Like many authors, I’ve long wondered what added value agents add to the publishing industry. Disclaimer: I have never had an agent, and I value Independent Publishers.
I shall not mention this agent’s name and I will paraphrase what she wrote to the Twitter (X) Writing Community. So it wasn’t a personal reply, this counts as an announcement.
She said that when a writer is passed over by an agent, the writer shouldn’t assume it was a quality of prose issue. And that she just passed on a “most delightful, well-written manuscript”. One that she felt sure was going to sell.
An agent’s job is to sell books to publishers. Some also edit. Let’s think for a moment about the art of selling. (Disclaimer: ex sales manager.) If I am trying to sell a product, I don’t give a damn whether or not the salesperson “falls in love with” or “has a special spark” about it. No, I want him to make his quota, preferably more.
She went on to tell us why she passed on it. She wasn’t the right agent for it. She didn’t have enough passion for the story or the characters. Hey, woman, you’re a salesperson, not the librettist for Oppenheimer.
And so, she explained, her enthusiasm would be “lacklustre” and “this project didn’t have enough of my enthusiasm behind it.”
So it’s no good? The salesperson doesn’t think they could sell this project? My reply is, if you’re a good salesperson you can sell any half-decent product.
But then, she said: it was one of the best-written manuscripts she’d had. For both style and storytelling. And polished, so little or no editing needed.
BUT… she refused it because it didn’t give her a “tingle of exhilaration and excitement”.
And, worse, that “reading is strictly chemistry.” No, it isn’t. Not for an agent. It’s chemistry for the end reader. If you can’t decide whether you’re an end reader or a professional agent, you shouldn’t be an agent.
She then explained that chemistry is “what makes you fall in love with your partner or end up finding your soulmate in your best friend.” Lady, I don’t want to have an affair with you or be invited to your daughter’s wedding, I want you to sell my damn book and pocket your sales commission like normal salespeople do.
If this particular agent is an archetype of most agents, it’s no wonder the publishing industry is such a nightmare.