Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reality Check

So apparently I'm on the Writer's Digest list of Best Websites for 2008. Thanks, Writer's Digest!

I love to read and I love talking to writers (although I'm not a very talented writer myself) but I work in a profession that isn't very creative. Sometimes I imagine quitting my job and trying to work for an agent. Please disabuse me of my daydreams:

1. would I have to go back to college for an English degree? (my undergraduate degree is in communications)
2. is the pay as abysmal as you suggest?
3. do you feel excited looking for new and creative voices or is it drudge work slogging through queries?


1. Considering I have a bachelor's and a master's and neither of them are English degrees, I would say no.

2. Sometimes you don't even get paid and they expect you to work for free. And there are people who will do it, too.

3. As I genuinely enjoy reading bad queries, I find my work very enjoyable no matter what is in the envelope.


Anonymous said...

'3. As I genuinely enjoy reading bad queries, I find my work very enjoyable no matter what is in the envelope.'

O.K. I'm a little freeeaked out. Where did you put the real Rejecter? If you've hurt even one hair on her rejecting head, there will be hell to pay.

Anonymous said...

You enjoy reading bad queries? I should send you one of mine!

The Rejecter said...

Well, the REALLY bad ones. The handwritten ones. The lesbian vampire ones.

Most of them are actually pretty boring.

Anonymous said...

I am currently working full time for free at a publisher. Right. There are people who will do it for free. Remember that.

Kimbra Kasch said...

Congrats! It's always great news to find out you're the best in your field - or one of the best.

Anonymous said...

Working full-time for free? Isn't that called volunteering?
Must be nice. Some of us have to work, because we need money.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to explore your thoughts on the "I love talking to writers, though I'm not very talented writer myself" part of the original post.

I understand there are different agent styles. But many people like talking to writers and also can't write -- shouldn't someone seeking a career in agenting need the skill of basic editing?

An ability to spot plot holes, awkward sentences, and wavering character arcs -- and being able to offer suggestions on how to fix them -- is part of the job.

My first agent was someone who "liked talking to writers and also couldn't write himself." And needless to say, he isn't my agent anymore. His suggestions for rewrites and edits before he'd send anything out made my work worse. He did more damage to my career than I ever thought possible, frankly.

Sorry -- having some editor contacts and liking to read doesn't do it for me.

Melanie Hooyenga said...


Anonymous said...

I'm interning, and currently being supported by my parents. it sounds great, but actually it's not. They only help me enough make sure I don't die (which is fair in my eyes). I basically go to my internship, eat, and sleep. Then I do it all over again.

Yeah.... Some of us DO need money.

Anonymous said...

People outside the industry are often surprised by (a) how lousy the pay is, (b) how long and hard people work, and (c) the number of people (they are known as interns) who do all that work for no money at all, just so they can have some experience to put on their CVs. For some reason an awful lot of people want to work in publishing, and since (especially in Editorial) it's virtually impossible to get relevant experience from any other industry, you mostly have to start at the very, very bottom. That often means unpaid, or virtually unpaid, internships.

Quite a number of periodical publications, at least in Canada, are produced mostly by unpaid interns, and are nevertheless very good (The Walrus is an example). It's amazing, really -- but what it means is that there are people, really bright, capable, dedicated people, who want so much to get a foot in the door or love the work so much (or both) that they'll do their best work for no pay.*

In my experience, the unpaid intern does tend to have another source of income (parents, a spouse or partner, freelance work), but often not a big one. And even many people I know who work in publishing for pay wouldn't be able to do so if their spouse/partner didn't work in some other industry, making two or three times as much.

*You could also argue, fairly convincingly, that a large proportion of people who work in publishing are crazy. After twelve years in the industry, I would be hard put to dispute that conclusion.

Anonymous said...

I work as an editor on a literary magazine. Doesn't pay a dime--but I couldn't pay good money anywhere else to have this much fun.

Anonymous said...

I don't know rejecter, sometimes you wear the I don't need no stinking English major badges a little too visibly. Almost like you're proud of what you don't know and tell us we don't need to know. Maybe you're an autodidact and have somehow internalized all this stuff. I don't mean this to be insulting but I find the stance troubling.

The Rejecter said...

Anon 2:08,

I confess I had to look up the word "autodidact." Good for you on the vocab.

To be fair, I was a history major, which in real-life terms isn't much better or different than being an English major, except that you're probably better at quoting material from multiple sources in the same paper. And I did, much to my consternation, have to take a ton of literature courses in grad school for my MFA program. It's not that I don't think English majors are uneducated - the very opposite - it's that I personally do not enjoy the process of taking a literature class.

Anonymous said...

I was a psyc major, although an english minor. I was an english minor because I took so many cw classes it added up to a minor credit. Although I have been told by the editor at the place I intern for that my editing skills are above most of the interns. Of course, when I decided to go into editing I studied grammar and punctuation. From my understanding, english was more about reading than it was about writing. That's why I wasn't too fond of bonified english courses, I like a leisurely read.
I usually find that jobs that request you be an english or journalism major tend to not be publishers. I'm not putting down the english major. It's just that it's not a requirement to be in the publishing industry and if you're good, they don't care what you majored in.