Wednesday, February 16, 2011

uh boy

I came across this blog post over at kidlit.com about a phenomenan they dub "assistant attitude" and I call stupidlystupidstupid  shortsighted.

My godsend Meredith takes first crack at the queries. She's able to promptly reply to all the people whose work is really not right for us. I've posted query stats before; she takes care of  the ones where there's no mention of what the book is about; topics I don't ever want to see; people who really aren't ready to query. She knows what I'm looking for, and more important, what I'm NOT looking for at all.

The balance of the queries are things she reads more carefully, and talks to me about. I sit directly across from her and we have conversations about queries almost every day.

Now, if I didn't have Meredith the Godsend (and trust me, that is not a thing I like to contemplate) your work would get LESS careful scrutiny not more.



What does this mean to you: never EVER think that having an assistant read your query is somehow a bad thing. Without Meredith I'd be hard pressed to answer all my queries promptly; without her I wouldn't have read some things she's brought to my attention; and without her I'd have to close to queries much more often.

If you're smart, you'll realize the godsends are just that.

26 comments:

Josin L. McQuein said...

Meh. When someone tosses out the "only the assistant" line, I usually point them to Stephenie Meyer's website where she talks about how she got her agent. If not for the assistant, Twilight would have stayed in the rejection pile.

The assistant angst is so weird to me - and it's insulting to not only the assistant, but to the agent that hired him/her. An assistant or intern is hired for a specific job - maybe that includes reading slush, maybe it doesn't, but if it does and you go on to grumble about their competency, you're saying the agent doesn't know what they're doing at hiring time.

sprunty said...

I know I'm campaigning for being president of the Meredith Fan Club, but that isn't driving my comment.

I had first hand experience of Meredith listening to my query and giving great advice! I know what a gift the experience was. People who might think it was "less than" because of a title probably haven't done enough research into the process.

Joel said...

Ursa Major's the royal food taster, gulping down browned charcoal briquettes, ketchup covered popsicle sticks and salt-covered play-do.

All for the occasional cupcake passed to to Gentle Reider: a glaze of cracked lemon and powered sugar icing, a thick curl of orange butter cream atop vanilla cake, light, foamy and flecked with lemon and orange peel.

What a great job.

michael said...

I don't understand the anti-assistant attitude.

When my precious WIP is ready for the world, I hope more people than one agent wants to read it. Readers will decide to buy my book in the local bookstore or internet with less information than is in my query.

Once my book has proven worthy of two people, you and your assistant, and you decide to get rich off my masterpiece, I want you to spend more time selling my book than reading queries.

Joelle said...

I was picked out of the slush by my first agent's assistant. She was a star. She is now an agent herself.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

The assassin and the apex-predator make a good team. If people paid attention to life, they'd realise that savvy professionals are surrounded by brilliant people. Good fighters train with great fighters. It's the law of attraction without the secret.

Alaina said...

Wow, I totally agree with you! First off, if only agents read the queries, people are more likely to get tossed aside. I mean really... How many queries can one person read in a day?

I would think a writer is more likely to get noticed if the agent isn't so bogged down with queries to read. When would you have time to contact publishers, work with writers, or promote their work?

Occasionaly, I come across people who are bothered by the actual agent not seeing their query and it makes my head spin. Plus, I am sure every agent starts as an assistant. At least that would seem logical. :-)

terripatrick said...

I've been an Assistant. Big Name agents have been Assistants.

I have found out the name of the Assistants and directed queries and submissions to them, instead of Big Name agent. Assistant is charmed to be known, is happy to converse, and delighted to be professionally addressed.

However, Assistant is not stupid and will not request what is not right for Big Name agent just because you put Assistant's name on the query. There may be an extra sentence or two in the response from Assistant.

However, Assistant may become a Big Name agent and fondly remember that day when Author queried Assistant and when Author is ready and queries former Assistant-now-Big Name, Author may get and extra sentence or two read on that query, or maybe a request at least for the sake of nostalgia.

