The man who "found" John Grisham has given an interview to Poets & Writers in which he describes the trajectory of his career, which did not begin in a literary agency. The article is well worth reading, if only to provide some insight into how the business used to be back in the day, when a publisher's editor did editing, and where it is at now.
|No more stacks of manuscripts in the digital age|
Largely, it's a case of acquiring works from writers holding MBAs who have a degree that proves they know how to write well enough to save the publishers the added expense, but that's another story.
Mr. Gernert has seen the industry from both sides, from the publisher's perspective to the agent's view. He has a lot to say about the whole business, seasoned with a dash of sadness that the world of fiction is getting lost to the lure of video games and other time wasters. A fan of fiction, he mourns the demise of the lazy afternoon spent reading, with today's youth filling the empty hours with mindless play that provides entertainment of a sort, but not an amusement that will be of any benefit.
So there you have it.
Fiction is a tough sell, gotten tougher as reading takes a back seat to other activities that don't require much more than hand-eye coordination.
Therefore, he isn't interested in acquiring you as a client. He has enough authors in his stable, thanks for asking, and he doesn't need to take on another when it will just be another hard slog through the muck of bean-countery.
Only a recommendation from someone already on his list will get you a look. Befriending John Grisham, in that case, would go a long way. And it's highly unlikely, so don't get your hopes up.
Publishing is nearly impossible to break into, with the gatekeepers like Mr. Gernert carrying a full load. People aren't reading what he's trying to sell, which only makes things worse for his existing clients, to say nothing of bringing another on board.
But then again, there are other agents at his agency who are young and hungry and just might, just might, be interested in what you have to say.