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.