But often times, it's me. I'm the one saying "Hello, FinePrint."
Now, the truth is, there are a ton of people out there who phone query. We get at least several calls a day where someone calls for information on how to query, how to get an agent, how to get published, or worse how can they prove they're better than the average slush pile.
The truth is, these phone calls make the callers look stupid or arrogant.
Stupid because, hey, let's be honest, if someone can find the agency phone number, they should be able to also find the line that says "don't call."
Arrogant because...well, here's a story.
Me: "Hello FinePrint?"
Caller: "Hi can I speak to Suzie Townsend?"
Me: "Sure, what's this regarding?"
Caller: "I've written a book--"
Me: "Great! If you're going to query you should really do it by email. Do you need our submission guidelines?"
This was of course a pivotal moment. I could have just said, "This is Suzie" but the truth is I didn't want to get into a lengthy conversation about the premise of a book, which might be great, when I
1. have a lot of other work going on
2. can't judge said book without seeing the writing
Caller: "But I've been referred by [Owner of Top Literary Agency]..."
My first thought: And why would that agent refer you to ME? I don't actually know her and she doesn't know me...
Caller: "...and I don't want my email to get lost."
My second thought: I know emails get lost, but I don't typically do the losing. I answer hundreds of emails a day. And I read them all and consider them all. (Unrelated: for this reason, I hate when queries say PLEASE READ or something similar in the subject line.)
Me: "Even with a referral, the best way to query is via email--"
Caller: "But I've been referred by [TOP AGENT]. Don't you know who she is?" Caller spouts of facts about Top Agent's Agency. "Why don't you take down my number and give it to Suzie."
Caller's tone has become more and more condescending as the phone call continues.
Me: "Right, well I can do that, but typically agents don't return phone calls for queries." Typically = ever
Caller: "Who am I speaking with?"
I could have said "Well, actually this is Suzie, and based on your tone I don't think I'm the right agent for you" but that could have been awkward so...
Me: "Uh, this is...Elizabeth."*
Caller: "Well why don't you just take down my number and give Suzie my message." Caller repeats all his info, stressing his referral. I write it down.
Me: "And were you referred by [Top Agent] or one of the other agents at her agency?"
Caller: "[TOP AGENT]. Like I said."
And then he hung up. When I gave myself the message, I decided not to call back.
* Name has been changed, in case I ever want to use the name of my secretary alter ego again!