Monday, January 21, 2013

Agency Lesson: Agents are readers, too!

Last week I posted about what I do as an agency intern. It prompted some really great discussions both here and over on Google+.

At one point, I was asked what are some of the common things I see in a manuscript that makes me recommend a decline or request. When I shared my list, the questioner expressed relief that my items were some of the same things he looked for when picking a book to read.

This made me realize how easy it is to forget that interns, agents, editors and others who work in publishing are, at their cores, lovers of books. While publishing is a business, it's one that doesn't pay huge salaries unless you're at the very top. In my case, it doesn't pay anything. :) That means that people who make it their career do so because they love books. They love to read them, dive into their words and soak them up. Just like writers and readers.

There is no super-secret check list that publishing pros use to decide if your book is worthy. It's the same things we look for when picking a book to read. Is the writing strong? Are the character's engaging? Does the plot make me want to know the end?

Sure, there are other smaller things that fall under those questions. Things like good grammar, POV/Tense consistency, active voice and such. But even if a reader doesn't know those terms or intentionally look for them, they will know if they aren't done correctly. Rather than calling it passive voice, they will say the book wasn't engaging or they couldn't connect with the reader.

It doesn't matter what you call it. Readers and publishing folks are all looking for the same thing: A great read.

11 comments:

  1. You know what annoys me most when I pick up a new book? Backstory in the beginning, or paragraph after paragraph of inner thoughts while the character does nothing interesting. Yet, I find this in books from big publishers. I wonder how they make it past the editing process (or past the agent for that matter).
    Great post, Sarah! :-)

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    1. Those are two of my big pet peeves, too. :) However, there are probably plenty of readers out there (and agent and editors) who aren't bothered by this.

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  2. Thanks for this great post, Sarah! I always enjoy reading your blog; I have some catching up to do.

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  4. Sarah, great post. It's true. Most agents and editors come into this business because they love books. They WANT to find one they can't put down.

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    1. Yep. It's easy to forget when you're the one sending your 'baby' to them, but they really do want to love it.

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  5. Great post, Sarah! I know my agent is a huge reader and she's dying to find great books in her sub pile.

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  6. Further proof that there is still plenty of room in the market (and on agent client lists) for talented new writers.

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  7. Nice post. Agents are rabid readers, thankfully! I agree with Lexa's pet peeve about books with tons of exposition up front.

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