Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Keeping The Gate

There comes a time in all agents’ lives when they are accused of inhibiting the publication of someone’s wonderful novel or book. It’s been a while since I’ve been called a gatekeeper, but I’m sure, even though the accusation hasn’t been verbalized lately, that it’s been thought about. Am I right?

What has always puzzled this agent is why would anyone think that agents have this much power? Yes, we do reject much of what passes through our inboxes, but we are only one in many hundreds of agents, so if we don’t wish to represent someone--or anyone for that matter--what kind of a dent does one imagine this makes in publishing as a whole?

Actually, the feeling isn’t all bad, because like everyone I do have an ego. I would like to think that I’m powerful enough to stop every book that I don’t like from being published. However, I’m also humble enough to realize that even though there are hundreds of thousands of novels that I might dislike, both published and unpublished, that gatekeeping them all from getting their day on the bookstore shelf would be a huge order even for a super hero.

Let’s take that one step further: How can anyone prevent anything from being published? To make my point, right after the latest supposed shoe bomber incident, (the one where the guy was smoking in an airplane’s restroom) a news commentator said he’d found the ingredients for making a shoe bomb on the Internet. So my point is that if someone can publish this, what makes anyone think that publishing your book is difficult?

Aaaah, that’s it. There’s another side to this isn’t there? Even though it’s easy to be published, those who are thinking me a gatekeeper really don’t mean that I’m blocking them from publication. What they really mean is that I’m blocking them from making MONEY at being published—being paid to be published---that’s what I’m supposedly blocking.

Please rest assured and don't worry about this as I will not block your novel from making us tons of money if I believe it has even the slightest potential to do so. And even if I do happen to miss one now and then, there are hundreds of other agents out there who won't.


Gray Rinehart said...

Nice post, oh Keepers of the Gate. And like the deniers of conspiracies that by their deniers feed those very conspiracies, this post will almost certainly (though inadvertently) confirm to many that there is a Gate, and that you and your fellow agents are indeed its Keepers.

Have fun,

Healing Morning said...

I must tell you that I find your blog and Twitter posts to be some of the most helpful ones out there for aspiring authors. One of the qualities you display that I value highly is that you find a way to communicate positive points in virtually every post that you publish. In a competitive field where so many of us are searching for ways to achieve our dream of being published, it is refreshing to read positive comments and suggestions.

From this post, I can only imagine the daily stress that you experience. Countless aspiring authors pulling at you, everyone wanting something and perhaps not many who tell you that you're making a positive difference with what you do. Let me be the one to state, here, today, that you do make a difference! I appreciate what you offer with advice, tips, suggestions and just simple sharing of glimpses of your world. You keep me motivated to achieve my own goals!

~ S. Dawn Sievers

Jason Black said...

Great post.

Once, for a period of about five seconds, I considered being an agent. Then I did the math and raised my hat to you guys and gals who do keep the gate in recognition of the enormous mountain of work you do in pursuit of unpredictable, inconsistent, and often under-sized paychecks.

That's dedication.

If I were to hang up my Book Doctor hat for a life of agenting, though, I think I'd have to consider every rejection as a win for me. An agent may not have much power, but he or she does at the very least, get to choose what projects to work on and who to work with.

So I'd be saying "thank goodness I don't have to put in hundreds of hours on _that_ book," and "Boy, I'm glad I don't have to work with _that_ fussy, high-maintenance writer."

It's not like a day job, where the boss can just dump any old thing on your desk and compel you to work on it. Agents may not get rich quick, but hey, at least self-determination is something.

Scott Jensen said...


No, no, no, Robert. You need to FEED their conspiracy theories. Power isn't taken, but given. Be as powerful as you can be. ;-)