This post, by Dean Wesley Smith, originally appeared on his site on 10/3/11.
A beginning note: This post came about because lately I’ve been getting the writer-as-center-of-the-universe questions a great deal. Writers believe that when they send in a manuscript to an editor, it is the only manuscript on the desk. Writers believe that when they take on an agent, they are the agent’s only client. Writers believe that their advance is the only money publishers will spend on their book. That sort of silliness, which drove the writing of this post. Keep that in mind when reading this. Thanks!
Traditional Publishers Caused Agents to Become Publishers.
Let me simply say that traditional publishers deserve what they are getting.
And my question is this to traditional publishers:
WHY WOULD YOU DEAL WITH AN AGENT WHO IS YOUR COMPETITOR?
Why not just cut off those agencies and go direct to the writers?
Too simple, right? Too logical. Too much of a logical, good-business solution for publishing, I know. Sigh.
But even with traditional publishers being continually stupid, agents as publishers just won’t work. And today, in Publisher’s Marketplace, we saw that clearly once again.
Let me explain this as best as I can.
Over a decade ago traditional publishers, in a cost-cutting measure, decided that slush piles did not serve them well. So someone, somewhere (more than likely in Pocket Books, since this sort of started in the Star Trek department) decided that publishers could outsource the slush pile to agents.
In other words, give up control of the pipeline to the original product that they depended on. Yeah, that was smart business.
The publishers did this by simply putting in their guidelines that instead of no unsolicited manuscripts, they wouldn’t accept unagented manuscripts. One simple word changed the job of agents.