Who loves literary agents?
Which is the most disliked profession? For the public, it’s surely the tax inspector. For writers who can’t get representation, it must be the literary agent. I’ve long since lost count of the scathing comments I’ve heard and read about agents. They’re rude, arrogant, aloof, uncommunicative, uncaring etc. etc.
Okay, maybe some are – and there’s no doubt that many agencies lack the communication skills of the authors they reject. For instance, in this era of instant multiple emails and texts, there’s no excuse for telling authors who submit their cherished work that they can expect to hear sweet FA unless the agent is interested.
That apart, I’m largely on the side of the agents. They have their hands full as they struggle to adjust to the ebook revolution that is causing an upheaval in their business and in their lives. They now have to negotiate with publishers who have fewer retail outlets in which to place their books and far smaller marketing budgets to support their authors. Agents, by and large, love their work and put their hearts into it but, right now, theirs can’t be the easiest profession to be in and the openings they can offer to new writers are probably as limited as they’ve ever been.
I say this though I failed to find an agent for my novel, The Girl with the Julia Roberts Smile, which will now be epublished in a couple of months. Agreed, I could have tried harder. I only approached 12-15 agents, so maybe my experience of them isn’t typical. But, having come very close to being taken on by one agent for whom I have genuine praise (she is a delightful person and read my whole novel), I gave up trying because, rightly or wrongly, I reckoned I knew why she turned me down. Agents make no secret of the fact that they want to build a career with their new authors and I might have been the UK’s oldest debut novelist if I had been published. I’m healthy and a free spirit and I expect to go on writing for a long, long time (I’m already well through my second novel and planning the third) but that counts for nothing if it doesn’t fit an agent’s mould. Apart from which, as a journalist, I can’t help thinking with regret of the fantastic media coverage a novel by the UK’s oldest debut author could have attracted!
Now that I’m getting deeply into Twitter, I initially followed about 20 agents, which I’ve now reduced to four – Carole Blake, Janet Reid, Carly Watters and Kate McKean. They didn’t follow me back, of course, but why would they? I simply wanted to see if they’re normal human beings and if I could pick up some snippets of valuable info. They are and I can, so I’ll continue to follow them and enjoy the experience.