Pick any agent and determine his/her success rate: books published that made money using the query process. Then give all new queries in a week an ID number and pick some out of a hat to work on. If the success rate for the hat is better than that of the current query process, the hat wins.
I'm not just being a wise ass. If we begin by assumming that the publishing of a book is a random process, then we can ask what additional information could an agent need to determine who got into the hat and who didn't. This information is where agentry should focus, because everything that goes into the hat is worth publishing.
An agent can only process so much material in a 40-hour week. So if he/she can only do justice to 3(?) new works per week, but gets 200(?) queries, then let the sorting hat determine what material gets the agent's full attention. Everything else that week gets immediately returned to the authors.
This method means the agent gets a workload he/she can manage. Only two types rejection letters are sent:
- A. Your work did not get in the hat.
- B. Your work got into the hat but we went in another direction.
The writer who got rejection "B" can immediately send his/her work off to another agent, knowing that the current agent believed it was worthy of a look, but didn't have time. Writers who got rejection "A" know they have to go back to reorganizing their work, until they begin to get rejection letter "B".
If the agent is good, the 3 books he/she decided to work on will get published. He will get paid, the publisher will make money. The authors will be thrilled.
Think about it. If I can get into the sorting hat for 100 agents, and each of those agents pulls out 3 to work on, then I have a 3/100 x 100 chance of getting published per a week. From a writer's perspective, that is better than the current system where, despite all of the work agents do, my chance of being published is very, very small. Why? Because a literary work is more than a commodity.