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jennontheisland
10-15-2008, 06:40 PM
So I was chatting with someone yesterday and she was talking about asking other writers for referrals to their agents.

To me, this seems a little presumptive.

But she insisted she was only planning on asking other writers with whom she was very familiar/friendly, who had come up through the ranks with her (none had agents when she started communicating with them), and who she knew liked her work. I still think it would put the other person in a bit of an awkward position.

Me, I think I would always wonder if I could have gotten the agent on my own. And I'm not sure I'd want to live with that question hanging over me.

So, is this kind of thing common practice? Has anyone ever asked you? Have you asked?

Momento Mori
10-15-2008, 07:04 PM
I know a couple of writers with agents and publishing deals and have known them since way before they got to that stage (in fact, I took a look at the draft of one person's novel, which subsequently got them a deal). Obviously, I hate them all.

Even though I show them my stuff from time to time and they're enthusiastic, I'd never presume to ask them for a referral precisely because it would put them in an awkward position, especially if they don't have that kind of relationship with their agent. I might ask them for advice on a query letter or synopsis on the basis that they've already gone through that process, but asking for an outright referral crosses the line.

Saying that, if they offered to put your friend in touch with their agent (and it's a genuine offer that hasn't come from any hints on your friend's part), that's something to take up. But the offer has to come from them and it has to be entirely voluntary. Otherwise, your friend is jeopardising her relationship with those writers.

MM

drachin8
10-15-2008, 07:16 PM
Yeah, I am in agreement with Momento. Asking for a referral is crossing a very thin line. On one level, it seems similar to hand-passing in a resume for a friend to a company you work for, but it carries an air of approval which hand-passing in a resume doesn't necessarily carry. And it doesn't seem right to put an onus of approval on a friend. Sort of a friendship strainer, if you ask me.


:)

-Michelle

Bufty
10-15-2008, 07:21 PM
One is fortunate indeed - and it is extremely encouraging - to be offered an unrequested referral but even then the offer is accepted with trepidation for fear it may reflect upon the offerer should things not turn out favourably.

I think it takes a certain amount of brass neck to request such an introduction and I doubt it is regarded by any established authors as an accepted practice. Not being Agented I can only guess, but I imagine unsolicited requests for introductions are viewed as an accepted hazard to be either ignored or tactfully deflected.

Toothpaste
10-15-2008, 07:33 PM
If an author is referred to an agent, I don't think that author should worry about if they "made it on their own" or not. Just because they have the referral does not mean the agent will automatically like the book. The book has to be something the agent wants to represent, an agent will not risk his/her reputation despite their author's support. Asking for a referral may be gutsy, but sometimes it's worth giving it a shot.

That said, I would recommend asking for a referral only if you know the person very well, truly believe that person likes you work etc. I was sent an email the other day by someone I had met once very casually asking me if I would read their work and if I liked it recommend it to my agent/publisher. Now you have to admire the tenacity, but it did make me feel like our conversation the night before had only been so that she could send me that email. That she was not at all interested in what we had been discussing and really just wanted to use me. It did not sit well. I replied as politely as I could, explaining that I just didn't have the time to read anything and gave her the submission guidelines for my publisher. Haven't heard back from her, not even a thank you.

Not a nice feeling at all.

jennontheisland
10-15-2008, 08:14 PM
Oh Toothpaste, that's horrible. I'm sorry that happened to you.

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who thinks this kind of thing is a bit tacky. The impression I got from her was that it's common practice.

That said, I guess I shouldn't pass up the offer if someone mekes one. ;)

Toothpaste
10-15-2008, 08:27 PM
I do think that asking help of anyone is a very delicate matter, but often authors, being shy introverted creatures, are less likely to ask even if the situation is appropriate. There are times we do have to just bite the bullet and try something, even if we might fall flat on our faces. For that reason I also was pretty willing to give the woman who asked me for help the benefit of the doubt, it took guts after all. Her lack of response however has confirmed my suspicions.

At any rate, as ever, I always recommend thoughtfulness. And like I said, I would also recommend taking any help that is offered you. In the end, an agent will only rep you if they like your work, a publisher will only publish you if they like your work and readers will only buy your book if they like your work. One recommendation cannot undo all that. You can still have pride in your work even if you had some help along the way.

