Thursday, October 14, 2010

Just My Two Cents

There's been a lot of talk about the agent/potential client dynamic in regards to the query system. I think we can all agree the system is far from perfect. We, as writers and hopeful clients, feel great frustration when we receive form rejections or no response at all. Agents -trust me- feel that same frustration when they have to weed through a bunch of crazies to find something that is different enough to sell, but same enough to fit the market.

I would never want this job. Yes, most of them rave about how much they love their jobs, and I'm sure they do. It's just not for me. They are always working. If they are awake, they're working. If, gods forbid, the tweet about having dinner with a friend, some assume they are being 'too busy socializing' to read our queries. Personally, I think that's a scapegoat reaction: blaming someone else for our own shortcomings. Agents are humans, too. They have every right to eat, drink, catch some sleep, and mingle with other humans. One agent said she got over 1,200 queries in one month. If she spent only 2 minutes on each, that's about 45 hours of reading queries. That's more than a full week for most of us. And it's not even their job.

What really needs to be done, in my opinion, is for there to be a more streamlined approach to the whole thing. Agents have become the gatekeepers for the publishing houses that can no longer afford to pay people to read manuscripts. I'm old enough to remember when they did this. They would advertise "get paid to read books from home." Now the agent does it, and they do it for free.

Yes, there's their 15%. But let's take a look at that. The average debut author makes $5,000 - $10,000 on their first book. On the high end, that's $1,500. How many hours did the agent spend reading the book? Editing it? Reading it again? How many hours did it take them to draft their proposals? Pimp to editors? Work on the contract? Where do many of them live? New York. It's a pretty expensive place. That $1,500.00 is a pittance for the work they put in. In the meantime, they are reading our query letters for free, and if time permits, replying for free.

It's not their fault the system is what it is. Nor is it even the publishing houses. There's only so many slots and there's a whole bunch of us. We need to find a better way. Let's try to think of one.


Roland D. Yeomans said...

It is what it is. No system comprised of humans is ever perfect or even close to it.

We give our best efforts on our end and hope the agents do that on theirs.

Querying is a process dependent on many factors only distantly connected to our efforts. It is a gamble. And as you learn in the casinos, more often than not when you gamble, you lose.

Lenny Lee said...

hi miss christi! wow i didnt know that a agent had soooo much to do. maybe thats why they dont got time to send but just a form letter back and some time not that either. maybe a bunch of good writers should hook up together and do their own agenting and publishing and selling and all that stuff. it like my baseball team. we pooled up money so we could get neat hats and good bats and cool stuff like that.
...hugs from lenny

Talli Roland said...

It's a tough one, isn't it? Add to that the subjectivity of writing and... I don't know, can another system be found? Great question though!

The Words Crafter said...

One of my favorite things to do is play devil's advocate. I really like and appreciate this post. Well done!
And something to keep in mind....

Jennifer Hillier said...

I'm with you on this one -- I could never be an agent. I wouldn't have the heart to reject anyone. The one thing I really wished for when querying was a response -- good, bad, ugly, I just wanted a reply. I understand agents can't always do this but for me, it was hard when I didn't hear anything.

Great post and thanks for writing it.

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