If the merger between Random House and Penguin really goes through, let me tell you how that is going to narrow authors’ chances at getting agents, and agents’ chances of having a title accepted: a lot. From my own experience with a very good agent who had/has made a name for herself, an agent can only submit to one editor of a house, even if that editor is one of twenty editors in one of twenty publishing houses that are under the umbrella of a big name like, uh let’s see. . . . Random House, the largest publishing house in the world.
Penguin Group is owned by Pearson. I am familiar with this company because the Pearson representative for textbooks in my part of Central California can be communicated with by email only and will send out the requested exam copy that teachers express an interest in. However, Bedford-St. Martins, A U.S. company specializing in Humanities textbooks for colleges, is owned by the Bedford, Freeman and Worth Publishing Group owned by the Stuttgart, Germany-based George Von Holtzbrink Publishing Group.
The Bedford-St. Martins local book rep is someone I consider a friend, who meets me for coffee to discuss the new batch of books for next semester’s classes along with any other teachers I can get to come along. Then we discuss the book publishing industry at large. Being number two definitely makes The Bedford representative work harder! I doubt she takes a breath during the first ten weeks of any semester, when teachers and departments are considering books, because she seems to be in ten places at once.
But I drift from my topic, which is how the merger of two giants is going to change things. If the practice of only one submission per editor per house per megalithic publishing company holds as standard practice, agents already in the business will be relying even more (like they don’t already) on the 20% income from paychecks of writers who have already made it in the business, New agents will. . . .
You fill in the blank. It is a changing industry. As long as people want to write, and people want to read, there have got to be ways that new writers come to the notice of readers. I honestly do not know where that will leave agents.