When most people think of an editor at a publishing house, they think of a person in a quiet, comfortable office with appealingly soft lighting, reclining in a comfortable chair and reading all day long. Pretty sweet gig, right? Sadly for my editor friends, this isn’t the case. In truth there’s a lot of fluorescent lighting; uncomfortable, standard office furniture; lots of scrambling to return e-mails and phone calls; and way too many meetings. There’s all the usual corporate office stuff—plus they have to find time to actually edit! There just isn’t time left for these busy people to be mining slush piles for hidden gems.
Enter the agents. The publishing community is a fairly small group of people, and most of us are centered in New York City. Over the years we have spent time meeting editors at all the big publishing houses. We go to lunch a lot. We have drinks a lot. If we have to, we’ll get up early and go to breakfast, or—if push really comes to shove—we’ll meet in an office. A lot of us even become friends. Editors can rely on their network of agent contacts to send them projects that are appropriate for what they’re looking to publish, and are also of superior quality. We are gatekeepers and time-savers. And yes, sometimes we are pains in the neck, too, but mostly editors are happy we exist.
Why won’t most publishing companies even consider unagented submissions?