The Screenplay-novel Manifestos

Less is more vivid

Monday, February 13, 2006

interns, triage, and the deeply ill patient

Incidentally, on the topic of injustices of the publishing world, the following from Book Face is worth a look. The argument is simple: publishers -- ever-eager to manage the overwhelming volume of material they supposedly receive (what? they'd prefer too few submissions?) hire armies of underpaid, but, unfortunately, callow and inexperienced interns to sift through their slush piles.

Interns are cruel, and despite their lack of life experience, knowledge of literature, and business sense, most manuscripts sent to literary agencies or publishing houses are rejected by them. The fact that 20-year-olds are used to separate the chaff from the wheat could be moderately upsetting to a writer twice their age, if only they knew. Well I'm here to tell you. There are too many writers, too many manuscripts, so they use college kids who get wasted in a double room in a dormitory on Thursday night and maybe get lucky and put the little scrunchy on the door and then stay up late talking about what it's like, man, growing up in an affluent suburb where people just don't understand you (!) -- then wake up for their internship and pass judgment like they are the supreme literary authority.

I'm not sure I buy the argument in its entirety -- my own experience is that the major publishers deal with new submissions by not dealing with them at all: they've downloaded that task to agents ... a group that, although they vary in quality and sometimes are excellent, have a depressing tendency to define literature according to standards even more shallow than those of the hapless interns. The situation has become somewhat analogous to a hospital emergency room where the security guard is the one making the initial decisions about who "really needs" attention.

But in any case, h
opefully an interesting comments thread will develop at that site.


Post a Comment

<< Home