Friday, April 22, 2011

Guest Post: The Tricky Territory of Publishing Blogs

Today's guest post is by Intern Liv of the League of Illustrious Interns. Liv works for a literary agency of some repute and has been sworn to bloggerly silence as a condition of her internment. Today, Liv explores the reasons behind anti-blogging policies in the publishing industry—and the benefits of keeping a low profile on the web.

On my first day as an intern for a lit agency, all of us were told that while it would be hard to be fired from an unpaid internship, it was still possible. Aside from general unprofessional behavior that could get a person fired anywhere, blogging about the agency or the internship was definitely one way to get the boot. With so much information already out there (and with many agents blogging about the industry themselves), it’s hard to imagine why blogging, especially from an intern, can be damaging for a literary agency. But here’s why:

1. Projects are kept off the web for a reason. Lots can change between the time a project is submitted to the time it’s ready for publication (the title, for instance). But when a project is on submission to editors, it’s vital that information, particularly submission statistics, remain private. It’s potentially damaging if an editor sees that the project has been through a round of submissions (and rejections) already, or if Editor EagleEye from Fabulous Imprint has already passed.

2. Interns are…interns. While most of us are mature, professional, and hardworking, we’re still learning the ropes, and there are interns who don’t quite have a handle on what kind of information should be kept private. There was that whole hullabaloo last year with the intern who got on twitter and posted out-of-context lines from queries she read. Her intention was probably to point out common query mistakes a la Queryshark, but she ended up insulting writers who never sent their queries off to be posted on twitter and made fun of. This kind of unprofessionalism can damage the reputation of an agency as a whole, and it’s just not worth risking.

3. Publishing is a small industry, and since most publishing professionals work in a specific area (Children’s, for instance, or a genre like Romance), it can be hard to get into if you develop a bad reputation. Getting a job in any industry is hard, but publishing jobs are incredibly competitive, so if you’re an intern hoping to use your internship as a foot in the door, it’s best not to shoot that foot. My experience with my agency has been positive and I do believe that they want their interns to move on to full-time (read: paid) jobs, and this policy can ultimately benefit us as interns. In fact, I’m so paranoid about blogging that not only am I using an alias for this post, but I also used an alias to contact the lovely INTERN. How’s that for risk-adverse?

Blogging, anonymous or otherwise, has changed the publishing industry for the better. Marketing/publicity departments routinely use blog tours to promote authors, and bloggers who have clout (enough followers) get ARCs for review. Blogging has also made the industry much more transparent—a lot of the information I learned about Publishing was gleaned from months of blog-reading, and it helped prepare me for my first interview. I’ve learned a ton from my internship, but a lot of it also reinforced what I read through blogs, and now I can speak intelligently about the industry, especially on e-books and how they might affect the future of the industry as a whole.

But aside from helping those who are interested in a career in publishing, blogging has been incredibly helpful for writers who need to familiarize themselves with the business side of writing. Everything from query help to agent advice to editor etiquette can be found on blogs to help you every step of the way.

The takeaway? Be careful with what you put out there—if you’re a writer submitting to agents, don’t put up your submission statistics. Not every agent will look you up, but you don’t want an agent to reject you based on your blog or twitter. But it’s also important not to get too wrapped up in the blogosphere—just focus on making your manuscript the best that it can be and when it’s time to submit, look at a couple of useful sites (Queryshark and the like) and don’t stress the details. You don’t want to end up as paranoid as me :)

Intern Liv


  1. I totally agree with your insight here. I started a publishing/reading/writing blog earlier this year as an offshoot of a major project in grad school, and then landed an editorial internship at one of the big houses a month later. I choose not to be anonymous because I think blogging can be a useful tool for proving my skills and engagement with the industry, BUT I have to be careful not to reveal any sensitive information that's not mine to share.

    Reading submissions and sitting in on editorial meetings are the best parts of my internship, but I can't go around blogging or tweeting about OMG you guys guess who's shopping around a manuscript right now!, as much as I'd like to sometimes.

  2. Reading this it seems so ridiculously obvious-- but still-- it hadn't occurred to me that posting my submission statistics would be a bad idea! Makes perfect sense. I haven't finished my WIP yet, so no worries, no stats out there to worry about yet. Thank you!

  3. Thanks for such an informative post! As a blogger with a job in the publishing industry, it was hard to find definitive answers on the subject. I often post information that I've learned about design through work - that's the point of my blog - but I try to keep to two guidelines:
    1. Everything I write portrays my publisher, books and illustrators in a positive, promotional light, and
    2. Any information I post could be found somewhere else on the internet.
    So far, the response from my coworkers has been all positive. In fact, they see it as a great way to stay actively involved in the industry. But, especially if you don't remain anonymous, you have to be extra careful with everything you post.

  4. This was a really interesting post. It was intriguing to see things from your business perspective and it all makes perfect sense.