¿Son malos los agentes?
¿Los agentes literarios son los malos de la película? ¿Son un canal o más bien una piedra en el camino entre el editor y sus autores? El tema ha motivado un sentido post en el blog de The Guardian en respuesta a uno anterior, titulado: "The literary Twitter wars: writers hit back at agents" (una encuesta en Twitter sobre la importancia de los agentes literarios que originó insultos de todo tipo). Estoy tan de acuerdo con lo que dice Jean Edelstein que le dedico este post a mis recordadísimos y queridos amigos Willie y Bárbara:
Literary agents: so often regarded as the villains of the publishing world, they were skewered by scores of disgruntled writers this week in response to the Twitter gigglefest which was #queryfail, in which agents posted some of the worst pitches they'd received. No, #queryfail did not give a view into the most gallant side of agenting. But the vitriolic response is not, contrary to popular belief, evidence that agents are failing writers across the board. Rather, it demonstrates how little most people know about what literary agents actually do. Even though I worked as an agent's assistant for two years, it was not until I started writing a book myself that I became acutely aware of how much essential support an agent provides to an author. Having spent a couple of years aiding with the negotiation of book contracts myself, it would have been easy enough to think that I didn't need representation. But the reality is that I could never have even begun to cope alone. An agent plays an invaluable role in supporting the career of the author and the life of a book long after the champagne is popped over the signed contracts (and important to note that the recession means that there is hardly any champagne any more). The reason that agents send out terse rejections, delay returning submissions, refuse to accept submissions at all, is not because they are all busy lunching at The Ivy and cavorting amongst piles of money, but because with a very few exceptions, they are doing the job of being an agent. And, though there are certainly some very exciting moments in that job – when you find an amazing writer, when you cut an exciting deal, when the finished copy of a book you've worked on for years with an author drops on to your desk – there are also a great many dull ones. If you watch a lot of films about agents, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is a full-time pursuit of glamour. Scenes of people scrutinising contractual sub-clauses, having terse email exchanges with Ukranian publishers, and digging through ledgers of old royalty statements does not make for interesting cinema. But that is what many agents spend a majority of their time in the office doing: sorting out the crucial, but picky and tedious, administrative issues that often make not one iota of difference in terms of their own income, but which are crucial to authors. The fun literary reasons that agents take their jobs, the reading and editing, tends to happen in the evenings and on the weekends. And agents are also extraordinary diplomats. My agent's serene support and advice when it comes to my relationship with my publisher is invaluable. Agents serve as a crucial linchpin: keeping the expectations of the former grounded, keeping the latter calm when the author doesn't deliver on time, ensuring that the publisher-author relationship stays positive so that nuanced contractual disagreements don't get in the way of the writing and editing of a good book. It is becoming increasingly popular for frustrated writers to crow that self-publishing and publishing websites will allow writers to bypass agents, rendering them obsolete, a victory for the people. And it is getting harder out there for agents to make their way if they're not brilliant. All of which is fine, so long as these writers are happy to devote their lives to all of the extensive hard work that goes in to making a book exist – and sell – long after the final words have been written. The problem, of course, is that all of this work is so extensive that it can really eat in to your writing time. Which is why I think that as long as there are books – in any form – there will always be space for literary agents.