Q. I don't understand why Guide to Literary Agents [and WritersMarket.com] lists agents that DON'T HANDLE UNSOLICITED WRITERS. What's the point? Thank you.
A. I understand your thoughts on this, Barry. Regarding agents that don't want unsolicited queries, it's kind of a lose-lose situation for us (and by us, I mean GLA). We could choose NOT to list them, but what happens in that situation is that writers discover them somehow on the Internet and query them, thereby sending a query that won't be considered.
Our policy is to be the COMPLETE agent database - and list all agents over the country that don't charge writers any upfront fees. Yes, we even list the occasional agency that doesn't want work from writers they haven't met. We list these "closed" agencies simply so that writers know that such-and-such agency does exist and is not seeking work. If we didn't, we get inquiries wondering why such-and-such agency is not included in the book, and if they are reputable.
Neither way is perfect, but we chose to list everyone in the hope of trying to be the ultimate agent resource. We tell you everyone that's out there, and clearly signal the small percentage that don't want to be contacted.
By the way, keep in mind that there is a big difference between unsolicited queries vs. unsolicited manuscripts. MOST agencies don't want unsolicited manuscripts - meaning, they ask you not to send the book unless they like your query and request pages thereafter. FEW agencies don't want unsolicited queries - meaning, no one should query or contact them unless they've met the agent in person, or are using a referral. The best way to break in with these "closed" agents is to meet them at writers' conferences.