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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why are literary agents turning their noses up to proven authors?

I was trying to fit this into a Facebook post but it is too good to squeeze in a single post.

 I was told by a big-wig literary agent today, (who will remain anonymous...but he represents a MAJOR player in YA at the moment) when asking a general question to satiate my ever curious mind about whether he would ever consider representing an unencumbered (no agent, no publishing contract) author based on robust book sales, "I don't pay any attention to that." -"that" being book sales. 

He went on to say that he has a better ability to forecast the sales potential of an author than actual readers who purchase the books...so rather than look at sales numbers which are an exact indication of the popularity of a particular author, this guy said "I will determine that for myself."

With what, I wonder, his crystal ball?

This is the problem with (not all but many) agents today. Their arrogance is blinding them to the money making potential this new model publishing market has set in front of them.  They'd rather base their representation upon one piece of paper (your query) and their gut intuition.  Are you okay with letting someone like that handle your work?

I cannot think of a logical reason why picking up unrepresented authors who have already had success in the marketplace would be considered more of a risk than throwing a new name out there and hoping for the best.

If arrogance was ever in question, he went on to say "I'll decide the way I always do: whether I want to make you the sweetest gift I have, namely a percentage of my brain."

So what part of your brain ignores what the marketplace (the readers) wants and relies on the tried and tested methods of an antiquated system?

It's like picking athletes for your pro football team from the local high school rather than division-1 colleges.  Once in a while you'll get lucky but most of the time the kid is a flop -not because he isn't a good athlete but because he doesn't have the street smarts a college program will teach him.

I don't get it.  What would prevent an agent or publisher from picking popular, unencumbered authors out of the marketplace? Fear that they've maxed out their sales?  that they've reached all their potential readers? Is that possible on a shoestring budget? -by which so many of these authors are limited. I think not.

I think this agent needs to re-read his copy of Who Moved my Cheese because not only has his cheese moved, but the maze is changing as well.

End of tirade.

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my re-vamped website.

In bookstores 6-5-2012


  1. At one point they are going to have to work with the changing market and market players (authors). I was recently reading about a lawyer who after countless rejections decided to self-publish. She sold so many copies she did attract a major offer from a publisher, but she decided NOT to get on board. She's making more money this way and sales are impressive. Why cut someone else in on the profit, what could they give her that she didn't already have? Authors have made it to the point where they do everything from write the book, design the cover, format the text, apply for ISBN and copyright, market and promote their work...today, an author knows what's involved and does it. Oh, and in the end, the author retains the rights to their work. Not a bad place to be.
    So, again, what does this agent have to offer?

  2. Good points! Other than access to marketing resources and dollars that come by having the ear of the big 6 publishers, I can't think of anything of value they can provide.