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hvxjim
04-25-2014, 12:29 AM
I'm new to novel writing. I was involved in film making for many years, so excuse my ignorance -

But I am reading stories about writers sending out 100 or more queries to agents.

If there are only six major publishers left, why are there so many agents?

I can't wrap my head around this.

suki
04-25-2014, 12:35 AM
I'm new to novel writing. I was involved in film making for many years, so excuse my ignorance -

But I am reading stories about writers sending out 100 or more queries to agents.

If there are only six major publishers left, why are there so many agents?

I can't wrap my head around this.

First, there are many more than 6 publishers. There are many viable and even desireable publishers beyond the "big" 6 or 5 or whatever.

Second, it takes specialized knowledge to: (1) know which editors within each publisher to target, (2) to get that editor to read a submission. There are very few agents who rep "everything." You need to find the agents who effectively represent your specific market and genre.

Third, because there are a ton of writers.

Fourth, and money to be made.

Fifth, and a gambler in every corner.

But, maybe most importantly, while there may be 100+ agents who rep any given genre or market, not all of them are equal. You have to research to separate the wheat from the chaff. Who is a good fit for you and what you write.

~suki

Filigree
04-25-2014, 12:44 AM
There are five or so big publishers left, and hundreds of respected middleweights, plus the specific international markets, plus subsidiary rights. There's a lot of work for agents, considering how big the playing field still is.

Agents have taken on the bulk of gatekeeper functions as far as reading slushpiles. I know several agencies receiving an average of 10,000 to 20,000 queries a year, all of which they and their assistants at least glance at. Many large publishers no longer take unagented, unsolicited manuscripts from writers. Of those who do still have slushpiles, the wait times on those submissions can be months or years.

(Some authors bypass this and self-publish, but bad writing is bad writing anywhere it ends up.)

Then consider genre: good agents, like good publishers, tend to focus on a few types of books in fields they know and like. A nonfiction agent may know lots about that market, but nothing about science fiction or romance - so it makes sense not to represent those genres.

In fact, too-broad representation of many genres and categories, from a literary agent or a publisher, can be a red flag indicator about their general competence, business models, and effectiveness at their jobs.

TerryRodgers
04-25-2014, 12:49 AM
Querytracker has over 1200 agents on their site and there's bound to be double that out there. Be glad there's more than 100 because at any given time half of those may not be looking for new clients.

hvxjim
04-25-2014, 12:55 AM
Thank you. I guess I just didn't realize how many books and publishers are still out there.

alexaherself
04-25-2014, 02:47 AM
And even those "big 5 publishers" have countless imprints and subsidiaries, which each have their own comissioning editors, staff, and so on.

Old Hack
04-25-2014, 11:09 AM
Each of the Big Five has numerous imprints, and there are plenty of independent presses out there too.

But the number of publishers available is not the most significant factor to consider when wondering why there are so many agents.

There are hundreds of thousands of writers; many of those writers will write more than one book; and many of the books that are published will be published by more than one publisher, in more than one country.

Agents work for writers, not publishers. They manage the sales of all of those books to all of those imprints, to all of those countries. It's a huge job and as it's all commission-based, the ones which can't do it well enough do tend to drop out.

cornflake
04-25-2014, 11:40 AM
I'm new to novel writing. I was involved in film making for many years, so excuse my ignorance -

But I am reading stories about writers sending out 100 or more queries to agents.

If there are only six major publishers left, why are there so many agents?

I can't wrap my head around this.

There are only so many studios, why are there so many actor's agents?

hvxjim
04-25-2014, 05:14 PM
There are only so many studios, why are there so many actor's agents?

Valid point.

Jamesaritchie
04-25-2014, 05:27 PM
I'm new to novel writing. I was involved in film making for many years, so excuse my ignorance -

But I am reading stories about writers sending out 100 or more queries to agents.

If there are only six major publishers left, why are there so many agents?

I can't wrap my head around this.

There are thousands of publishers, and a lot of big, well-known, money-making ones outside the big six. But do you know how many thousands of books the big 6 alone release each year?

Far too many books get published each year. Every good agent out there has a bunch of writers in the stable.

Publishing is a massive business.

Not to say all agents out there are good or needed. Like any profession, some are scams artists, some are incompetent, etc.