Chuck Sambuchino, 2012 Guide to Literary Agents (Writers Digest Books, 2011) — Book Review

© 2012 Peter Free


22 March 2012


Arguably better than nothing, but lacks accuracy and consistent organization


The agent list in this volume is inaccurately researched, poorly arranged, and carelessly edited.  A few minutes on the web demonstrates how misleading its entries are.


The book is, therefore, arguably a good example of how some writers prey on other writers’ need for guidance in order to profit, without delivering anything of reliable substance.


On a more positive note, inaccurate though the volume is, its agent list gives authors a place to start.


On the negative side, after very carefully winnowing the entire volume down to 30 agents that might be interested in my novel, only 7 turned out to be even remote possibilities after I had visited their websites.


In other words, 77 percent of the book’s listed information (regarding my initial list of 30 agents) was either blatantly wrong or very significantly misdirected.



Specifically, two main criticisms


The book’s two most annoying shortcomings are:


(1) Gross inaccuracies


(2) Inconsistent organization



Annoying Problem One — gross inaccuracies


Data regarding the listed agents’ genre interests often do not accurately reflect what the agents’ websites express.


In my case — having written a novel in what could loosely be seen as belonging to the action, adventure, detective, police, mystery and thriller genre — I noticed that a surprising number of apparently unisex genre blurbs after another in Sambuchino’s volume were contradicted by the explicitly-stated women’s orientation on the affected agent’s websites.  There is (very obviously) a big difference between men’s action, adventure, detective, and police writing and women’s.  Mr. Sambuchino should have made that distinction.  He did not.


In his defense, Sambuchino might claim that he was dependent upon whatever materials each agent sent him.  But a properly done compilation would have required him to check each entry for accuracy by doing a little Internet browsing.


Mr. Sambuchino might also claim that his listed agents changed their websites while his book was in press.  Statistically speaking, maybe some did.  But it is improbable that the entire 77 percent that affected me had.  An established agent does not suddenly take off in entirely new directions on a whim.


In partial illustration of these inaccuracies, Sambuchino’s book states that the Daniel Literary Group:


Considers these fiction areas:

action, adventure, contemporary issues, crime, detective, family saga, historical, humor, inspirational, literary, mainstream, mystery, police, religious, satire, suspense, thriller.


© 2011 Chuck Sambuchino, 2012 Guide to Literary Agents (Writers Digest Books, 2011) (at page 162) (paragraph reformatted)


But if you visit , Greg Daniel himself says:


Daniel Literary Group is a literary agency representing quality nonfiction books for adults.

Our authors are recognized and published across a variety of categories including narrative nonfiction, religion/spirituality, business, pop culture, practical advice, social issues, and biography/memoir.


© 2012 Greg Daniel, Home Page, Daniel Literary Group (visited 21 March 2012)


Parallel ineptitude occurred with Sambuchino’s entry for the D4EO Literary Agency.  D4EO’s agents turned out not to represent anything close to what Sambuchino says they do.


And Mr. Sambuchino’s entry for the Hidden Value Group did not even mention its self-trumpeted Christian focus.  Which obviously has a definitive bearing on what authors would submit to them.


The book’s similarly blatant errors go on and on.



Annoying Problem Two — inconsistent formatting


The 2012 Guide to Literary Agents generally adopts a helpful way of delineating fiction and non-fiction lists of agent interests by category.  Each is introduced by a bold-fonted, “Considers these nonfiction areas” and “Considers these fiction areas.”  However, Sambuchino is inconsistent in applying this formatting.


Hypothesizing as to what accounted for the discrepancies, I suspect that the author allowed some agents to submit long and often irrelevant statements that addressed neither focus.  But, had he been minimally motivated, he would have massaged these submissions into the more helpful “nonfiction” versus “fiction” bifurcation.  Apparently, his authorial/editorial eminence could not be bothered with even that comparatively simple task.



Reluctantly recommended — but only if you hold your nose


I detest sloppy work.  I particularly abhor avariciously incompetent work.  Mr. Sambuchino’s book qualifies as both.


Buy his 2012 Guide to Literary Agents only if you have no alternative.  And be prepared to deal with the feeling that you’ve been scammed.