New Girl on the Book(s)

An Internship Experience in a Literary Agency

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 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.


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!

1 Comment

  1. It’s great that you’re experiencing life “in-house” as well as at your own desk. Sounds like this is not your typical internship where you’re running errands – instead you seem to be learning a lot, not just about books and manuscripts but also about what’s entailed in running a business. That is going to be so useful to you. Glad your week was more relaxed!

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