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The Use Of Interns For Manuscript Evaluation By Agents And Publishers

By Expert Author: Jesse Ross

The same as a secretary or administrative assistant to any executive, interns or subordinates are often used to screen manuscripts to make certain that the agent or publisher isn't inundated with substandard material. And considering the volume of submissions agents and publishers must sift through, without good gatekeepers, the process would be overwhelming.
So What Is a "Reader" Looking For?
It's not so much what they're looking for as what they're looking at. And whether anyone wants to agree or disagree with many of the contentions proffered by respected agent and author Noah Lukeman in his book THE FIRST FIVE PAGES, A WRITER'S GUIDE TO STAYING OUT OF THE REJECTION PILE, I firmly believe he's spot-on when he says that "readers" look for reasons to reject a work. And they look hard. Real hard.
Exactly What Agencies' and Publishers' Aides Evaluate
To effectively answer this, ask yourself what you would look at first. Wouldn't it be grammar and the initial impact of the reading experience? Forget for a moment about how fast the "hook" was established, or some spectacular characterizations, or how rapidly you were engaged in the protagonist's dimension, or any of the other "gripping" issues we who write live by. Isn't grammar the first element you notice when beginning any text?
It's very basic, but if the sentence construction is flawed, most people will put down a book from an unestablished author. Yes, well-known writers, or highly publicized material, go by a different set of rules, but we mere mortals have to deal with the throes of what Ms. Milsey taught us in 4th grade and other indomitable spirits worked so hard to drill into us from that point forward.
A Clean Draft Is the Single Most Important Issue for Writers To Contend With
Ask yourself, how do you react when you pick up a book and you're immediately exposed to sentences with improper subject and verb agreement, pronouns not related to the correct antecedents, unacceptable comma placement, runs of exposition that stop you because of misplaced modifiers, superfluous wording, elliptical expressions, or any of the other rhetorical bugbears?
In this respect, "readers" employed by agents and publishers are no different from all the rest of us when we're reading for enjoyment. Enjoyment is not having to revise the story in our minds while we're reading it.
If a Draft Survives the "First Cut," Publishers' Assistants Then Go for the Jugular
If material is patently readable, then the real work begins for "readers," as they look for whatever they can find to have material rejected. Here are several considerations that can deal a death blow to a manuscript:
High on the list are POV shifts, an element that even the most skilled authors sometimes find difficult to maintain at times.
Passages written in passive voice are often cited as negatives, even though there's absolutely nothing wrong with injecting text with occasional passive runs, as it's often impossible not to use passive elements and retain content fluency.
Telling and not showing is an easy way out for "readers" eager to dis material, as there's always rhetoric that can "show" the action in,more vivid detail. This element is important but often grossly overstated as to its significance, as many scenes need to move along and not be bogged down with capillary-level introspection.
The overuse of adverbs and adjectives. Old as the hills, but still a killer.
Dialogue pacing is another element that's a high priority, and something many writers never consider.
Some aids are taught in college or told that some expert has determined that interior monologue should always follow the actual spit of dialogue. Some "readers," and not just early-stage interns, won't bend this rule, ignoring the pitch of the entire scene to consider a single exchange.
Quirks and Still More Quirks
An inordinate number of issues can destroy a manuscript's chances, and this article touches on just a few of the more potentially contentious elements.It's important to always remember that agents and publishers have preferences, just the same as we all do. And they, like the rest of us, hire aides who will adhere to their likes and dislikes.
A Final Note
If a subordinate doesn't like something about a draft, it's almost always passed on, as agents' and publishers' "readers" are joined at the hip with their employers. Many agents and publishers say that they employ staff to look for quality in material they might otherwise have missed, but the reality is that this extra set of eyes seldom if ever produces positive results for a respective author. This comment, as well as everything in this article, can certainly be argued, but it has been my experience--and for more than 20 years.


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