One of these sites that posts "recommendatons" and “warnings” about agents actually has me listed twice, which I've found very confusing. Now, the creator of this site and I have had some interesting conversations over the years and he regularly reads and comments on the another site where I answer questions. On his site, there are two postings about me. If you look under the letter “A,” you’ll find this:
“Andrew Zack: $ a literary agent (Literary, Adult) with The Zack Company. Editor's note: Mr. Zack gives excellent advice in discussions on the Internet. He's well worth listening to.” [emphasis his]
If you look under the letter “Z,” you’ll find this:
“Zack Company, The (formerly The Andrew Zack Literary Agency): $ Optional fees. Not recommended. a literary agency.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to think I’m anti-author or anti-editor. I’m not. Heck, I’m not even anti-websites-that-publish-information-about-agents. But you have got to get that information right! There should be a solid journalistic approach to this research. And I don’t mean journalism the way CBS News reported on George Bush’s days in the Air National Guard. I mean solid, fact-checked journalism that is objective. The editor in question is personally opposed to any circumstance, even an optional service, where the author pays the agent beyond commission on a sale, so he labels me “not recommended.” That’s not objective, that’s subjective. But he likes what I have to say on another site, so he says I’m “well worth listening to.” Gee, why do I suddenly feel confused? Am I recommended or am I not? Could I be recommended as worth listening to, but then not recommended as an agent? Besides me, how many other agents are being praised and criticized simultaneously?
And let’s not even get started on the bulletin boards themselves. Didn’t these authors go to high school? Did they miss the 7th Heaven episode on the evils of rumors? Do they not understand that someone posting anonymously on a website about Mary Sue being a slut may not be the best resource? I hear she did three guys in one night! She must have the clap for sure!
For every agent, you will certainly find at least one author who thinks poorly of him or her. For every guy there’s a woman who thinks he’s a jerk. For every woman, there’s a guy who thinks she’s a witch. That’s life. Form your own judgments, please. Do your own due diligence. Look at what agents have to say for themselves, read their agency agreements, and if you really want to know what they are like as an agent, look at who they represent. In this day and age, it's not that hard to locate an author. Many writers' organizations publish directories of their members and list their agents. How hard would it really be to find someone actually represented by the agent you're researching?
Then again, you might not even have to ask. There's little that holds an author to agent. If an agent isn't doing a good job, or isn't acting in a completely kosher manner, it's easy enough to say good-bye. So the very fact that an author whose work you admire is represented by an agent can probably be taken as a vote of confidence, I feel.
They say you can judge a man by the company he keeps. Can't you also just an agent by the authors he keeps? Just a thought....