It’s questionable advice indeed. Why? Agents get thousands of queries every year. Imagine that each person that queried the agent first asked their clients about the agent. How do they work… what are they looking for… do they like…. the list of possible questions could go on and on. Would it be fair to expect an author to answer these questions at the query stage? I don’t think so.
Writers get paid when they sell a book. Agented writers are commonly working to get pieces ready to send to their agent, doing requested revisions, promoting their books, and doing all the myriad of things a writer has to keep up with. But does that even really matter? It’s not a client’s job to prescreen their agent for you.
Here’s another thing, if you ask a writer about their agent what do you think they’re likely to say? Probably something positive or neutral if they don’t know you. Many writers are very happy with their agent, that is why they’re working with them. But if they aren’t happy, why would they share anything that might jeopardize their agent-client relationship or has the possibility to make them look bad? Would you?
During the pre-query stage you need to do your own research. This means reading agent submission guidelines, Twitter feeds, blogs, interviews, #MSWL, agent discussions in forums, etc. You could even start a discussion in our private Sub It Club Facebook group and see if anyone has information they’re willing to share. There are so many ways to find out about agents online that you can almost always find enough information to help you make a decision as to whether or not you want to query. If you’re not sure, query anyway!
Querying an agent does not mean that you’re definitely going to work with them. When an agent is interested in your work you get to have conversations! You get to talk with them about how they work and find out what they’re like. You get to ask all the questions you want. When you get an offer, that is the time you can go to clients if you like, and ask about how they like working with the agent. With an offer in hand they may even be inclined to give you some information you can use.