Saturday, July 19, 2008

Stop Bashing The Interns

Today has been an abominably hot and miserable day. It is humid in NJ. The temperature has hovered around the mid to upper 90s all day. I think I managed to dehydrate myself, just by not drinking gallons of water (I got dizzy and nauseous and almost threw up in Borders; delightful). So I am cranky and I am going to write a cranky post, and you can all feel free to not read it. Be warned.

First of all, please stop bashing my interns. Jodi Meadows, my current temporary intern, has been doing a terrific job. She's passed up to me a number of partials to request, not all of which I've sent the e-mails for yet. She's fast; she's competent; and she knows exactly what I'm looking for. On top of that, she snagged me a lovely author, whose full manuscript I requested right away. I read the manuscript, loved it, and spoke to the author on the phone today. That would make her the third person I've offered representation to since this year began (for the record: one client signed in January, one potential client that went to a different agent in June, and this one potential client who I hope will sign with me, but who is taking time to consider it--always a smart move). I am grateful and happy for Jodi's help. She's one of the better interns I've worked with (and I've worked with at least half a dozen), especially because she comes pre-trained.

There are people who don't like the personalized rejections she's writing. Tough. Deal with it. I like them.

Second, there are people who complain that my regular intern doesn't answer queries fast enough. Let me tell you about my regular intern, shall I? He's a graduate student in English, teaches all semester, and oh, wait for this one, is a father of three. He works for me five to eight hours a week, which is entirely reasonable for an intern. He's doing a great job getting through my slush pile because he's not only reading queries, but independently reading partials and full manuscripts before passing them on to me. This is what all literary agent interns do; I've not met one who doesn't pre-vet manuscripts for the agent they're working for. For the record, my intern is incredibly picky, well-read, and hasn't yet passed me something that I want to sign. He's GOOD.

Third, reading slush, whether it's query letters, short stories, partial or full manuscripts is a thankless job. There are far more people out there who think they can write well than there are actually good writers. It's the job of the slush reader to sort the chaff from the wheat, to find the diamonds in the rough (and they do exist, and I've even signed some as clients), and to actually find the good stories to read. If I was rich and had my druthers, I'd pay all my slush readers $10/hour, at least; I'm not rich and I don't have my druthers, so that doesn't currently happen. Interns, like at many other places, work for experience around here. They save me valuable time, and allow me to devote energy to my actual clients. You know, the people who earn me money, and whose books I've sold, and whom I depend upon for my livelihood. They have always been and always will be my highest priority. If you ever want to be one, you would do well to respect the people who read the slush, looking out for your book.

Enough said. Cranky post over. =)


Jodi Meadows said...

*loff* Thank you for your confidence in me. :)

Elissa M said...

You have every right to be cranky on behalf of your interns. I am constantly amazed by the bizarre behavior some writers demonstrate. Wouldn't it be more productive to improve one's writing rather than bash interns?

Oh, wait, I guess these writers need no improvement, and thus it's the interns' fault they can't see the brilliance before them. In that case, said perfect writer should just query elsewhere, since the agency can't appreciate their brilliance. Or does that make too much sense?

Alex Fayle said...

Yay to interns! I was one of the rejections, but Jodi did it with professionalism, did it quickly (one day), and gave me some very good comments to think about. It was oen of the best rejections I've ever received, actually.

Maura Anderson said...

Ummm - Color me appalled. I am still amazed at what people will do in what should be a professional query and response process.

People don't like personalized rejections?


Being an intern can be a thankless way to learn more about a job if you don't get a good boss/mentor. As someone who has several interns right now for my Evil Day Job, thank you for standing up for yours. Mine are rock stars and it sounds like yours are too!

JKB said...

Man, I'm with Maura. I'm really sorry Jodi and your other intern have to go through this.

I'm actually really sad, kind of. I got a great rejection from Jodi, and it was helpful, she was nice...I can't imagine someone not liking one of her rejections. Unless, of course, they just didn't want to be rejected. But isn't that something we all get?

Anyway, they are great, and thanks for sticking up for them!

Kristine Overbrook said...

Jodi is wonderful! These personalized rejections are fab. I did a happy dance when I got mine.

It helped me see what I need to do to sell my novel. I'm in the group that can write the book, but have a difficult time getting my synopsis right. :) I'll work on that (take a class or two) and try again later.

Nothin' but love for ya. :)

Natalie said...

Your interns sound amazing! I'm sorry people are giving them grief.

