I was running over a several considerations the other day and came to the unshakable conclusion that I have yet to find a single literary agent capable of functioning in polite society, much less competent to do little more than sweep up after hours in a warehouse store.
My reasoning is based on this, most of the new best-selling authors have been mistakes. If their agent had not either been tricked into taking the author on or had decided to try something new on a wild hare one day we would not have the Dresden Files, Harry Potter or several other series picked up because the agent thought they were selling something else but instead managed to stumble on to a treasure.
In other ways, series that are selling now are doing so because they are a sexed up version of what went before. The chief complaints about classics such as the Lord of the Rings, the Pern novels and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books all revolve around them not “being edgy enough”, meaning the books are not R rated. In most cases this means the authors are talented enough to create engaging prose without resorting to overt sex, foul language or graphic blood and gore. In literary agent language this means such writing as that done by the afore-mentioned New York Times Best-selling Authors was not “fresh”. In real world terms this means the literary agents have no taste, and probably no life outside of their cubicle.
The other day I finished reading an eBook copy of a new noir fantasy entitled Strange Magic by the new author James Hunter. It is the debut novel in the Yancy Lazarus series and would fit very nicely on the bookshelf of anyone who likes the writings of Jim Butcher. And therein lies Mister Hunter’s problem, He has written a very good yarn, but it is within the realm of a bestselling author’s work . Rather than capitalize on the growing appetite readers have for such things, I mean, how many books can a writer put out in a year, the agencies cut off the flow of new material because, “the market is crowded”. No, it isn’t crowded. That just means you snapped up a half dozen works by hacks that aren’t selling, so now you won’t even look for anything else.
Like I said, idiots.
Because I am a fantasy author this is centering around that genre, but the truism holds across all genres. Literary agents are lazy, go-for-nothing idiots who give pimps a bad name. I won’t take the allusion any further, thank you. When an author does break through, most often being discovered quite by accident by a publisher, the agents immediately begin rifling through their slush piles hoping to find a close enough copy to the new best seller, but even there they miss the boat. Raise hands all who are sick to death of young vampires in lust stories. The agents call those steaming piles of poo “urban fantasy” and therefore any new story that actually is a fresh look in a contemporary setting is promptly labeled urban fantasy and dumped onto the slush pile. Strange Magic is an example.
The genre most often mislabeled as urban fantasy is noir fantasy such as The Dresden Files, Glen Cook’s Garrett Files, my own Tony Mandolin Mysteries, Simon Greens Drood and Nightside stories and now the Yancy Lazarus yarns. Every one of them written in the same sort of first person prose invented by Rex Stout for his Nero Wolfe mysteries, and about as far from young vampires in lust as you can find. Mister Butcher actually had to sneak in to a literary convention to get noticed. Need we say any more?
Well, we are. I’m closing with this, the term Noir Fantasy is of my coinage. Before I gave it to my publisher the genre did not exist. Here’s hoping a few agents wake up their remaining single brain cell and notice the public wants a lot more of that genre. I’m not holding my breath.