Sunday, January 19, 2014

Pet Peeves?

I recently ran across an article from Writer's Digest regarding literary agent pet peeves.  Now, anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows of my antipathy towards the traditional publishing world.  As time has gone on, and my research into the traditional world has expanded, I've grown even more irritated with that most elite of the gatekeepers, literary agents.

Understand that this does not come from rejection.  Many will chalk this up to that, and there's little I can say to such people.  They'll believe what they want, no matter how incorrect.  What my angst stems from is the arrogance displayed by people who, when you peel back all the layers of the onion, are supposed to work for writers.

I've spoken to more than a few agents in the past couple of years, and the tone of their dialogue is always the same - they're doing us a favor by even looking at our work.  In fact, if we unwashed masses weren't so lowbrow, they(the agents) would be better able to transform our society into the properly educated one they always envisioned.

In a nutshell, this is my problem with the traditional publishing world.

The agent works for the writer.  We can talk all we want about recognizing talent and sifting through the slush pile for a gem to polish, but in the end, they work for writers.  Without writers, the agent has no client from whom to earn money off of.  Without newbies submitting their work, there is no profession for them to hob knob with the cocktail party scene in Manhattan.

Let's forget the callous disregard of the effort most folks put into their work - a rant for a different time - but rather just at the very implications of agents having pet peeves before they'll grace you with their you pay them for.  You know...almost like you're the boss.

Literary agents in general would do better to couch their pet peeves in more of a suggestion mode rather than in the vein of feeling icky they even have to deal with people.  In the article, one said, "When a writer tells me his work is ‘the greatest, the best, the most amazing, the next blockbuster’—let me judge that for myself, please."  Perhaps the agent in question could have merely said, "Superlatives do little to enhance the reading experience."  Another said, "It shouldn’t be an Easter egg hunt for the plot line."  Maybe "Put your bottom line up front" would have sufficed better.

These people are the gatekeepers in the traditional publishing world, and they revel in their power.  Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for most of them, the traditional world is dying.  Indie is steadily on the rise, and if a few more bookstores close, the last avenue of mass marketing power falls away.  That opens the market up to those on the indie circuit, and technology has made it easier than ever to compete on the same playing field.  If the stranglehold loosens, mostly because the traditional industry refuses to adapt, then the market can decide and the gatekeepers will find themselves unemployed.  Once that occurs, I doubt their tone over the years will engender them much sympathy from the poor wretches who used to beg for just five minutes of their time.

1 comment:

  1. Oh I hear you on this one. I hate how impenetrable traditional publishing is without an agent. From what I've seen, if the work is good, you can be successful as an indie.