"Finding the right agent is hard, but finding Literary Agents Online is easy." This is the subtly punning come-on for query blaster service Literary Agents Online (finding it is indeed easy, since it has invested in Google ads).
Query Letters are hard work, the website's homepage declares. Once you have the perfect query for your next bestseller, you still have months of research and rejection waiting for you, as you send queries to literary agent after literary agent.
What if there was a way to skip all that? What if you could write your query, then get only manuscript requests from legitimate literary agencies who have seen your work and like it? And what if you could start the process without any cost or obligation?
What's this? A query blaster service that will send out your query for free? No, you aren't dreaming. Here's how it works. Literary Agents Online sends your query to lots of agents, at no charge. LAO then sorts through all the positive responses, and shows them to you. That's where the costs come in--but you pay nothing unless you actually get responses. And the first response is free.
So what's the catch? (Apart from all the other reasons not to use query blaster services, that is, such as poor screening and targeting of agents and pissing agents off by spamming them.)
Well, as seems to be my refrain lately, you have to read the fine print--in this case, LAO's Terms of Service agreement, which can be found on its Send the Query page. Here's the relevant excerpt:
The Company shall be entitled to fees equal to $100.00 USD for each manuscript or partial manuscript request that the Customer chooses to purchase, at his sole discretion. The first manuscript or partial manuscript request shall be provided by the Company free of charge, while the second shall be provided at twice the above mentioned rate.
So if you want to see those positive responses, you must buy them for $100 apiece. I never thought I'd ever say anything good about Bookblaster, but it only costs $89. And that free first positive response? Not really all that free, since you pay double for positive response #2. No wonder this info is buried in the TOS, where unwary writers may miss it.
Literary Agents Online promises that the agents it queries are legit. But while other query blaster services may include questionable agents in their lists out of sloppiness or ignorance, LAO would appear to have an actual incentive to include questionable agents. Its income is based on its clients receiving positive responses--and let's face it, you can't count on disreputable literary agents for much, but you can be sure they'll want your manuscript.
Oh, and if you need help with your query letter, LAO stands ready. For just $24.99, you can buy the book, in which "Industry insider S. Glenn invites you to dive into the art of Query Letter craft." (There's a little "as seen on Amazon.com" logo, but I couldn't find the book on Amazon under any permutation of title, author, or search terms.) As for "industry insider" S. Glenn, he (or she) doesn't appear to exist. LAO's URL, however, is registered to one Pete Michaud of Jacksonville, FL. He doesn't appear to be an industry insider either.
Edited on 3/26 to add: Since I put this post online, LAO has added a Terms page, which more prominently provides its Terms of Service, including the $100 fee.