“This is where a good literary agent comes in. An agent who understands that at a time when there is an industry-wide blockbuster mentality that makes it harder than it’s ever been for editors to find the institutional support it takes to publish serious work well, it is more important than ever for agents to be fearless, savvy, and relentless advocates for their clients after their books are under contract. An agent who understands that the long and winding road to publication is fraught with trouble, and that her role has evolved into a symbiotic partnership with your editor. An agent who understands that in today’s publishing industry, your editor needs her constant presence and support—needling, brainstorming, cajoling, and sometimes even harassing. An agent who understands, in short, that your editor needs her help.”
And here’s another excerpt:
“A different senior editor told me a story about a book she’s publishing right now. There was genuine heartbreak in her voice. “The marketing department is just not interested in it at all,” she said. “They’ve put their priorities elsewhere. So the book has sort of been forgotten.” The editor is very unhappy about this, and so is the agent. (It isn’t clear if the author knows that his book has “sort of been forgotten,” but I suppose he will know soon enough.) The editor told me that the agent has at least tried various things. She has pressed for a meeting to discuss marketing and publicity. She has pressed for a marketing plan. “She’s done as much as she can possibly do,” the editor said. “But there comes a point when even she realizes that she can’t force the marketing department to do anything.””
And yet another excerpt:
“One editor told me, “Your agent should really counsel you on how to interact with the publishing house.” Another said, “The agent is crucial in holding the author back from being obnoxious.” Another was even more pointed: “When you’re talking about a midlist book that people in-house are moderately excited about, a lot of writers don’t realize how much it matters for them to just be a decent person. I’ve seen books totally killed because people are like, ‘He’s an asshole.’ We may like the book, but it’s not a big enough book for us to want to work with an asshole.””
You can read the whole article here.