There’s this very, um, provocative sounding article in the Village Voice about agents. Read it here if you’re so inclined. I skimmed it last night and somehow wanted to be vaguely offended, but couldn’t exactly figure out why. Apparently Publisher’s Lunch couldn’t exactly figure it out either as they commented on it in yesterday’s offering: “Paul Collins has an essay in the Village Voice that seems to want to say something about agents as gatekeepers in contemporary publishing, though it never really gets anywhere.”
This morning I re-read it, and got the distinct impression, though not explicitly, that the article pegged gatekeeping in a negative fashion (okay, I can grok that – competition in commercial publishing is quite fierce and rejection rates are high – it’s bound to make people feel bad), and somehow implied that all agents (not just those godforsaken fee-chargers) could not contribute anything in a positive way. That agents only mucked up the process by bringing money into the equation. Which seems to say to me that the writer thought it better before “new copyright laws meant that authors could no longer be ripped off with impunity” when “publishers relied on the sort of interns for whom reading stacks of desperate stuffed envelopes remains a hazing into the industry.” Perhaps he meant this article to be somewhat sarcastic, and wasn’t entirely serious when he called all agents “commission-skimming interlopers.” As for me, I’m a lover of books – have been my whole life. I have to believe that I make a better gatekeeper than a random intern, and know that helping authors be rewarded and recognized for their work isn’t just something I do for the money. I realize that there are agents out there for whom this is just business, and that there are writers out there who prefer that sort of agent. I’m fine with that. And I know that there are agents out there who make publishing a living hell for writers (whether those writers are ready for publication or not). I’m sure I haven’t heard my last tale of woe on that front. I’m much less than fine with them. In fact, I might hate them just as much as the writers do (if not more, in some cases) because they are the ones responsible for articles like this which tar all agents with the same brush….
In other news….. still sick. And very tired of being sick. I’m starting to believe I’ll just be coughing for the rest of the summer. How demoralizing. Of course, I’m working anyway. Feh. But there are contracts to be reviewed, emails to be answered, appointments at RWA to be scheduled, manuscripts to be mailed to publishers, lots more manuscripts to be read…. And so it goes.