There has been quite a bit of talk recently about literary agency interns (and sometimes agents themselves) anonymously posting bits of queries on twitter. While most of the tweets are written with the intention to amuse or educate, many querying authors have been insulted by the idea. And blame agencies. Which in turn get insulted, because most agencies would never ever employ an intern that had the gall to do that. Why do I think anonymously posting parts of queries online is so terrible? It comes down to one word: professionalism.
Some elements of professionalism seem old fashion: business causal attire, lunch meetings, etc. yet one element of professionalism should never go out of style: personal integrity. And by invading a query author’s privacy and posting their query, which was written with the intention of only being read by the agency, online is not professional.
Many in my family are teachers so it’s easy for me to flip this situation around to apply to education, and teachers have been fired for acting similarly. Take note:
Example #1, To Entertain: A student does something stupid or amusing in class. The teacher remarks about it to her friends or in public. It gets back to the student’s parents. The parent complains to the principal or superintendant, and lo and behold, that teach is in deep do-do (to put it bluntly).
Example #2, To Educate: A teacher gives students an exam. Wanting to help her students realize how they can improve, the teacher copies a poor exam, crossing out the student’s name, and hands it out to the class. The student whose exam is passed out, is mortified, even if the exam is anonymous. Again, the student’s parent finds out, complains and the teacher is in trouble.
In both examples, the teacher isn’t trying to hurt the student. He/she wants to entertain his/her friends or educate the students. But they’re still invading the student’s privacy and right to respect.
Thus, querying authors deserve the same respect. They’re writing to the agency with the understanding that their query will only be seen by the agency (interns and agents, alike). By breaking that trust, the intern tweeting about the query ruins any potential relationship that could be formed between the client and agent. Integrity is about building trust, respecting others and being a generally upright person. It’s part of what being a professional is. And what I continue to strive to be; I get angry when interns are judged on the few who act unprofessionally. We’re not all like that. And I know for one that FP-NC would never ever tolerate an intern acting the way in which others are.
So, to those who are tweeting queries, reconsider what type of person you want to come off as; someone who breaks trust easily, or someone who is respectful and professional. I, at least, know what type of person I’d like to be and what type of person is going to get (or keep) the job in the end.