I know, I know, the title is inappropriate, but I could not resist.

This question:

Are agents too busy for new clients? What should I do next?

was closed and I think it should be reopened. It addresses one main problem in traditional publishing.

The major publishers delegated the screening of their slush piles to the literary agents. Now the agents are drowned in manuscripts like the publisher were before (or still are). So now instead of winning the lottery at the publisher, you have to win the agent lottery and must hope, that (if you win) the agent can sell your work.

There are people out there, who question the role of agents in publishing/selling your book. There are also people questioning the traditional way of publishing. Many wannabe/aspiring authors will struggle with this problem and I think this question would help to address this issue and give some hints how to get around it.

3 Answers 3


The title question itself is, in my view, too debatable in its current form. Asking whether the model is dysfunctional is just far too open ended and subject to opinion. However, the problems the author is raising are very real, and worth having on this site. With a little work, there's no reason why the question cannot be reopened. The central question being asked appears to be something like: "What alternatives are there to using literary agents?", or "How do I overcome literary agent inertia?" or something similar.

Having said that, this comes back to a point I've raised before: questions should be reworked before they are closed. Judging by the reaction the asker had to having the question closed, it's clear that he doesn't feel very welcomed at all, and I can't say I blame him.

  • 1
    Craig, this question is a great example of why questions who need significant editing should be closed until they're ready. If we had left this open until the question had been edited, people would have been answering the agents-are-obsolete part of the question as well as the rest of it. I appreciate that making the site friendly to new users is important, but making sure the questions and answers here are good is even more important. If we have lots of vague questions here, this site will never make it out of beta. (Also see: this on Meta.SO.) Apr 15, 2012 at 2:55
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    Good points, I see where you're coming from. Perhaps the response could've been a bit more helpful than directing the user to the FAQ. It wasn't difficult to see what the re-edit should've been, so some suggestions along those lines certainly would've gone a long way. Apr 15, 2012 at 18:20
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    "Perhaps the response could've been a bit more helpful than directing the user to the FAQ." Looking at it now, you're right, of course. But it's difficult to come up with a concise, kind response every single time we have to close a question. I'll look into some kinder canned comments. Apr 16, 2012 at 15:27

While the tone may be incendiary, this question presents a clear problem ("all the literary agents I have contacted claim to be too busy to take on new clients") and request for a solution ("If I genuinely believe in my project [...] where can I go from here?").

As such, I think this question merits an edit rather than a close. At very least, IMHO, a clearer, better-targeted comment was called for - the boilerplate "we do not answer vague questions" does not apply when there's a specific question.

I will edit (mostly for the dysfunctionality assumption) and reopen.


Thanks for the positive comments.

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    While I don't think anybody is touting current publishing practices as the epitome of well-reasoned functionality, asking Is the agency model dysfunctional? isn't a practical question unless you're in a position to change it :P However, How do I cope with the current problematic system? is A-OK, IMHO.
    – Standback
    Apr 16, 2012 at 18:42
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    @SteveJones: It's not a question of delicacy; it's a question of asking an answerable question. SE is not a debate forum. Your question is interesting and worth addressing, and on another board worth discussing -- but SE needs questions with the potential for concrete answers. Apr 17, 2012 at 10:09

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