If you want to be published by traditional means (E.G. a publishing house), you need an agent. But it’s an uphill slog to find one you can get along with who will take your work. Sometimes it seems the whole business is designed to keep authors out and school chums in. That’s not the case.
Let me make one thing astoundingly clear about the traditional publishing industry and the associations tied to them. No one goes into the business because they hate authors. Agents, editors, interns and basically everyone involved in the established method of getting a book out the door chose their job because they love books.
But writers, if you haven’t done your research, you’re not going to get very far. Agents are professionals. Treat them as one and take the time to learn how to approach them in an appropriate manner. If you want to be published via the agent -> traditional publisher route you need to respect yourself, the industry and the individual you are writing to.
If you want to sound like you mean business then act like it. No one becomes a pilot without training and I seriously doubt any author makes it past the slush pile if he hasn’t read a book or two about the query letter.
Also in fairness to the stressed agent, it is worth remembering that they are inundated with unrequested work on a daily basis. The bloody saying “everyone has at least one book in them” probably irritates them to no end. Some people were not born to be published, or haven’t taken the time it takes to practice, or need more help than an agent has time to offer.
Some non-fiction authors try to shift into the fiction market without enough experience and suddenly an incredibly talented writer seems like am amateur. I wouldn’t be surprised if the reverse is also true.
I’m sure there are times an agent wants to take a manuscript and throw it at the wall. Actually I have little doubt someone has. Having read snippets of free downloads, web stories, and “look inside” pages I understand that finding a good author to represent is as frustrating as an authors search for a good agent.
It’s worth remembering that concept as we proceed.