And thank you, interns, for your hard work. Seems like some people just can't be pleased no matter what.

Miss Lily said...

Being that I haven't finished my novel up to snuff yet (I'm picky as a writer) so therefore will not be sending a half written unedited lovely story no matter how much a personal rejection would be nice, I can't believe the stupidity of some writers who would bash an intern who is giving them personalized rejections.

Honestly, writers out there, be thankful you're even getting a response, let alone a personalized one. VERY FEW people do that, if ever. It's a chance to improve, and as a writer, you have to evolve your writing or you're a fairly useless writer. Nobody is perfect, no matter how much writers claim to be. Take the advice, smile about it, and frikkin' quit whinning cause you don't like that you aren't the greatest thing since bread.

And the intern that's a dad and teaching, from another teacher, holy crap. My hat's off to you. I barely find time to write while teaching and finishing my master's. Let alone having to put up with half the stuff that is in the slush pile.

Anyway, my two cents. Won't see my novel in time for the personalized rejections I bet, but my hat's off to you, thank you, and the ungrateful writers should be ashamed.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Thank you everyone! =)

Spencer said...

Who's dissing the interns? I take you down, fool. I take you down hard.

Kenny and Jodi are both doing a fabulous job.

Anonymous said...

Wow! I'd give up my molars for a personalized rejection. Hell, I'd give up my molars for a warm Pepsi, but that's besides the point. Of the wannabes I consort with, our second-fondest hope is to get a personalized reply. Even if it stings there's something to learn from it. Hope the criers of foul didn't screw it up for the rest of us.

Just_Me said...

:o) I love your interns, they're doing fine. Breath!

Try yoga.

Mary Paddock said...

I moderate on a low-key online writer's workshop spawned by long-lived, very active poetry workshop. These sites play hardball and the expected response from the person offering up their work for criticism is to say "thank you" (and maybe a question to clarify). Period. If you disagree with the feedback, assume they're the wrong audience, say thank you, and move on. Temper tantrums will get you a slap on the wrist. A repeat of the behavior will get you banned.

One of the other moderators has a mantra in her signature that says, "I am not as good as I think I am". I find it's best to keep this fixed in the forefront of my mind when someone is offering me (free) advice.

If you're one of the lucky ones who gets a personalized rejection, have the grace to be grateful.

ShelisaL said...

Loved the post, cranky notwithstanding :-D You are right on the money.

I've followed Jodi's blog and gleaned valuable information from what she's written about her experience. It kills me that she and your regular intern (wow, amazing guy!) are taking heat from people with paper-thin skins. Personalized rejections are a rare gift, to be treasured and studied. They are not open invitations to debate!

There's just no pleasing some people, and honestly, they probably bite the head off anyone who tells them something they don't want to hear.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to intrude on your message, but one line threw me.

For the record, my intern ... hasn't yet passed me something that I want to sign.

Anonymous said...

To me the personalized rejections don't mean much unless I get more than one both pinpointing the same thing. Otherwise it's just one random opinion.

I have sent out 39 queries now and gotten about 12 personalized rejects, all different (including the ones asking for partials),3 or 4 saying they think it will find a home, but alas, it's not right for their contacts. Still no full requests but I have 1 partial out to an industry icon (agent) now, who requested chapters based on the same query was rejected by Jodi (something about choices protag has to make not being apparent enough) but any feedback is appreciated.

Snarky Writer said...

I heart Jodi! She read my query TWICE and gave me great feedback both times. Allow me to join the army of writers ready to bash the ungrateful writers.

Jenny Rappaport said...

anonymous #1 (first, please for the love of god, give yourselves a handle or I'm going to disable this anonymous posting; I cannot keep track of all of you):

You said "For the record, my intern ... hasn't yet passed me something that I want to sign"

What I mean is that my intern is discerning enough of my tastes that he's not passing up things to me that he knows that I'm not interested in reading. We discuss partials and fulls he has questions on, which is once again, par for the course in how literary agent interns work. One of the reasons I'm able to do this is because he came highly recommended and was, in a sense, "pre-trained" to read slush already.

This is why I can't accept unknown people as electronic interns. If you were to be my intern in person, then I would literally check over everything you did in the first few weeks, and teach you how to read queries and partials for me, based on what you thought would be good or bad for me. I can't do that if I'm not working with someone in person, and that's very much a training thing on my part, and a learning experience for the intern. It can take a month or more until an intern is reading to my tastes in slush.

La Belle Americaine said...

