There's a long comment under my recent link to Mary's long screed about how agents are conspiring against literary fiction.
Here's the text of it:
I'm not sure where you got the ten words or less reference. A query letter is one page of 250-300 words (and often longer). Even if much of that page includes material not about the book in question, it's not ten words.
And I don't agree with your position that being able to hook your reader with a brief description is moronic or demeaning. I think it's actually an incredibly difficult art form, much like haiku. To do it well, you must think and write on several levels and use language like a rapier.
If you think that's demeaning, that's YOUR take on it, not mine. I have enormous respect for people who can write good query letters. Even if I don't take their projects.
I don't sell scripts. I sell manuscripts. There's a difference. A very big difference. If you don't know what it is, ask me and I'll explain it.
I'm not sure why sending an email is considered 70 hoops. You write the email, you send the email. That's two. I read the email, I reply.
I think that's pretty straightforward.
Interns don't read my queries. Not now, not ever.
She did make some valid points, but at the same time the publishing houses do need some filtering process. (*Thus agents become the liver of this dysfunctional family of organs.*)
Now the quality of literary agents
(* Obligatory disclaimer: I don't know Janet personally, I'm sure she is marvelous, this is a biting satirical generalization aimed at provoking change or at least a brief thought to contrast the current wave of enthusiastic boos.*)
could be improved by having education requirements for lit. agents similar to real estate agents. That way there'd be some level of consistency as to standards and practices. (*Note the AAR doesn't count because it is voluntary...there's no bite. If one were to mess up in real estate practice they might even end up in jail. That's what I'm referring to when I mean 'standards.' I was a real estate agent for a year or two. The regs are vicious if one were to make even a slight infraction.*
I'm not even sure what you mean by quality of literary agents? People who understand contracts? People who know how to sell? People who know how to edit? People who have fewer than 70 hoops?
Do you want literary agents to be licensed? What do you test for? How fast someone responds to queries? Whether they like The DaVinci Code?
This isn't real estate. You can't say a book is worth two cents a page cause it's written by someone in Topeka, Kansas, or because it's genre fiction like you can say real estate is worth ten dollars a square inch cause it's on 35th Street in New York. Books aren't acreage. Even when they're in the warehouse.
How do you test for negotiation skill? For the ability to foresee problems and solve them? For giving pep talks to writers who've gotten unfair rejections? How do you test for the ability to see a story in a jumble of notes, shaking hands and a writer who's so nervous she's ready to throw up? How do you test for the ability to stay cool at the right time, and get hot under the collar at the right time?
All those things are my job. You figure how to test for that, and we'll talk. Until then, I have to disagree that licensing agents will do anything but create a new way for scammers to say they're legit.
Also agents ought to have a little more grace with the writers (*not to mention surly bloggers...) submitting. (*unless the writer is being completely unreasonable.*) It is important to note, no money would be coming in without the dreaded 'slush pile.' (Even if one does have a 'stable' of amazing authors, they received those authors at some point through submission.)
Agents are not bad people as a whole and I'm not trying to say 'all are bad and without merit.' I am saying that as a group agents can do better. The practices agents use can be updated especially with such improvements in technology. (*Example e-books and illustrated works will be eating up more of the publishing pie.*)
It says a lot about your writing. That's my point.
You're wrong again. I even fixed the spelling errors because I don't want the commentariat to dwell on those instead of what you're saying. Don't feel you need to apologize. I'm too busy figuring out new ways to humiliate writers to listen to what people say to me.
(*I'll be brief. Probably not, but one can only hope.*)
Basically explaining a book through a query letter in ten words or less is not only moronic, but also incredibly demeaning to the writers submitting.