Tweeting Interns: Helpful or Hurtful?


Want to know who won my birthday contest?  You'll have to scroll down to see.  But first, today's topic--the Twitter Queryfest/Queryslam debate.


For those of you who haven't heard about it, here's the gist: there was an anonymous intern on Twitter (InternAmie/Amy Cortese) who would tweet thoughts about the queries as she was reading them. No identifying information was given, but she'd give tidbits like: This memoir has a good premise, but the writing isn't there or sample pages had too much passive voice. It wasn't anything earth-shattering usually, but I know she had a lot of followers (including myself.)

Well, people began to react to it because, despite the vagueness, it still seemed like dangerous waters in terms of confidentiality. It's one of those things that when it's not about YOU, it can be interesting or funny, but then when you start considering it may be your query getting tweeted--well, then it starts feeling a little different. (Just like any other teasing--easy to be in the crowd, not quite as fun to be in the spotlight.)

Agent Janet Reid got wind of what was going on and did a post here on why we shouldn't assume all interns are operating that way and on the inappropriateness of that tweeting intern's actions.

People have a range of opinions. Penelope at Too Cute to Be Very Interesting (whose post sparked mine) found the tweets informative, so was disappointed that InternAmie is now shut down. Others feel very strongly the other way.

Now, for the record, I don't think this intern had bad intentions. I'm sure she thought she was being helpful. But I tend to err on the side of privacy and confidentiality. When I was a management recruiter, I would get hundreds of resumes a week. Therefore, much of my day was spent going through these things. Just like queries, some were great, many were awful. Some made mistakes so glaring that they were laughable.

And I'll admit, amongst my fellow recruiters we did discuss them. i.e. Can you believe this person put as her email on her resume? Or, look this person's "reason for leaving" for their last job was "my boss was a jerk." Discussing it kept the job sane--it's what people do at work.

BUT, we were discussing it privately amongst ourselves. If we had tweeted that (if Twitter existed back then), we would've been in some serious trouble--written up, fired, etc. because those people didn't give us permission to discuss their information publicly.

Now, hearing agent and intern feedback on queries can be wildly helpful. The workshop I went to at RWA (also called Queryfest) was great. The agents gave honest feedback live as they heard queries read aloud. Some of the feedback was tough. Hearing where agents would stop reading was probably tough on the people who wrote the queries. However, the difference is that those writers VOLUNTEERED. They knew they would be discussed publicly and had given permission for that to happen.

So, in my opinion, I think that's where the line is. Did the person give permission? Because otherwise, you need to put on your empathy shoes and think--if I saw an intern or agent tweet about how terrible my writing/query was, how would I feel?

I think it's fine for agents/interns to tweet overarching things that are helpful. i.e. Too many of the YA queries we're seeing are about werewolves. Or something like that. But when it gets specific, it risks humiliating people and making the agent/intern look unprofessional.

But I'd love to hear all of your opinions. Do you find these kinds of tweets helpful? Did it make you nervous that one day your query would be the subject of that kind of tweet? Do you think people are being too overly sensitive about this issue?

And finally, the winners of last Monday's Birthday contest....

First place: KLM at Cove Awakening 

Second place: Diane at Diane Estrella

Congrats to the winners!!!!  I'll be emailing you about your prize. And thanks to everyone who entered the contest!