It has been way too long since I have written a post. My internship had me very busy and I didn’t finish a book for an entire month! That has now changed and I finished 4 books in the past week (reviews will be up soon…I hope)!
I did want to talk about my internship at an amazing literary agency (I won’t say which one, for privacy sake) a little because I know there are some people who read this who are writers or are interested in the business side. That and I just loved it so much that I want to talk about it.
Mostly, I read. I read queries, partial manuscripts, and every so often the elusive full manuscript. I know some people may take issue with an intern being the first to read their work, but really, it is a positive thing. There is a great blog post on Bookends that talks about the issue. I have to say that I agree with this intern completely. There were so many things that got to the partial, and even a couple of times the full, that wouldn’t have if just the assistant looked at it. There was one project in particular that I was very passionate about and, since I had proven that I had good judgment, we looked at and really liked.
For queries, I tended to just write at the top Y, M or N and had a sentence explaining why. A lot of times I underlined and commented within the query to show why I liked or didn’t like it, for myself more than the agent. It was a great way to learn about why agent’s and assistants make the decision they make. I will say, a lot of times there is some luck in getting the partial request. One example is that both the assistant and I love Lost and Stephen King, so there were a few queries that sounded Lostish or definitely had some influence from Stephen King, so we asked for the partial. One query alluded to Doctor Who, which I love, so I took a look a tthe partial.
Some people complain about those bits of luck, but really they are essential. When you get an agent, you really want them to be the right person and you want someone who will be an advocate for you in the business. You want to “luck” into finding the right person for your work. I am not saying put references to other works hoping to strike someone who loves it, but understand that those little bits of what others call luck, isnt really luck, it is finding the perfect match.
The best example I saw of this was actually something I got towards the end of my internship. A fantasy YA query came in that was about a 12 year old girl who lost vision in one eye. I don’t want to get into details, but when I was 12, I lost vision in one eye and it has had the biggest impact on my life. I asked the assistant to let me request a partial that day and she let me. I read the partial and I loved it. The author really understood what it was like to go through the event. Sadly, I had to leave the internship before the assistant got to read my comments, but I did put pressure on her to read it soon because I loved it so much.
When I read the partial, I would write short comments, usually less than a page, that gave my opinion on the story, characters, and writing. The assistant would read, then look at my comments. Sometimes we would talk more about the manuscript before deciding whether or not to request the full.
I probably read about 10 fulls in my 4 months there. We didn’t sign anyone from these fulls, but did send back editorial letters to several writers with suggestions of how to improve their work. We would tell them if they did make some of our suggested changes, we would be happy to look at it again. Those letters were probably my favorite thing to work on, and the most challenging. I had to be nice in what I said and not offend the author, but at the same time I had to tell them how to change their story in ways that would make it work better. I am sure some were appalled by my and the assistants suggestions, but it was what we thought needed to be done.
I loved working with the agency and it really made me want to look at the agenting side of the business more. I think it is very different from the publishers side of things. I love both aspects, but it was a great experience!
If you have any questions about what I did or about hte internship (other than where it was) let me know!