New Girl on the Book(s)

An Internship Experience in a Literary Agency

Month: May 2017

Let’s Get Down to Business

Since I’ve now got the hang of the processes for all of my tasks, this week was a lot more relaxed and less jam-packed. We still got our normal tasks of manuscripts, contact assignments, and updating client press kits, but this time around, I knew the drill. Now, let’s talk business.

This week, I had my first day as an in-office intern! Throughout the summer, I will be going into the office once a week to experience more of the business side of publishing. This past Wednesday, I did a few office task, such as filing royalty statements, organizing the filing cabinets, and making lists of clients in the cabinets to make it easier to access. So, no stereotypical coffee runs for this intern (possibly because we have a Keurig in house)! It’s all business while we’re there.

However, since I got to see in-person a little bit of what Paige and Ana-Maria do on a daily basis (believe me, I’m sure I only see a slight glimpse of what ALL they do), I thought it would be good to fully clarify something I mentioned last time: What exactly is the role of a literary agent?

It is defined by dictionary.com as “a person who manages the business affairs of an author.” But, an agent is so much more than that. 

A literary agent in the basic sense is the same as an agent for an actor or actress, except instead for books. He or she is essentially the middle-man between the author and the publishing house. After a writer finishes a manuscript, the literary agent is the first step moving forward in the process. Authors propose their raw manuscripts to agents in the form of query letters and decide to either enthusiastically pursue the book or respectfully decline the query. From there, an agent will make suggestions about an author’s book to refine it before proposing it to editors.

PublishingProcessLitAgent

This is the step in the process the agent comes in.

An agent also serves as a cheerleader and promoter for an author’s book. He or she has to be excited and attempt to sell the book to editors from varying different publishing houses and get them to take it on as a project. Once the literary agent finds an editor that is perfect for the manuscript, he or she will negotiate the contract and work on promoting the book to get it circulating.

So, you would think that a literary agent sits at a desk and reads submitted manuscripts all day long, right? Well, in actuality, an agent’s typical workday consists of administrative business and responsibilities. Only after these tasks are finished does an agent sit down to go through the piles of submissions.

An agent wears many hats, but possibly (in my opinion) the most important hat that a literary agent will wear is in building the personal relationship with an author. (More on the agent-author relationship later!)

For a more detailed idea of the steps it takes to get from a raw manuscript to a published book, check out Paige’s full guide: The Publishing Process. On the CMA website, there are also several other resources from interviews Paige has done, authors represented in the news, and just general information about the industry.

We have our second conference call for Intern Academy this week, so more on that next time!

Welcome to Publishing!

It’s been a whirlwind of a week! My first week working as an intern for CMA proved to be packed full of all things new and exciting about the world of publishing. I won’t be able to go into full detail about everything this week, but I promise you’ll hear about it all eventually! So, here is the overview of what my week consisted of:

Teams:

There are a total of 18 interns this summer and at the beginning of the week, Ana-Maria, the office manager, split us up into 7 teams with different responsibilities: Film Rights, Social Media, Contacts, Publicity, Foreign/Audio, eBooks, Client Press Kits.

The purpose of teams is to give an insight into the world of publishing in all areas, not just from the perspective of a literary agency. We will be working in more than just one of the teams, with most people working in 3. I am on the Contacts, eBooks, and Client Press Kits team (more about these to come later on).

This week, my work mostly consisted of contacts. Part of our task was to research potential contacts to other editors and publishers for Paige. Using several websites, like publishersmarketplace.com, we researched information on the individuals, such as contact information and genres of interest.

Manuscripts:

So, far I have read around 7 or 8 manuscripts. Mostly I have just been reading short submissions of the first three chapters and writing short reader’s reports for Paige. Again, since there are so many interns, we were split into different two different reading teams based on our preferences: Mystery/Thriller and Women’s Fiction/Romance. I am on the Women’s Fiction/Romance team.

We are only required to read those manuscripts that fall into our reading genre, but we have the option of reading those in the other genres as well.

Intern Academy:

We had our first of many conference calls of the summer this week. The topic of this call was “Introduction to Book Publishing- Proposals & Query Letters.” Paige began the call by telling just a little bit about her story and how she made the journey that ended in her founding CMA. She then talked about many aspects of how the internship is structured, the basics of publishing, the role of a literary agent, and lastly, proposals and query letters, or in other words, the beginning process of publishing.


