In the last two days at work, I've received two calls from literary agents. Now that doesn't sound like a lot, but keep in mind in the last three years these are the first two calls I've had from literary agents. The first agent wanted to know the proper way to query a publishing company. Huh, don't they teach that in agent school? She honestly didn't have a clue, (The second one was equally clueless).
To me, this is a huge red flag. Is it worth having an agent if the agent is just going to page through the market guide to find publishers? My thought is probably not. I now understand how important it is to ask questions, to make sure that the agent who wants to represent me, is someone I want to representing my work.
These agents, I'm sure are exceptions. Most agents are competent and possess a breadth of publishing industry knowledge- and have established contacts in the business. It's important, though, to keep an eye out for the ones who aren't competent and who don't know the business. Anyone can give themselves the title, literary agent. It's important to find one that's doing it for the right reasons and knows the business.