Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Agent, anyone?

'Get an Agent', is the oft heard advice for wannabe authors like myself. Writers' blogs often sing their praises. On some writers' boards it's almost a rallying cry and has become an end in itself, with whole forums devoted to catching an agent's attention. Agent Hunting is akin to a sport - and with all the time and energy devoted to researching the perfect agent for you and Agents' likes and dislikes - how can you make your query letter stand out? it's a wonder anyone has time to write a book.

With all this attention it's no wonder agents have become the celebrities of the publishing world in recent years. But are their days numbered?

In the last few weeks I've spotted some interesting developments. Penguin, one of the largest publishing houses and not the sort of place one would expect to welcome unagented submissions, has thrown open its doors to authors' queries for a three month period. Their sci-fi/fantasy imprint, Daw, is also seeking unagented submissions.

I can't help wondering if this is a trend fuelled by the Wylie/Amazon debate which effectively kicked publishers out of the loop. Are publishers afraid of the power they have given agents and now seek to claw some back? Like Dr Frankenstein, have they woken up to the fact that they have created a monster which may yet destroy them?


Lexi said...

Sandra, I think you're reading this right. I've been saying for some time that publishers were crazy to hand over the slush pile to agents, thus putting a barrier between themselves and new talent and guaranteeing a higher price to acquire books.

The publishing industry is in an interesting state of turmoil, which may turn out to be to the advantage of authors.

Penguin sound curiously cautious and grudging about the whole thing, don't they?

Sandra Patterson said...

It is interesting, Lexi. Penguin will undoubtedly be inundated with queries and I can't think of any reason to do this other than bypass agents. Perhaps it's an experiment - who knows where it will end.