New Girl on the Book(s)

An Internship Experience in a Literary Agency

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!

2 Comments

  1. Leslie Cochrane

    May 23, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    Sounds like your internship is off to a good start, Hannah! That’s an impressive number of manuscripts to review. I hope you’re enjoying reading them!

  2. Hannah, what a great experience you are having! It makes sense that different genres would have different page-lengths but I’d never thought about it – or realized they’d be laid out so precisely. I like the advice about “Would I want to read this multiple times?”, too. I can’t believe how many mss you have read already. Sounds like a lot of work. Enjoy your first day in-office and looking forward to your next post.

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