A student asked me yesterday if Miss Snark's blog was still going. Sadly, I had to answer no. When he asked why not (did she die? or was it all a scam?), I explained what Miss Snark had said at the end - she thought she'd answered every possible question about agents and agenting and publishing she possibly could, and it was time to stop.
That doesn't mean to say the blog has gone. More than two year's worth of information, advice and snarkiness is still there, and worth using as a resource. There are other agents who blog too, such as Kristin Nelson. Her blog has just won a Preditors and Editors award for usefulness.
But the question that often comes up about agents is "Is this a good agent? Is he/she worth submitting to? How can you work out if someone is a scammer?"
Preditors and Editors is a good start. They will tell you if an agency is a scam, or if it charges reading fees (often also the sign of something dodgy). There are lots of sites out there that will give you information. I recently Googled a small agent (as in one person agency, not a short agent) I'd never heard of before, and the first result on the Google page was a forum at Absolute Write where writers were giving their feedback on said agent.
Someone told me recently that there are around 600 agents operating in the US. Here in Australia there are about 30. These days it's as hard to get an agent as it is to find a publisher for your book, but many larger publishers don't accept unsolicited submissions, so what choice do writers have?
At a session at last year's Writers' Festival in Melbourne, agents complained that publishers were basically pushing the slush pile aside and expecting agents to do all the sifting work. That's probably true! And if so, publishers then can't really complain when agents expect more money for their clients in terms of advances. Writing ... publishing ... agenting ... promotion - I was about to say they're a basket of chickens and eggs, but without the writers, none of the rest of it would happen. Does that make the writer into a hen-pecked rooster?