It seems everyone is writing or has written a book they hope to publish. I sometimes think there are more aspiring authors than there are serious readers. Most blogging agents will tell you that their query numbers have skyrocketed the last few years and that this is true for their non-blogging colleagues as well. Part of me, the part that teaches kids and likes to read and reveres literature, celebrates this. More writers means more competition, which means only the cream of the cream will get published, which means it'll be easier for me to find great books.
But part of me is just a little peeved, and it's not because I'm all "Oh, you don't know what it takes. You think you can just slop something down and get a book deal blah blah blah." No, it's because I have to compete with these people and I'm realistic enough to know I'm no that guy who wrote The Shack.*
So let me offer a solution that will make almost everybody happy. I feel bad for myself and other unpublished writers. And I feel bad that the agents have to wade through an ever-increasing number of queries. But they can do a lot to lower these numbers.
Literary agents, I'd like you to be meaner. A little more Simon Cowell and a little less Paula Abdul, please. It seems the worst you hear about agents these days is "He never responded to my query!" This is a problem. Agents are just too damned nice. "It wasn't right for me, but keep trying," they say. "I like your writing, but the story is too close to something I just signed," they say. "It's a very subjective business," they say.
All too positive. With encouragement like this, no wonder every George, Dick, and Condi thinks they can publish a book. In their desire to not offend, agents have created a monster. With their timid form letters and their excessive indulgence they have created a system that treats the persistent few no better than the coddled and misty-eyed many. Agents, let's have a little more honesty. If something sucks, tell the writer it sucks. In fact, if you wouldn't mind, tell the writer he sucks.
Unless that writer is me.
*This is a joke. The Shack sucks. See? Now how hard was that?