Between reading manuscripts, researching, and digging deeper into all of the websites for publishing houses, I am slowly beginning to become familiar with many parts of the industry. Here are a few things I have learned so far this week:

  • Publishing House vs. Imprint- Two terms I quickly had to learn the difference between were “publishing house” and “imprint.” Everyone is probably familiar with a publishing house. But, did you know that a single publishing house can have multiple “imprints,” or trade names, that it publishes under? A publishing house could have multiple imprints in order to target a specific audience. Typically, imprints publish certain genres of books, which is why having multiple imprints within a single company is good. With a specific genre or type of book associated with a name, it reaches a certain demographic.
  • Do I really want to read this multiple times?- As I expected, at first I wanted to be enthusiastic and say yes in my report for every manuscript that came my way. But, this wasn’t realistic. Unfortunately, every manuscript is not meant to be turned into a book. Paige gave a very good piece of advice during our conference call that I thought about each time I began reading a submission afterwards: “Do I really want to read this multiple times?” If yes, then that’s a good indication that the manuscript would be a good project to take on. If no, then it’s a safe bet that although it may be well-written and a good plot, it is nothing unique or new to the industry.
  • Word Count– Believe it or not, each genre actually has an intended word count that most books follow. Here are the typical word counts that Paige provided us with to use as we continue reading manuscripts:
    • Most fiction – General, commercial fiction: 90,000-100,000, possibly a little more or less.
    • Literary fiction – 60,000 – 80,000, unless it’s historical.
    • Romances- Varies. If they are historical, they can be 90,000-110,000. If they are contemporary they can be 80,000 – 105,000. If they are series (harlequin) they have their own set of standards depending on the line (desire, super, temptation, etc).
    • Mysteries and thrillers- Varies. Cozy mysteries run around 60,000 – 80,000. Bigger mysteries are closer to 85,000 – 105,000. Juicy thrillers come in around 90,000 – 105,000.
    • Sci Fi and Fantasy- Generally longer at around 90,000 – 150,000.
    • Young Adult- Typically shorter around 50,000-70,000.
    • Nonfiction- Varies, but generally around 60,000 – 90,000.

These are just a few of the many things I learned this week. Next week should be filled with even more exciting things! Plus, I get to start my first day as an in-office intern! So, there will be more about that coming soon!

Excitement and Expectations

My internship officially starts on May 15th, and I cannot express my excitement to begin. I’ve always felt like I have an idea of what working in the publishing industry will be like: sitting at a desk, surrounded by endless amounts of books–works of inspiration, encouragement, and happiness–in progress, and forming relationships with authors, editors, and publishing houses to help send a book out into the world. I realize, however, that there is so much more that happens behind the scenes from the business and editorial perspectives.

In this experience with Creative Media Agency (CMA), our responsibilities have been outlined for us. I’ll be working with a team of interns in a collaborative effort this summer. We’ve been split into different teams according to reading assignment genres and specific department tasks. So, here are a few of my expectations based on those given duties (I will go more in-depth about what I learn about each task throughout the summer):

  • Manuscript Evaluation– The majority of my internship is going to be analyzing manuscripts based on a few qualities that are given to us that Paige Wheeler (the agent) is looking for in representing an author. I’m excited to learn about what makes a manuscript appealing to agents, editors, and publishers. I tend to be very generous when I’m rating how much I enjoyed a book, not getting super critical about details, comparisons with other books, and other features. I know I’m going to have to be more selective when I’m choosing the manuscripts to recommend to Ms. Wheeler though.
  • Writing Reader Reports, Editorial Letters, Pitch Letters, and Letters of Interest- This task falls in-line with evaluating manuscripts. After reading the manuscript submissions, we will have to write short reader reports summarizing the book and giving my recommendation on the manuscript. Editorial letters will be similar, but will be longer and will discuss a submission from one of Ms. Wheeler’s current clients. Pitch letters will be the next step in the process after the manuscript is finished. These will be written to editors in order to advertise and “sell” him or her the book. Lastly, letters of interest will be completed once Ms. Wheeler decides that she would like to pursue a book idea. We will have to write these letters expressing interest to the potential author. I can’t say that these tasks are what I am most excited about, because there isn’t a single responsibility that doesn’t excite me. However, I will say that I am eager for my constant habit of recommending books to people finally coming into use (hopefully).
  • Potential Novelists and Submissions Research- This task is what occurs before the letters of interest are completed. We are given a few websites, on which we can research potential clients, projects, celebrity novelists, and book ideas. This is going to be an area that I might have to work a little harder to adjust to. Of course, I have always looked up online book plots and potential books that interest me. When I approach this type of book research though, I am going to have to think of it in terms more of what will appeal to others and not just to me.
  • Intern Academy- As part of the internship, all of the interns will have the opportunity to participate in a conference call every two weeks with Ms. Wheeler. In these calls, we will learn more about a specific topic within the publishing industry, as well as discuss reading assignments, bestsellers, and book ideas. I will talk more about what I learn in each session as we go along.

These are the main responsibilities among the many other miscellaneous tasks that we’ll be assigned as the internship progresses. I will also be getting the opportunity to work in-office twice a week at the headquarters based in the Richmond, Virginia, area. So, I’ll get to learn about the business side up-close, too. I’m beyond excited to see what all I learn in this first experience in the publishing world! I’m sure my expectations are going to be nothing to what I actually discover along the way!