SWickham
10-15-2008, 08:36 PM
Very interesting!! I have heard of authors getting their agents because someone they knew offered to introduce them to their own agent...it's about building relationships and like you said, bottom line is the actual work.

mrockwell
10-15-2008, 08:37 PM
I think a better way to do it would be to ask author friends for agent recommendations. That way, if they feel comfortable referring you, they can say, "Oh, my agent is great -- let me put you in touch with her" or, if not, they can hedge a bit and say, "Oh, my agent is great, but I thinks she's pretty full up in that genre right now -- have you looked at so-and-so?"

-- Marcy

Irysangel
10-15-2008, 08:45 PM
Referrals are hard! I've been asked for referrals and have had referrals given to me in the past.

My second agent was a direct referral from a very close friend of mine (who is also an author). When I left my first agent, she said "Here is my agent. She is terrific." The agent was a little busy but took me on because my friend said glorious things about me and she liked my writing.

Fast forward a few months and my friend has an ugly parting with the agent. Bad things were said and my name was thrown in the mix because of my association, and so when I left agent #2 a few weeks later, it was no surprise to either one of us.

So. If you are referring your friends, please make sure your relationship with your agent is also rock-solid. It will make things awkward for the referral if you leave, even though it should not.

Also? If your friend refers you and then you act like a tool (either in public or in private to the agent)? It reflects badly on your friend as well and could damage the relationship he/she has with the agent. All very important things to think about, and I speak from a lot of experience.

Phaeal
10-15-2008, 10:39 PM
I would unabashedly ask two or three writers I know for referrals, as I've developed good relationships with them, at the same time reassuring them that I wouldn't be upset if they declined. Then, in case of a no, I'd go out of my way to prove I wasn't upset.

With someone I didn't know so well, I'd do the "Can you recommend any good agents?" hedge.

If someone asked me for a referral, I'd only give it if I could be sincerely enthusiastic about their project to the agent or editor.

Memnon624
10-15-2008, 11:01 PM
Luckily, none of my friends have asked me to refer them to my agent. Complete strangers, on the other hand . . .

The worst was this one woman who belonged to one of the yahoo groups I frequent. When it came out that I had an agent, she wanted to send me copies of her self-published magnum opus so that I could forward them on to my agent. In a moment of what must have been supreme magnanimity, she declared that she would allow me to keep an additional 5% of any proceeds from the sale of her "life-changing" books. Well, I declined and for the next week was harangued for being "selfish" and "unwilling to pay it forward".

:shrug:

Best,

Scott

MarkEsq
10-15-2008, 11:07 PM
Well, I declined and for the next week was harangued for being "selfish" and "unwilling to pay it forward".

Scott

You thoughtless, selfish bastard! Just think of all those lives you could have changed (and maybe some of them for the better).

*sigh. Fine - I'll give you a chance to redeem yourself - twelve copies of my tome will be delivered to your home, COD. Please copy them at your expense (by hand, using a quill and ink) then return them to me. By hand. Then give copies to your agent and make him/her sell them to a publisher. I will take not a penny less than a million bucks as an advance.
Your reward: one signed copy, that you will pay for (plus surcharge of $25 for my signature).

Please hurry, I don't have all day.

Memnon624
10-16-2008, 02:23 AM
Just think of all those lives you could have changed (and maybe some of them for the better).

I know. I lose sleep over this. Really. But . . . what do people expect from a writer whose totem-creature is an Orc? Basket-loads of charity? Sheesh! ;)

Though I've never referred anyone to my agent, I did recently refer a fellow scribe to my editor. It was a good match in a genre my editor had explicitly stated he was looking for, and the writer I'd referred had decent credentials already (anthology editor, magazine work, short stories). So I'm not a totally heartless bastard ;)

Scott

Deccydiva
10-16-2008, 03:25 PM
Luckily, none of my friends have asked me to refer them to my agent. Complete strangers, on the other hand . . .

The worst was this one woman who belonged to one of the yahoo groups I frequent. When it came out that I had an agent, she wanted to send me copies of her self-published magnum opus so that I could forward them on to my agent. In a moment of what must have been supreme magnanimity, she declared that she would allow me to keep an additional 5% of any proceeds from the sale of her "life-changing" books. Well, I declined and for the next week was harangued for being "selfish" and "unwilling to pay it forward".

:shrug:

Best,

Scott

Oh NO!!!! :e2thud:
My worst nightmare. I had a little old lady come up to me at a booksigning and ask how she could get her book of poetry published. As we got into the conversation, during which I gave her details of a good self-publisher, she demanded that I gave her my email address so I could "look at it first" and hold her hand through the process. As she had bought a copy of mine, I had to be ultra polite! Luckily, she never contacted me...

waylander
10-17-2008, 11:13 PM
Now I have an agent my perspective has changed on this a little.

