Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Agent Flood

It seems like there's been a recent flood of new agents in the field of children's literature. I'm sure the large number of publishing layoffs have contributed to this, amongst other things, but whatever the cause, it's made me stop and wonder...is this a good thing or a bad thing for children's writers and illustrators?

On one hand, there are new, hungry agents out there just looking for terrific stories and art to sell. Their doors are open, as are their minds. They WANT people to send them queries and samples. It might actually become a *little* easier to get an agent now. And all this is good, if you're looking for an agent.

But what if you're not. What would an agent glut do to the market? Assuming there's a limited number of manuscripts to be acquired in a given period of time, wouldn't editors tend to read agented work before even considering diving into the slush pile? Will this make it even harder to get your work read if you don't have an agent? Is this the universe's way of "cleaning up" the submission process so that unagented work must be so outstandingly-sparkly-clean that anything less will be given up on? Will this weed out writers and illustrators who aren't willing to do what it takes to make it in this business? Is this the beginning of the children's market becoming more like the adult market, where agents are a necessity to selling your work?

Those are a lot of questions. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this! Let me know what you think~ please, leave a comment.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting topic, Terry. It does seem like there are suddenly lots of new agents popping up. I assume it's because of recent industry layoffs. It might be a good opportunity for writers to get a foot in the door with agents who are trying to establish themselves. Since many of these new agents seem to be experienced editors it would seem they have the industry know-how and the contacts to make deals happen. It does seem like it might get a little harder to get out of the slush on one's own now.
Does it make the average writer feel more of a need for an agent? I don't know. I'm starting to get the hankering for an agent!
This is a good discussion-I'd love to see some more people chime in with their thoughts.
Rebecca L-G

Terry P. said...

I agree, Rebecca. I'm starting to feel the "need" for an agent too. In the past, it's always been something I've wanted but could live without if I couldn't find anyone interested in repping me, but now that desire has shifted to something that feels more like a necessity.

I'd also like to hear folks' thoughts about what this could do to the submission glut--will it reduce it? Will it cause some writers to give up sooner than normal because editors are acquiring more agented work?

In the past months, I've read that this economic downturn could hold some silver linings for the book business and force the industry to change its old ways. Is this part of that? Will everyone need an agent eventually?

sruble said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sruble said...

I typed a really long reply and Blogger ate it! Ugh! Here we go again.

Children's book publishers are moving more towards agented subs, but I think/hope that there will always be at least a small window open for unagented authors and illustrators. That combined with the layoffs make it natural that there would be a rise in agents.

People should still research and ask questions to make sure the agent is right for them, and not just jump in because there's someone new. Not all of them will have the same experience or contacts and it's important to find someone that fits with your work and personality.

Questions ...
Yes, agented subs (generally) get read first, which will make it harder for the general slush subs. It's more like the adult market, but hopefully there will always be a window for unagented writers and artists, whether it's slush, conferences, or contests.

Yes, those not willing to put in the work will most likely get left behind.

Yes, submissions (agented and non) need to be uber sparkly-clean. Any excuse to reject in a bad economy with overflowing slush piles will be used.

That said, there's something to be said for voice. A great voice can get past other mistakes and make an editor want to work with the author.

Thanks for the thoughtful topic. I hope more people weigh in on the discussion.

Terry P. said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response/s, Stephanie. I agree that voice is even more critical now, especially with novels. Most of my published work has been for young children, although I'm working on a novel and I definitely feel the pressure to have a strong voice element to it. So far, I've been able to sell my work sans agent, but I'm feeling like with the current changes, it's becoming more of a necessity, especially with a novel on its way.

sruble said...

It does seem more of a necessity to have an agent for a novel rather than a PB, at least for now. Good luck on your agent search if you decide to go that route.

Terry P. said...

Thanks, Stephanie. I agree, with so many additional things to consider with a novel (sub rights, etc,) it makes more sense to have an agent for that. However, with the recent swings in the industry, I'm thinking even a PB author might need one too.