be jumped on, condemned, and dismissed. There are even a few published writers who loudly and pompously insist on the tautology that everything publishable gets published, and that the existing publishing system works with Panglossian efficiency.
With that lengthy caveat in mind, AbsoluteWrite can be an invaluable resource. Their backlog of info on agents is massive (though some of the threads say very little of substance), and many of the questions tossed around in the various discussion groups are entertaining. In addition, if you join, you can ask questions about agents, and someone is bound to reply--even if only to let you know that no one knows more than you do already.
Plenty of agents (and even some editors) have started their own blogs, anonymously or otherwise. These tend to come and go; most agents are busy folks, are drowning in words already, and lack the stamina to stay in the blogosphere for long.
There is one who breaks all the rules, one who is always there, and the only one who is a must read--the inimitable Miss Snark. She is funny, smart, to-the-point, and, over time, damned helpful. (She is also far more of a pussycat than her monicker would suggest.)
Miss Snark is the one whose mantra is "Good writing trumps all." She's a writer's dream. All she really asks is that you write well and tell a great story...and not act like a complete ass in the meantime. All the heterosexual male writers I know are in love with her, and several of the heterosexual female writers I know have considered switching their orientation, but unfortunately La Snarkalita's heart belongs to George Clooney. (Even though From Dusk Until Dawn is the classic case of aliens arriving at the farm in Chapter 14. If you had read her blog regularly, you'd understand what I mean by that.)
Most agents aren't anywhere near as sensible as Miss Snark, and she seems rather sweetly unaware of this fact, despite her snarky posturing. It must be an act. She seldom knocks other agents; she won't assert that an agent is a moron (and an active opponent of the nature of literature) for reading query letters only, without any sample pages. This has to be a strategic position; she knows damn well those agents are idiots.
If all editors were Maxwell Perkins, and all agents were Miss Snark, the life of a halfway decent writer would be a beautiful thing.
(Breaking news: As Eliza suggests in the Comments trail below, then confirmed by the comment from the Howes, Miss Snark just retired from the business. A sad day indeed. The good news, however, is that the blog, and it's massive archives, will stay in place for the forseeable future. So, you can't ask questions any more, but almost any reasonable question has been asked before--so I'm still recommending her site as a major resource.)
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