Monica sent this: “What role do agents have in today’s changing market? And I know you do a lot of work in the religious publishing scene -- do agents work in that area as well?”
Yes, I do a lot of work in the Christian market. Not exclusively -- I work in both the general market as well as the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association). The role of agents is changing, just as the role of publisher is changing. Most publishers, including most Christian publishers, simply do the bulk of their business through agents. Publishing houses rely on agents to do the initial weeding, so that the proposals being considered by acquisitions editors have already been vetted in some way. That's a change that has come over the past ten or fifteen years. The dross has been skimmed away. Agents (at least reputable agents) also have the relationships in place to get your proposal seen by the right people at publishing houses – something many beginning writers lack. They also understand publishing contracts, so they can protect you from making a bad decision – an important but often overlooked point, since the document you sign is a legal agreement that will govern the terms of your writing for the life of the project. And a good agent will know the market, so that he or she can negotiate a contract on your behalf that is in line with current market standards. The book world is constantly changing, so staying on top of trends and knowing who is doing what is important.
Read more (courtesy Literary MacGregor)