I found an article that gives a nice little picture of what a literary agent’s life is like.
So much of the strife in the world is simply a failure to see the other side. As a writer, knowing that an agent’s job is hard, well, it doesn’t lessen the sting of the impending wave of rejections I statistically know I will receive if and or when I get to that point, but it does give a different perspective.
I have worked as a operations supervisor and a sales rep for the same company. These were two very different positions with different perspectives and very, very different goals. As a supervisor I had one goal, make things go out on time. I had secondary goals, a crap load of metrics and employee issues that needed to be dealt with, and always in the back of everyone’s mind was keeping the customer first. But overall, I lived and died by a clock. As a sales rep I live and die by the guy in operations who lives and dies by a clock. Every time my customer has a late, broken, or just plain missing shipment I have to send an angry email to an ops manager, request rerates, argue about drivers, etc. I have seen situations which I have been on the both sides of, know both perspectives, and yet wouldn’t change my response in either. As a supervisor I had a plane that needed to go out and by the Lord God Almighty if a few packages got lost or demolished in the process, they were the casualties of war. As a sales rep, I know that is not good business and each package means the world to to someone. And damn it if I hate explaining to someone why their package has a boot print on the side of it…
These are people doing a job. Some are really good at it, some aren’t. They have good days and bad days, and they have methods for making that job work. You could be the next Shakespeare and just because of the simple fact that there are more writers than agents, and editors, and publishers, (combined) you will get rejected somewhere along the way.
Everyone’s got their own stories like this. If you’ve ever worked retail or fast food or hell, just had to deal with people, you know what it’s like to see it from both angles. But not every writer gets to be an editor and not every editor is a writer. I think editors and agents (not so sure on the people that actually run the publishing houses) try to look at it from a writer’s point of view, but I don’t think very many authors have the opportunity to look it from theirs.
I’m by no way saying I think that offers more credence to traditional publishing. Just because they have a reason for doing what they do doesn’t necessarily make it better for the author, just offer more understanding of the industry as a whole.