I was happy to receive Jodi's feedback--after all, I asked for it. From what I see, people who tend to grow upset over feedback from professionals either a) need to learn to maintain distance from their work (when it's time to, that is) or b) just write for themselves and everyone who'll blindly praise them and their work. Certainly we seek validation for our words, but we seek them from those outside of ourselves for a reason: an hopefully honest, objective opinion. I can't grow upset over words I can toss away tomorrow and start all over again, and I can't allow writing to become me to the point where any perceived slight or slur against it is taken as a slight or slur against me personally.

Kristine Overbrook said...

I think what some writers don't get, (Well, the ones that get bent out of shape anyway) is that the agent, intern, or publisher isn't rejecting your novel when they reject your query. They are rejecting your ability to sell your novel. :) Most of us are artists, not sales people.

Learning to sell it is the first step to seeing a review of our actual artwork.

Hehe, then we may be rejected anyway. Hopefully, we get happy about it.

Frankly, if you're getting rejected you've stepped into the still rare group of people that have finished a novel.

Be joyful, it's a wonderful ride.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to have one of the personalized responses, whether written by you or your intern.

Problem is, that my book falls into your area of interest only by a stretch of logic.

- - P.

Ryan Field said...

I'm late here, but I've read a few of Jodi's posts on queries and I think they are excellent learning tools. If I'd read posts like this ten years ago, I could have avoided many mistakes.

Katherine said...

As someone who's worked as an intern at two NYC literary agencies, I totally agree with your post! Thanks for acknowledging how tough it can be for an intern to separate the good from the bad... from the horrible. Also, thanks for mentioning that interns DO have a value.

Chro said...

If you ever receive annoying responses to your rejections, I suggest you answer them as follows:

Dear Whiner,

Thank you for sharing your offended sensibilities to the L. Perkins Agency. Unfortunately, your shattered heart doesn't look right for us, and we are unable to offer sympathy. Your ungratefulness just didn't manage to grab us. However, with your passion, I'm sure you will find pity elsewhere. We wish you the best of luck in finding someone who will give a damn.

Jodi Meadows said...

Chro, LOL! You may need to use drink warnings before you post stuff like that. It's only because my coffee is still dripping that I didn't choke on it. :P

To the rest, Thanks guys. I'm really glad you're all here. It means a lot. :)

jill said...

Wow! Jodi does personalized rejections? I'll just move you to the top of my submission list once I'm sure I've done enough polishing.

Francesca Hawley said...

I was fortunate enough to receive one of the quick, professional rejections. I appreciated Jodi's assessment and it will help me moving forward with my future queries.

Jodi- I debated sending a personalized thank you for the rejection but I didn't want to clutter up the e-mail inbox. I REALLY value your feedback!

Aimless Writer said...

Jodi does personalized rejections? I'll take one! Any personalized message from a gatekeeper is welcomed.
Keep it up Jodi. Some of us would love to hear it no matter which way it leans. Most of us want to learn and improve out craft. Your words are very valuble to a writer looking for an agent. Don't let the few nay-sayers get you down.
There are more smart and savy writers out here who appreciate you. Thanks for all you do.

Jodi Meadows said...

Jill and Aimless Writer,

I do send personalized rejections until July 23, and then I am freeeeeee. I mean, going back to my normal, boring life. If you send before then, I'll get it! But after that, it goes to the regular intern. :)

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that if we were rejected by you that we should query the regular intern next, since it would be a different person reading the query? Or would the regular intern know if someting has already been rejected by you? Just curious.

Jenny Rappaport said...

If a particular novel has been rejected, regardless of WHO has rejected it, it is rejected for the purposes of the L. Perkins Agency.

If you have a *different* novel, you are welcome to query that novel.

How Publishing Really Works said...

Meh. I've just read a batch of posts on a message board which criticised Jodi for not being personal enough in her rejections. Not only is this such bad manners, it also exposes the writers as being pretty clueless about writing and publishing.

I did wonder if I should join the message-board, just so that I could attempt to scatter a few clues around me: but decided against it. Meanwhile, my thanks to Jodi for undertaking this particularly thankless task, and to Jenny Rappaport, for allowing it.

(And no, I won't be submitting because I'm in the UK, I don't fit your requirements, and I have a good agent of my own already. Otherwise I'd love to.)


Nadine said...

I loved the personal rejection Jodi sent me. She pointed out some very valid problems with my query/synopsis and for that, I am very grateful.

Thanks Jodi!