The answers to your questions:
I'm an artist, and last year, my art rep started shopping around my dummybooks. Her method is starting with an AD who in turn says they love the concept and will "pitch" it to an editor.
YAY! But then the crickets start chirping. My rep contacts the AD who apologizes profusely and says to call on such and such a date when they will have some feedback. This follows with a string of apologies when rep does call and nothing has been done regarding the manuscript.
More phone dates are planned and then eventually AD avoids phone calls all together. This has happened at two houses so far and each time the AD has had the manuscript for 5-6 months at least.
I would just appreciate a "NO" rather than being ignored. Should I seek a literary agent who will submit directly to the editor?Are my manuscripts junky and the Art Director doesn't want to share that feedback?Should I suggest to my rep to submit to more houses than one at a time and directly to an editor? (Ack, I hate to do this, I don't want to come off like I know more than she does.)
1. Yes. The problem with trying to sidestep the swamp of The Slush is that on either side of it is a sheer cliff. There's no where to stand out there. At most houses, designers are not your best advocates for acquisition.
2. Possibly. Designers are often sweeter people than editors. Editors (who are often very nice themselves) have to develop the ability to give bad news without stressing over it or worrying about just how to put it: we get lots and lots of practice, and after the first couple years it gets easy. Designers don't have as much of this experience, and do stress and worry... and may procrastinate because of it.
3. For god's sake, yes. Assuming you don't do the better thing and get a literary agent.
4. And remember to tell the publishing houses you submit to (whomever does the submitting for you) that it's ok if they want someone else to illustrate your manuscript. I've gotten illustrated submissions from artists who were in no way bad artists—but whose art style's strengths did not complement the manuscript's strengths. In those cases, it's better to get someone else.