It is widely asserted that you need an agent to get a manuscript in front of editors at the big houses, but that you can submit work to indie presses directly. Yet I notice that many small publishers, from A to Z (Akashic and Zumaya cases in point) are now posting on their websites that they are 'temporarily' not accepting submissions because they are swamped.
Is this in fact a 'temporary' situation? (It seems to have lasted more than a year for some of these presses...) Can an agented manuscript get past this hurdle, or are these presses genuinely buried under their commitments?
Well, my last conversation with Johnny Temple at Akashic was conducted in a bar so I'm not sure if my transcription is accurate but here's what's going on there: they got REAL successful with their Noir series. Brooklyn Noir took off like a shot, followed by Brooklyn Noir 2, SF Noir, Chicago Noir and Godhelpus Dublin Noir. Considering each is an anthology, they have 25 authors in every book to wrangle. They ARE truly swamped. I know and like Johnny and have a lot of respect for what he's doing over there. If and when he's not busy, he'd probably tell me if I asked.
I don't know Elizabeth at Zumaya very well but I see her around on some BBSs I read. Most likely she's as tired as we all are of our slush piles and is just trying to get on top of it.
The value of an agent here is that we usually know the folks. The ones in NY we see a lot; the not-in-NY ones we see at BEA or other path crossing places like the Edgars. It's a lot easier for an agent to get a call returned or get an email answered than it is for a regular author. That makes sense from a time management view: agents represent a LOT of projects, individual authors just one. I tend to return phone calls from Bantam a lot faster than those from Bumf..err..you get the idea.
If you want to talk with these guys, the Small Press Fair is in New York every year. It's coming up in December 3 and 4. Here's the link:Small Press Center that sponsors it.