As a writer I think, if you refer unsuitable work to your agent, you will devalue your relationship with them.

I look at lots of people's work and I have referred a couple to my agent (having cleared it with him first). I thought I would be referring a lot more as I interact with a lot of good writers but actually so far not

It's a bit like finding a blind date for your sister. You really do want to get it right.

WendyNYC
10-17-2008, 11:25 PM
I've had a couple of friends put in a call about me AFTER the agents had requested partials. I didn't ask either person to do it directly--both offered after I told them my MS was already there. Both had read my work before, too.

I don't know if it will make a difference at all. Guess that all depends on the writing.

MarkEsq
10-17-2008, 11:30 PM
Now I have an agent my perspective has changed on this a little.

As a writer I think, if you refer unsuitable work to your agent, you will devalue your relationship with them.

I look at lots of people's work and I have referred a couple to my agent (having cleared it with him first). I thought I would be referring a lot more as I interact with a lot of good writers but actually so far not

It's a bit like finding a blind date for your sister. You really do want to get it right.


Wait, so what you are saying is that if I let you sleep with my sister, you will refer my work to your agent?

Sounds fair to me. :)

Brian_R
10-18-2008, 03:29 AM
Oh NO!!!! :e2thud:
My worst nightmare. I had a little old lady come up to me at a booksigning and ask how she could get her book of poetry published. As we got into the conversation, during which I gave her details of a good self-publisher, she demanded that I gave her my email address so I could "look at it first" and hold her hand through the process. As she had bought a copy of mine, I had to be ultra polite! Luckily, she never contacted me...

I think in that case you give the old lady an e-mail address that's sloppily written and one letter off your real address -- for example, leaving the vertical line off the lower case a. That way she can't bother you but if she ever tracks you down again you can claim it was a mistake and the fault of your poor hand writing!

xcomplex
02-25-2011, 06:14 AM
Would it be insane to approach writers you don't even know with a referral request?

AlishaS
02-25-2011, 06:25 AM
Interesting thread. I would think even with a referal you'd still have to make it on your own. Sure you might have gotten a hint of help by getting your ms infront of said agent but your work has to land you the agent.

That being said I would never outright ask someone if they would refer me nor expect that. However, a good friend of mine has recently landed an agent and we have talked about referrals. So if you have a friend that believes in your work enough, and is close enough to you it's not neccesarily a bad thing. But only to someone whom you know very well. I would never ask the authors who have agents that I have had little or no interaction with if they'd refer me.

Linda Adams
02-25-2011, 06:29 AM
Would it be insane to approach writers you don't even know with a referral request?

A referral should come from someone who knows you and is not only willing but eager to give you a raving fan testimonial--basically, put their reputation on the line because they know you'll deliver. If you ask perfect strangers for referrals, it'd end up being a bad referral, which is worse than not having one at all.

Phaeal
02-25-2011, 05:09 PM
Would it be insane to approach writers you don't even know with a referral request?

I wouldn't call it insane. I would, however, call it unwarranted and presumptuous and unlikely to succeed.

I would only recommend someone to my agent if I knew him well enough to think they were an excellent match and if I was enthusiastic enough about his work to want to rep it myself.

Terie
02-25-2011, 05:20 PM
Would it be insane to approach writers you don't even know with a referral request?

If a stranger on the street walked up and asked you to give them a referral to the company where you work, would you?

MarkEsq
02-25-2011, 06:00 PM
Would it be insane to approach writers you don't even know with a referral request?

Pretty much. What would you expect the referral to look like? "Hi agent, so this guy I've never met asked me to recommend his work, which I can't because I've never met him."

That sounds a little facetious, but it's essentially the way it'd come across, I think.

I started reading this thread, not realizing it's almost 3 years old. Then I saw my name pop up. It was funny to me because back then I didn't have an agent (and was apparently willing to let someone sleep with my sister to get one). Now I do, and guess what? Several people have asked for referrals. My response is along these lines:

"I'm not comfortable doing that because I'm not completely confident of my agent's tastes. I also think my opinion doesn't count as to quality of writing, and won't count until I'm famous."

waylander
02-25-2011, 07:33 PM
You never did send me that picture of your sister

rainsmom
02-25-2011, 08:50 PM
I've thought about this a lot, because one of my best friends (and favorite critique partner) is repped by a Big Name. It would awesome to share an agent, but at the same time, it could result in tension. What if one of us did well, and the other got jealous? Or felt the agent wasn't paying as much attention?

