In one of her posts (I don't have a link to the specific post. Sorry) Janet Reid said to writers "you are not a beggar at the banquet of publishing". I mentioned this to The Engineer and said something about writing relationships being a partnership, that it was about trust. He looked at me queerly and asked if that was what I really believed.
I'm glad he asked becuase it made me think about it, but, Yes! I do believe writing relationships are a partnership. I want an agent and publisher who look at me as an equal. It's about trust. Trust between the reader and writer, the writer and themselves, the writer their agent and publisher. I am not begging. I'll keep querying an writing and improving, but I will not beg. This is a business relationship. How can I have the respect of the people I work with if I don't respect myself?
I've never liked the term 'gatekeeper' and I'm not fond of agents who use this term. In fact, I don't query them. Agents don't offer to represent books they don't think are ready but that's more about business than about keeping someone out of publishing. Do people look at med school or the MCAT as a gatekeeper? Maybe. Are they upset about it? No. At least not if they plan on seeing a doctor in the near future. When seeing a doctor we want someone we can trust with our lives. It may not be as serious as heart surgery but when we pick up a book don't we want to know it's not going to be a waste of our time and money? Does that make us elitest? Or just practical?
I don't see agents as bouncers at a bar meant to keep out 'undesirables' I see them more as elevator attendants. The people who try to help us get to the right floor, but they can only take us to a floor inside their building. If we need a floor at a different building then we need a different agent. Or maybe we need a ranch house with no elevator at all. There are many paths to publishing, and just because one agent isn't right for us doesn't mean that they are throwing us out, it just means we need to try somewhere else, or polish up a little. Not all agents can sell all things. Just like I wouldn't want a podiatrist to do my open heart surgery.
We are not beggars, and agents aren't bouncers. (In most cases). We just need to find our trusted partner. I could compare this to dating and finding the 'perfect' spouse but that's a post for another day. Writing is an art, and it's subjective. Because we put our heart into it rejection can hurt. But writing is also a business, and unless we treat it like a business we'll never find the right floor, or the right elevator.