I did a little more digging, and I think this current author-agent Twitter conflict may have started when an agent tweeted that she kept getting submissions of books that involved grief and she didn’t want them and didn’t think the market wanted them either:
Okay, so the agent stated a personal preference and implied it was an overall market preference, as agents sometimes do. Personally, I hope she’s wrong. I read and hear about tons of popular books that involve grief; it is a universal human experience. But at the same time, I do think it’s her right to state her preference, and I don’t find that inherently offensive. Writers with grief books can now cross her off their lists, because she clearly doesn’t know how to (or want to) sell them.
The agent who wrote the recent thread was obviously wrong to feel personally attacked by this larger writer discourse and to conclude that writers don’t care about the market. But at the same time, I think writers need to avoid taking agents’ preferences and pronouncements so seriously.
An agent is just one person trying to guess what will sell. They have direct experience with editors, which is great, but they’re still influenced by their own subjective biases. My first agent told me not to write in present tense because I couldn’t “pull it off.” I looked at the market and saw present tense was the norm in my category. My second agent sold my present-tense book.
So if an agent says, “No grief books for me,” that doesn’t make your book bad or your lived experience of grief invalid. If your book is published, you can probably count on getting Goodreads reviews that say much worse things, and that still doesn’t make your book bad!
Sorry, hope this isn’t too far OT. I just think that social media have given agents a lot of power, and some agents have used that power to grandstand, and now we’re seeing the backlash, and maybe it would be less stressful to take everything agents say as coming from one person, not Publishing. It doesn’t change the fact that agents are the gateway to Publishing and they ghost most queriers, a situation that is inherently unequal and stressful for writers. But agents are not a monolith.