What’s the deal with literary agents? They don’t know what publishers are looking for and neither do we.
Our Linkedin group — Let’s Talk About Writing — has 4,996 members and we’ve been having a lively ongoing discussion about whether it’s worth it to keep sending out query letters to agents because even if we do get an agent most often they can’t get us a publishing deal and if they do the deals are so bad we’re better off self-publishing.
Our group of writers have been trying to find an acquisition editor at a major publisher (there are apparently five left) or small press who will come into our discussion and answer some questions about their present relationship with literary agents.
We’ve all tried self-publishing with varying degrees of success. We know that getting our books reviewed by literary journals, into libraries, bookstores, and foreign sales is nearly impossible on our own (unless we pay for it — thanks a lot Kirkus and Publishers Weekly for exploiting self-published authors.)
We’ve read the stories of indie authors who are approached by agents after their books are a success.
We know that an agent is a useful thing to have once you are a success. But what about the rest of us?
The old model of agents culling through piles of manuscripts for good ones to present to publishers is like so many other aspects of the publishing business either broken or in the midst of a rapid transformation. These poor bastards are receiving 200 or more queries a week (many ginned by a thriving book query writing industry). How are they supposed to know from a few lines or a partial submission if something is going to make them or the publisher some money (we know that’s the deal)? And forget about good writing on fascinating topics — god knows how those books manage to keep being published, reviewed by the New York Times and promptly forgotten.
And even if we do manage to get published we still have to do our own publicity — blog, beg, and grovel for attention.
So we might as well self-publish, right?
Come on editors, we’d love to hear from you and ask you a few questions.
Here’s the link to our discussion.