Interesting post…. and lots to think about. Getting an agent may seem like the end-goal to many new writers, but there are rocks ahead….
I’m not sure I agree entirely with his statement: “Even good agents can be wrong sometimes, which is why they’re unable to sell much of what they acquire.” Because, of course, I am never wrong (I wish). No, actually, it’s the part where he says good agents are unable to sell much of what they acquire. It is true that occasionally a project might not sell. Some of those have languished in the author’s trunk while we went on to sell other projects. If the market changes, we come back to them, and take another shot (and, yes, I’ve been successful at doing this). Or projects just might take a lot of time and a large number of submissions (I think my record is currently 2 1/2 years to make a sale, but it all worked out in the end). But it’s true that one might not expect to sell everything. 100%? Who has that kind of luck in any job? I disagree with the “much,” though.
That just the agent part. Go read the article to hear about all the weak links in the publishing chain: the editor, the buyer for the bookstore, the readers, etc.
He also says: If you’re a guy, it’s like having to propose to your spouse all over again every few years. And ladies, it isn’t romantic. It’s nerve-wracking. The possibility of being told no can terrify the stoutest heart when speaking of being between contracts, in which the author is the man and the publisher is the woman. I did pause to wonder whether our national divorce rate would go down if both parties had to make a recommitment based on merit (in his scenario, publishing numbers) on a more regular basis rather than just taking the next year (in his scenario, the next book sale) for granted…
This is my favorite line, I think (though I do think his solutions should allow for more communication prior to making decisions such as dumping your agent or changing publishers – as stated, they seem rather abrupt and are not always that simple and there are factors to consider):
I posit–and I’m 99% right–that your worst enemy in this business isn’t your agent, your editor, or the publishing industry as a whole.