Friday, October 23, 2009

I read bad books so you don't have to

For the past few weeks, I've had to cut back on blogging because I've been busy with, among other things, an internship at a well-known NYC literary agency. It's an agency where I'd love to work someday, and I love the intern work. Getting my first "job" in publishing, though, has really changed the way I think about and read YA literature and how it gets into the hands of readers, and also why librarians ask the questions they do about publishers' mindsets.

On an average day at my internship, I might read 8 query letters. Queries, in short, are a one-page letter from an author to a potential agent selling the agent the idea of the book. A query's job is to make the agent say, "This sounds intriguing. I'd like to read this book." Now, do some math. If the average agent gets 8 queries a day, multiplied by the number of agents at the agency (let's say there are 5), that's 40 queries a day, multiplied by 7 days a week = 280 queries a week, 14,560 queries a year. It takes a lot to stand out among 14,000+ other book ideas. If there's one thing I've learned here, it's that good writing can make any plot or character appealing. I've also learned that a query and the first fifty pages of the novel it describes aren't always equal. Some queries that seemed so-so to me have turned into 50 pages that made me hassle the author (not really, but I wanted to) for more. In short, I get to see a lot of ideas both good and bad, and trust me, those who complain that "there are no good books anymore" need to see the slush pile. I'll SHOW them where the no-good books end up.

In order to be good at your publishing job, you do have to read, but because I'm now enjoying a longer commute and longer hours, I'm not reading as much unless the author is a client of the agency. I'm still reviewing for Kirkus and VOYA but I'm not going to print those reviews here, obviously. Future reviews will include Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan and How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford. After I get some much-needed sleep.

1 comment:

Maggie Stiefvater said...

Ooooh I hope you liked ROBOT. I really did.