I gave up my Saturday to do a presentation on Publishing in the 21st Century (and how things have changed since 9/11), followed by a panel on why some multi-published authors can't get agents for the Novelists Inc. Writers' Conference. Since this is a writers' group that is open to writers who have published a minimum of two novels, it's a very different kind of writers' group. The median number of books published by members was 16!
Many members have had multi-book deals in genre work (or even work for hire) and suddenly find it has become harder and harder to get published and/or they had a brief moment of success in the 80's or 90's and now no one will touch them, since the numbers on their last book were so bad.
So the panel I was on was on how to fight this, and it was fascinating.
Lois Winston from Ashley Grayson's agency actually had a whole list of reasons why this might be the case, which was so thorough that I told her to submit them as an article for Writer's Digest Magazine.
But, of course, the biggest reason is that the market has changed irrevocably since 2001, and today, every book has to be perfect (not too long or short and well crafted) and come with a marketing plan. Which means you have to have quotes, a website and a list of bookstores where you can do readings. Every book that sells to a major New York publisher, whether it is a mass market, trade paperback or hardcover must be able to guarantee 25,000 copies sold, or it will not be published by a major publisher.
And that is why so many authors find themselves without agents and publishers.
I know a lot of agents who will not take on an author who brings in less than $25,000 a year. Many of my authors were those discarded authors. I've since been able to bring them up to that level, but it's a long process of at least 3 to 5 years. So, as an agent, I have to be in love with the author's work in order to make that commitment.
And not every agent knows how to build an author. They only know how to sell what's given to them. I brainstorm with my authors on a regular basis. We hatch a plan, and if it doesn't work, we come up with another one. For me, this is the creative process that I bring to my work, but not every agent wants to do this work, or work this hard.