A writing project my fiction agent has been sending out has been rejected by two publishers in less than a week, and you know how I feel about that? I feel good. And here’s why: Without an agent, those two rejections could have taken up to two years to get to me. Plus, I got rejected by actual editors as opposed to slush pile readers.
So this does two things: One, it gets the project back in circulation to other editors quicker, and two, it puts my name on the radar of both of these editors (both of whom were complimentary of the writing in the rejections — which, if one must be rejected, is the rejection you’d prefer to get). Also, as an aside, it’s reassuring for me as a writer — the rejections show me that the agent is actually getting the work read by the right people. I wasn’t actually worried about this (mind you, if I had been, I wouldn’t have gone with my agent in the first place), but of course it’s always nice to have confirmation.
So that’s what an agent is good for: Faster rejections, and higher-quality rejections. Inasmush as rejection is a natural part of the book business, that’s the kind of rejection you’re aiming for.