However, as an Assistant in my past, I can also recommend it is not a good career move to snark at the Assistant.

Tim Roast said...

Meredith the Godsend should push for a pay-rise.

Sheila Cull said...

You are fortunate indeed Ms. Reid.

Let's hear for all the Meredith's out there! A godsend. WOW!

Tara Tyler said...

She is your apprentice shark, right? Great! I wish I had an apprentice, so much more would get done around here! What's her address so I can send her some flowers or does she prefer chocolate? =)

Margaret Yang said...

Plus, don't most assistants go on to be agents in their own right? The person who is the "gatekeeper" today might be the agent tomorrow.

Leah said...

I've decided it's great to follow your blog while I'm working on my first (eek!) novel and preparing to query...I feel like a fly in the wall of an industry I don't yet know enough about. Your tips/advice/what *not* to do are really insightful and helpful and now I know not to lie or whine or fuss when I finally am ready to send out that all-important first query.

Not that I think I'd have done those things anyway...but still!!! :)

So thanks!! A TON!

David said...

Plus the general hypocrisy of unpublished writers thinking that their work is smarter and above the head of anyone in the industry, even if that person is an assistant.

That assistant still has still read anywhere from 50,000-100,000 queries for every query an unpublished writer sends her.

I think this attitude is more a spinoff of the stories we all hear about: the uber breakouts that every agent but one passed on. When those stories come along, people think, well if agents can get it wrong, that must go double for their assistants.

I think the larger lesson is that everyone is capable of ignorance: agents, assistants, and writers. NO ONE KNOWS what a breakout will be.

**But especially not the people who can't write a decent query!:)

Michael G-G said...

I commented on that post and gave your attribution.

They are GODSENDS.

Any snobby writers out there: adjust your attitudes accordingly. Immediately. Or prepare to be flayed for your ignorance by my tagliatelle grande.

Lynn(e) said...

as a reservationist for the company i work for, i really appreciate these blog posts. my manager is a phenominal man, and i love him dearly. he also respects all of his employees, and is super nice to us.

i think sometimes us lower folk don't give you guys enough credit for loving us too :)

ryan field said...

This carries over into all industries, with regard to the importance of assistants. Get on good terms with the assistant in a doctor's office or a hair salon and you'll always get an appointment.

Huntress said...

*scratching head*
So according to the article, assistants are bad?

But why? Assuming the agent chose and hired the assistant, LIKES the assistant, shares cupcakes with the assistant...
oops scratch the last. That might go too far.

I have no problem with an assistant reading my subs. As long as cupcakes are plentiful.

Marsha Sigman said...

I've had experience with a few assistants and they have all been awesome.

I know a godsend when I see it...or you know...read it's emails.

Rebecca Kiel said...

My guess is any respectable agent wouldn't hire a flunky assistant anyway. Where's the good business practice in that?

Carolyn Arnold said...

I'm just grateful when ANYONE reads my query!

Matthew Masucci said...

When you move past all the pomp and circumstance of publishing, the future of literature and art, it all comes down to business.

This is a business and for people to expect it not to function like a business may have no place in it.

I think too many people subscribe a higher purpose to the whole thing so it becomes this overwhelming monster of expectation.

Like the Sharktopus.

John Bell said...

Your post certainly bolsters the old saying 'joined at the hip'. I'm sure that adhesive doesn't come easy in the Agenting world.

Shannon said...

I'm glad you both have balls of steel--the crap you both have to deal with.

I always feel like I have to apologize for the dumb people.

So, I'm sorry that writer is stupid and ignorant.

trishstewart said...

One such assistant read my book and insisted that the agent read it, too. He championed me to that agent and while the agent ultimately rejected the work, he told me about this wonderful assistant and how he pushed for my work. Because of Young Mr. Assistant, Mr. Agent wants to read my next book. So thanks, "Mr. Assistant".

Yeah, I have total respect for savvy assistants.

iheartya said...

I am an assistant. I like it when people like me. In other news, recently scored new client an agent and, we hope, an eventual contract. :)