FIRST IN A 4-PART SERIES
Who are the people who decide which writers are fit to be published by the conglomerates?
To find out I browsed through Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors, and Literary Agents.
According to their listed resumes, east coast literary agents are the best and brightest of our society. I found their bios covered with degrees from Columbia, Brown, Barnard, Vassar, Williams, Wellesly, U of Michigan-- all the biggies. Many didn't just graduate, but were at the top of their class-- "honors"; "high honors"; high distinction." Very studious people. I don't have a clue about the distinction between "high honors" and "high distinction," but I'm sure both are important, well, distinctions.
Here are a few of the answers I found at random to questions like, "How and why did you ever become a literary agent?" (Note to Herman: Please knock out the "ever.")
-"I asked Dad for money for graduate school. He offered me a job at Curtis Brown instead."
-"My first real job was at the United Nations."
-"I'm a publishing brat." (Which I take to mean, Mom or Dad are in publishing.)
Bottom line: We seem to have in literary agents a top echelon of American society; people with backgrounds of affluence and success.
The Question: Are these people fit to judge the tastes of the general American public-- or to judge writers who most certainly come from more knockabout, nonconformist worlds than they? Do they understand the mentality behind the words on the page? Are they able to relate?
There has to be a reason we're getting so many books about the very rich or the very busy in New York City.
(More to come.)