My friend and I write in completely different genres and have completely different career goals. So far, we haven't had jealousy issues. But I think it would be a conversation to have before I even QUERIED her agent -- much less asked for a recommendation.

I think I'll probably have that conversation with her (when I finish my novel and am ready to query), and ask if it's okay if I query her agent. OF COURSE it's my right to query anyone I want, but this is a 15-year friendship, and honestly, it's more important than a Big Name. If she says yes, then I might consider asking for a recommendation. Or maybe not. I don't want to stress our friendship.

Phaeal
02-25-2011, 09:42 PM
My friend and I write in completely different genres and have completely different career goals. So far, we haven't had jealousy issues. But I think it would be a conversation to have before I even QUERIED her agent -- much less asked for a recommendation.

I felt the same way about querying my nephew's agent, and then I felt like if I asked him if it was cool, he'd think I was obliquely fishing for a rec, so I ended up never querying said agent.

charmingbillie
02-25-2011, 10:49 PM
I have referred someone to my agent and I was given a referral to my agent so I've been on both sides. The person who gave me the referral had read at least three drafts of my manuscript and given me a ton of incredible feedback. I've critted her stuff too. Even with that level of interaction, she offered to refer me, not vice versa.

The person I referred is someone whose novel I had read and critted twice. Again, I offered to refer him.

I know my agent has rejected people who contacted her via referrals so while it may buy you attention and save a bit of time, it's still the work that matters.

I wouldn't offer to refer someone who I didn't know or whose work I hadn't read. And, yes, I would strongly recommend not approaching writers you don't know for a referral.

cwfgal
02-25-2011, 11:11 PM
I've never been asked to give a referral to my agent but I have had someone query my agent saying I recommended them when I didn't--twice, with two different agents! These were people I'd never met or heard of. Fortunately both times the agents checked with me and realized they were basically getting scammed.

I did receive a referral for my second agent after my first retired and that second agent took me on, but things didn't go so well. I left him three years later, 2 years later than I should have.

Beth

Jess Haines
02-26-2011, 12:58 AM
Me, I think I would always wonder if I could have gotten the agent on my own. And I'm not sure I'd want to live with that question hanging over me.

So, is this kind of thing common practice? Has anyone ever asked you? Have you asked?

I've had people I don't know ask me who my agent is or contact me about people at the agency to find out if it's legitimate, but never ask me for a referral.

I've never asked for a referral. I've referred one of my friends to my agent, and another I introduced and gushed about to my editor because she happened to be with me while I was in New York last year. Neither has submitted material yet because they're still polishing their work--though I've seen it, and am sure that they will both do fabulously once they get on with it and venture into Query Land. :)

PhoebeNorth
02-26-2011, 02:17 AM
A published author/friend once looked over my query letter for me, and recommended I sent it to her agent. I asked her if I could mention that I was querying the agent at her recommendation, and she said she wasn't comfortable with it since she hadn't read my book.

And I was fine with that! I appreciated the help I had, but it seemed silly to not at least ask.

Fruitbat
02-26-2011, 02:49 AM
I think an offer of referral should come from the one who has the agent. Otherwise, yes, I do think it's pushy.

JoNightshade
02-26-2011, 03:03 AM
I asked for a referral from someone I know on AW. (Hi! :)) I felt weird about doing it, but at the same time I have read on a lot of agent blogs about how they often get other clients from referrals. So it must be okay with them, and it must be pretty common, right? Anyway, I asked because this agent was one of my top choices and I felt like my writing meshed with what she was looking for. I also made it clear that it was okay for this author to refuse my request. She ended up saying she didn't have time to read my MS (no problem), but that I could definitely reference her in my query letter. Which I did. Aaaaand I got an instant rejection. C'est la vie. :)

Anyway, after doing that, I have to say I'd totally do it again if I was very interested in an agent who I knew repped someone else on AW. The first agent I had ("agent") I accepted because someone else on AW recommended them. It turned out to be bad for all of us. But I definitely don't hold it against that person. We're all responsible for our own careers, in the end.

Once I do get a reputable agent, I won't have an issue recommending other people. Actually I would love to help someone else get an agent, assuming their writing was up to standards. I also don't have a problem telling people I do not think they are ready yet or a suitable match. I mean, part of the awesomeness of Absolute Write is how we all support each other, and that includes networking. It's a part of any business... they say most people get jobs through personal connections, not sending out resumes. So why not in publishing too?

