Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Q & A 82 Can I get agents to bid on my book?
Would it ever work to have an online "auction" type system for query letters and book proposals?
What I have in mind is the following: Currently, agents and editors must be contacted by the author on an individual basis and receive a query regarding an item to represent or publish. Authors must spend time trying to find the right agent for their work. There might be an agent who would love to rep a certain work, but this person could be number 42 on their agent list.
For the agent, the drawback of the current system is that another agent could find and rep a work before you ever had a chance to hear about it. You might have been looking for that Zombie time travel YA novel for 2 years, but if you are agent #16 on the author's list and agent #15 jumped first, well, tough luck. So, why not put the queries and proposals in a central online location?
There are a million problems to work out. How do you keep out the junk? How do you protect an author from "preditors"? I assume such issues could be handled somehow. The central idea then is to have a single slush pile that is categorized and available to all immediately.
I'm having enough trouble solving the two problems you mention; if there are a million, count me out.
I suppose sooner or later everything will be done online, but I can see how an agent would feel that it's easier to let writers know what genres she deals with, and read the ones that show up in her mailbox, than to visit a web site that has fifty times as many works to look through.
And suppose the system were up and running and showed early signs of success. Now every writer wants in. Meanwhile, the reputable agents who wanted in to begin with have picked up a few new clients, and now have all they can handle if they want to have time for their blogs. So eventually we're down to 25 interested agents, and a slush pile of 500,000 manuscripts. Not a good ratio.
If you aren't going to let everyone in, someone will have to read the books to determine which deserve to get in. They're not going to do this for nothing. Suppose they say, "For $200 we'll read your book for as long as we can stand it, and if we make it to the end without gagging, you're in." Those who don't get in (98 percent) will inevitably feel it's all a scam operation. So will those who do get in, if no agents show interest in the book. And they're probably right, unless the readers deciding what gets in are infallible.
None of that matters as much as the fact that agents don't need this. If they did, it would exist.