07 April 2009

What's Wrong with Literary Agents?

Last week, lots publicity arose from a post by literary agent Janet Reid. Not only did I find her post interesting, but also the massive number of comments from writers to her post and similar posts on other agent blogs. It was as if authors all over the country were just waiting for an opportunity to vent about agents. We're not talking about the fraudulent agents here--they're fair game on the 'net.  No, we're talking about agents with clout that seem to be in charge of deciding who gets to be a "published" author rather than "just" an author. (Sometimes an unfair distinction, I know).

As for me, I think that there are a lot of legitimate complaints about how some agents do business. For example, I agree with the many authors who do not like the agents who have a "I reply only if I'm interested" policy. My other gripe is agents who demand "exclusive" queries and then ever respond. Obviously, authors can't follow those agents "rules" or they'd loose all chance of selling their manuscript.

On the other hand, I also think that these types of gripes will do little good. Unlike some authors, I don't fear that a post like this will get me blackballed by some agents. However, authors have to face the fact that agents occupy the ultimate buyer's market. And the more successful the agent, the better market they occupy. So, it is only human nature for agents to arrange the submission process in a manner that works best for them.  Unless a massive change in the publishing process occurs, authors are simply going to have to live with that reality.  


writtenwyrdd said...

Agents are doing their jobs. They are professionals. I presume that if they are successful, they are acting in a manner that is professional. Just because their professional process might not be what I want (such as no reply if not interested) doesn't mean I cannot work with them. They have a lot of demands on their time, and I am not earning them money when I am not their client. I can be gratful for their time as well as understanding. All I really expect is that they tell me via their submissions guidelines what to expect from them re the query process. That should be updated and consistently applied or they aren't being perfectly professional. That said, though, who's perfect?

I really didn't get all the gnashing of teeth over this issue.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I didn't get the uprising either. I've got a slew of rejections under my belt and also some sales. In the magazine business, I expect I send out a story 1-12 times before it gets picked up, and our own rejection rate hovers in the high 90s, right Dave? (He keeps track of that stuff better than I.) Not right for me = Not right for some readers, too. So authors had better get used to it.

lesleylsmith said...

There's no doubt rejections can be--no strike that--ARE depressing.
But, it's interesting to experience both sides of the equation. We get some stories at electricspec which need work (I can't recommend being in a critique group enough). We do get a lot of stories at electricspec that are quite good, but just don't fit in with our magazine. Authors are you paying attention? This means we get publishable stories that we reject.

I have to say, writing is a bizarre profession/avocation/calling. Authors work and toil, sometimes for years, often for very little external positive reinforcement.
More power to you, authors!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Ditto Lesley. Really good point. We read lots of stories that are publishable, really good stories that just don't fit with our vision. And it gets even tougher in the shortlisted stage. Mostly it then does get down to organizing an issue (though there's often 1-2 stories that just jump out, ones that we all love.)

Having made and sold a lot of art in my life, I just consider writing more art, which is subjective. It's the entertainment business--a tough business for sure.

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.