Agents work very hard indeed. They are, the huge majority of them, among the most professional, ethical, passionate and committed people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. They add a lot of value to authorial careers. They have added a lot of value to mine.
So: I hope that’s completely clear. It’s certainly sincerely meant. But you don’t get that kind of intro without a but – and here it is:
We think far too many agents disclose far too little information to new writers. There are, for example, leading agencies in the UK where:
- an agent reveals nothing at all beyond a client list. No photo. No potted professional biography. No genre preferences. Nothing.
- an agent reveals a very brief bio (Studied at X, Became an agent in 199x, Married and living in London) and nothing else. No client lists. No photo. No genre preferences. Nothing.
- it isn’t even clear who is an agent and who isn’t.
I think that’s seriously not OK. I think that a minimal courtesy to the unpublished writer would require the release of (i) a mugshot, (ii) a short professional bio ideally including some statement as to what MSS would and would not be welcome, and (iii) a full client list.
I think that’s a matter of courtesy and respect. I think it’s essential if the writer is to become an even vaguely equal partner in the writer/agent mating game. If we don’t know who we’re submitting our work to, how the heck can we make even vaguely rational choices?
But it’s also a matter of good business sense. The current say-nothing approach means that writers waste their time submitting to the wrong agents. Agents wste their time dealing with it. What’s the point?
Finally, I also think that the entire traditional publishing industry is under attack from the self-publishing one. I’m published both traditionally and not, and I think both camps can (and will) co-exist for a long time to come. But it IS a threat that agents are worried about – and the more that the literary agency business looks closed and unwelcoming, the greater that threat will become.
All that by way of preamble.
If you want the full story, then pop over to Agent Hunter to view our graphic here and read this manifesto for change. If you agree with us, then tweet the manifesto. Talk about it on your blogs. Speak to your writing group & friends about it. Let’s make change happen.