KateHawkings
02-26-2011, 03:30 PM
I don't think I could ever ask for a referral straight out, especially if I were talking to someone I personally don't know. I may perhaps attempt the 'ask about the agent in hopes that a referral is suggested' tactic, if ever I knew someone with an agent who I thought I could work well with.... But I don't know any authors well enough at this point in time to even attempt that :P

happywritermom
02-26-2011, 09:21 PM
I'm with CharmingBillie. I've been on both sides -- beed referred and done the referring. The referals were from people who believed in my work and offered. I did not ask. Ultimately, those agents didn't offer me representation, but they gave me wonderful feedback that helped a great deal in my rewrite. Only two people have asked for referals to my current agent. Both were close friends. In both cases, I asked my agent whether he was willing to look at their stuff before I referred them and I made sure to tell him the extent to which I was familiar with their work. I was not a cheerleader for them. I simply told my agent what I knew and he agreed to read their work.
A referal can get your work out of the slush pile. I see nothing wrong with asking for one if you are comfortable doing so and prepared for the possibilty that the author will decline. I have absolutely no problem telling people "no" in this case and explaining why. It's not personal.

Phaeal
02-26-2011, 10:06 PM
Well, obviously referrals are useful if the agent in question won't look at a query without one.

Apart from that, I imagine referrals may do three things:

-- Get your query read sooner.
-- Get your query read by the agent rather than a assistant, for agents who have screening readers.
-- Get you a more personalized rejection.

But I doubt that any referral will get you an offer of rep you wouldn't have gotten on your own. Except maybe if the referral is from UltraSuperMegaBestsellingAuthor, who notes that he will fire agent if agent doesn't rep his buddy. Not saying this has ever happened, just that such a referral might be pretty potent. And a great plot bunny!

amyashley
02-26-2011, 11:33 PM
If I were the agented author, I would refer one of my writing partners. I know them and their writing habits well enough to vouch for them. However, with that being said NONE of them match up with me or my habits and genre exactly. I can't say that any of them would even want the same things in an agent that I do either! I'm pretty sure they would all accept that it's kind of up in the air and we probably are looking for different things.

I wouldn't refer anyone I didn't know well.

I have asked other authors who their agents were, but not for referral purposes. I have e-mailed one author on AW about her agent in regards to re-querying. She (the author) was very helpful and sweet. I did NOT mention her in my query, although I really appreciated that she took time out to answer my questions. I'd spoken to her in a few threads and thought we shared a sense of humor and maybe her agent would feel it. She didn't, but oh well!

I network with other authors because I wish to further my depth of knowledge and strengthen my craft. I have no intentions to use other people to climb the ladder. If I'm doing the right things, I don't need to.

rebmacrath
03-01-2011, 09:09 PM
If an author is referred to an agent, I don't think that author should worry about if they "made it on their own" or not. Just because they have the referral does not mean the agent will automatically like the book. The book has to be something the agent wants to represent, an agent will not risk his/her reputation despite their author's support. Asking for a referral may be gutsy, but sometimes it's worth giving it a shot.

That said, I would recommend asking for a referral only if you know the person very well, truly believe that person likes you work etc. I was sent an email the other day by someone I had met once very casually asking me if I would read their work and if I liked it recommend it to my agent/publisher. Now you have to admire the tenacity, but it did make me feel like our conversation the night before had only been so that she could send me that email. That she was not at all interested in what we had been discussing and really just wanted to use me. It did not sit well. I replied as politely as I could, explaining that I just didn't have the time to read anything and gave her the submission guidelines for my publisher. Haven't heard back from her, not even a thank you.

Not a nice feeling at all.

Well said and words to live by. Nobody likes being used, particuarly those who've struggled for years to achieve their success. Treasure the friendship or the correspondence with no ulterior motives. And always remember how ugly it feels when a mendicant approaches and starts off his hit for a cig or a 'loan' by admiring the cut of one's coat.

Irysangel
03-01-2011, 10:47 PM
I've sent a few referrals on to my agent, but not many. Mostly because I've been burned before (both on the referral and agent side) so I'm way, way more cautious than I used to be. My current agent is terrific, but that doesn't mean that I am not a skittish author. :)

I did have someone use my name once to try and get an 'in' with her and made it look like I referred her, but when my agent asked me about the person, I said I knew nothing about it. It was an auto-reject after that.