Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Agent 007

I’m not sure why, but somehow I’ve been slow in getting around to reading the Agent 007 blog. And that was a mistake.

Agent 007, as the first part of her name name suggests, is a literary agent working in the US market. If you read the small print you will learn that she started blogging in July this year (so far as I can make out); but her profile says she’s been on Blogger since September 2003, so maybe she had a previous existence.

Anyway, it’s now all very much worth a look. I particularly recommend her piece on the slush pile. This attracted masses of comments, as you would expect.

6 comments:

Zeno Cosini said...

I'm a relatively new agent, based in London, and I've got to say, bleak as it is, 007's appraisal of the slush pile is fairly accurate. I've been reading unsolicited manuscripts for my agency for eighteen months. Collectively, we've taken on four writers from the 'pile since then.

That's four out of almost three thousand submissions. Not much better than a 0.1% strike rate. We've got deals for three of them. I won't go into the details, but if you do the maths, in terms of remuneration, I wonder whether it's even been worth my and my colleagues' time.

I'm not going to stop. It's tremendously exciting when it happens, but it's so rare to feel the neccesary excitement and affinity with a new writer's work. And there's something so unutterably bleak about watching the months slip by without anything really good turning up.

I've found it easier to get clients by writing to academics and journos, or hunting them down at the better creative writing courses.

The quality of the slush pile, in general, is dire beyond belief - really, you don't know how bad until you've tried it - and it's easy to find yourself getting cynical. I think the way I read every manuscript now, almost despite myself, is that I look, page by page, for a reason to turn it down, get it off my desk, stop having to spend time with it. The trade is narrow; you have to absolutely LOVE something in order to take it on, feel that you can come up with a list of editors on the spot you could call and say: "You HAVE to publish this." Agenting is about making bets, taking calculated risks; wagering your time against the potential remuneration. I hate turning writers down, and I hate plenty about the trade. But if it's any consolation to the aspiring writers reading this blog, I'd never reject something I loved because I didn't think it was financially viable. I don't think any agent would.

WScross said...

I found Zeno's Dialog (sorry, couldn't resist the Socratic image) very interesting, but was curious at the line "The trade is narrow; you have to absolutely LOVE something in order to take it on, feel that you can come up with a list of editors on the spot you could call and say: 'You HAVE to publish this.' Agenting is about making bets, taking calculated risks; wagering your time against the potential remuneration. I hate turning writers down, and I hate plenty about the trade. But if it's any consolation to the aspiring writers reading this blog, I'd never reject something I loved because I didn't think it was financially viable. I don't think any agent would."

On the other hand, would you take on a bood you didn't particularly love, but that had a chance of finding an audience?

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