Sunday, December 23, 2012

Being Internly: An Introduction

You may have noticed the cobwebs. It's been a while.

The reason behind my hiatus and my return is the same. Back in June 2012, I became a freelance, unpaid, intern for a literary agent. In a nutshell, it's a lot like my beta-reading work, where I read manuscripts and  give my opinion. On occasion, for the agency's clients, I might do more in-depth editing.

It's been an interesting experience for me because it's a bit of a paradigm shift from being a bookseller. When you work in a bookstore, the books themselves are a commodity. It doesn't matter to us if the book is an one-hit wonder and the author fades into obscurity shortly after. It matters to an agent, though, because they are investing in the author. They're not so much looking for a great book as they are looking for an author who writes great books. Writing may be an art, but publishing is a business.

Over the last six months, it's become clear to me that my eventual career path is skewing more editorial than agent-y. When I graduated from queries to partials & fulls, I kept trying to fix them. I'd be like "Well, this one isn't market-ready, but the author could strengthen that part and cut this and maybe add more of this." My boss ended up calling me into her virtual office and said, "We are not here to fix. We're here to sell." It's kinda like going to an estate auction. There are a lot of other people around, all bidding on the same lots. Sometimes you're lucky enough to be the top bidder on a Tiffany lamp. Sometimes you win an auction only to discover your prize isn't as great as you thought, like a pristine lunch box with a moldy milk thermos inside. Sometimes you are the only one to notice that rare Barbie doll in a jumbled pile. Sometimes you find a dusty, scuffed, antique that just needs a good polishing to double its value. But you don't go to an estate auction with the intention of buying something that's broken.

Once I had that straight in my head, it was a lot easier for me. Things certainly moved faster because I can generally tell within the first six chapters if something is worth pursuing or not. I feel bad at times, though, because there will be concepts that are really original and definitely marketable, but the writing is just not there or the writing will be strong, but the story will be unmarketable. My first thought is always 'How can I help them fix this?' So, as such, my goal is to obtain an editorial freelance position.

However, in the meantime, I wanted to share some of what I've learned so that maybe you can be a Tiffany lamp and not a moldy lunch box.

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