It's even easier now with twitter and blogs bringing more writers eager to listen to every blessed word agents utter.
It's damn easy to start believing "I'm all that and a bag of chips; anyone who doesn't see my fabulosity is blind blind blind."
Agents can live in an isolation bubble about how writers think and feel about agenting practices. Complaints aren't met with open arms, and certainly in public forums like writers conferences they are actively discouraged or met with sarcasm.
And it's real easy to stay in that bubble because there aren't many places where agents get to see the other side. (AbsoluteWrite is one of the few. Most agents and editors I know skulk around over there to see what's being said.)
For writers there isn't much point telling truth to agents. It's a lot of risk for not much gain.
Thus, I'm (almost) always glad to get the occasional email responding to a stray comment (usually made somewhere other than my own blog) that shows me what writers think about agenting practices (particularly if they are someone else's transgressions not mine, of course!)
Here's a recent one, unedited:
You said on Nathan Bransford's blog that you'd like to see an #agentfail. Well, it won't ever happen because most Tweeting writers know enough to know it would be shooting ourselves in the foot to publicly complain about agents! I rarely even talk about querying and submissions on my blog, because I don't want to look desperate or make it sound like my novel is one that has been rejected so many times that no sane agent would want to touch it.
Querying agents is like asking someone to the prom. You want the one asked to feel special, not like "I'm only asking you because none of the popular girls would go out with me." To stretch the metaphor, I give a big #agentfail to agents who complain about the number of queries they get. Oh really? 500+ guys have asked you to the prom this month? And you just can't decide which of them to go with? Gee, must be tough being so reputable and popular. Sure, I appreciate that agents have a hard job, but so do I. Quit whining. (Er, them, not you, Janet :D)
An agent once sent me a photocopied 1/4 page form rejection on a full ms....on which she'd requested an exclusive....which she had for 5 months. #agentfail. (Honestly this one broke me of pursuing publication for several years. Yes, I suck, but it just broke me. Lesson learned the hard way about exclusives! Fortunately I am back to writing now, older and wiser and with a shiny new MS.)
Agent replied to an e-query (his profile on several pro websites said he accepted them) with this terse message: I am getting too many queries. I don't have time to read them, and I didn't read yours. Find another agent. #agentfail (Sorry, dude, a form rejection saying that you're no longer accepting queries would have been MUCH more professional.... although it did make me laugh rather than cry. Bless his cotton socks, he was overwhelmed.)
Agents who play "race you to 0 inbox" on Twitter. Sorry, I know it's meant in good spirits. To do it publicly in front of the people who have queried makes us feel like you won't be actually reading the queries sent, but rather sending out a flurry of form letters to win a game. I work hard at my personal, professional queries! #agentfail
I would never post this because I don't have a career deathwish, but you said you wanted to see #agentfail! Fortunately my gripes about agents are few and far between. Nearly all of the interactions with them have been positive, friendly, and helpful.
It's the paragraph about "Agents who race you to 0 in the inbox" that brought me up short. That was me. In my defense I need to say it wasn't 0 in the query inbox, but 0 in the regular email, but the point is still valid.
It's also clear that no matter what I intended, readers perceived something else entirely. I don't have control over what people perceive of course, but being aware of how things MIGHT be received is valuable info. (It's the same reason I needed your help to redraft my form rejection letter-valuable insight into how things are perceived by writers.)
Twitter is great, and a very useful tool, but it's clear to me now that I need to be more careful how I joke around.
And I would love to see #agentfail if only to keep us all on our toes. I'm pretty sure I'll be standing all future rounds of drinks with all my colleagues for this idea, but I still like it.