Thursday, May 07, 2009

Agents Aren't the Enemy

It may or may not have started with Agentfail, I tend to think it didn’t, but in the past month or so, maybe since the beginning of the year, there’s been some real anger, frustration, and, yes, a bit of a backlash toward agents, and while I’m certainly not going to put an end to it, or stop those who like to post the anonymous, snarky, and, frankly, insulting (to other authors typically) comments on this blog, I do have a few things to say (what else is new?).

First off, I am not going to link to those angry or vitriolic posts or articles. I frankly can’t bring myself to look at them again, but I think most of you, by now, know where you can find them. I also think it’s unnecessary. None of us really needs to read them to know what they probably say.

Second, I want you all to know that frustration is perfectly acceptable and understandable. Heck, I’m frustrated by this business at least 75% of my day. Do you have any idea what it feels like to get the final print run for a book and have it be thousands, tens of thousands less than expected? How about a book that gets amazing reviews, great publicity and fabulous feedback, and yet thousands of returns? Do you want to call an author and tell her that her publisher has decided they no longer want to work with her? I have to do all of this and more. Frustrating, yes, but is the job worth it? Absolutely, because there are few things in life more thrilling than calling a debut author to let her know I’ve sold her first book, or sharing the joy of a bestseller list or the thrill of seeing the book in print. There are few things I love more than publishing books.

The point of all of this is that the anger toward agents, the vitriol (from both sides), has to stop and it has to stop now. Agents are not the reason you’re not getting published. An agent wants to see good books in print as much as you do and agents take risks every day, despite what many of these angry authors are saying. The truth is that agents are here for you. We write these blogs because we want to help simplify and explain this process, we personalize rejection letters and give feedback because we see talent and have faith in what you might be able to do, and we take on new authors all the time because we are excited about a book and yes, because we think we can sell it and turn you into a published author. If we start snipping and sniping at each other we’re only making our own lives and the publishing process harder than it needs to be. It’s tough out there. Publishers are backing off on buying new books and published authors are being let go, so why are we turning on each other? Now more than ever we need to come together.

Are there some crummy, awful agents out there? Absolutely. There’s also a few crummy, awful authors out there who would prefer to blame agents for their lack of success than simply work on honing their craft. We’re people, none of us is perfect. I love authors and I love the community I’ve created on this blog. I have no intention of being run out by a few angry writers, but I don’t want the anger to permeate what the rest of us are doing that’s good. My fellow bloggers are doing great work and I’m continually impressed by the things they are telling authors and often admire them for their candor. The writers who comment on this blog are fabulous. One of my favorite things is when all of you start guiding each other. It is a community and it’s a good one.

So let’s start thinking about the real issue, and that’s that publishing is a difficult business, the mid-list is in trouble, and that just means we’re all going to need to step it up. Authors are going to have to write their little hearts out and really make that work sing, agents are going to need to guide those writers and negotiate the hell out of those contracts. We’re going to need to be one step ahead of everyone else when it comes to our careers and we’re going to have to do it together to really make it work.