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.