New Girl on the Book(s)

An Internship Experience in a Literary Agency

Lunching for a Living: Networking as an Agent

Breakfasts, lunches, coffees, parties, and more–I bet you didn’t know that the life of a literary agent can sometimes become very social. Sure, as an agent you spend a majority of your time reading through submissions, pitching books, working with clients, etc. But there’s more that happens outside of the office.

You’ve taken on a project, you’ve edited the manuscript, and you’ve written pitch letters. But, now what? The process doesn’t end there. Now, the defining role of a literary agent comes into play: Networking and maintaining relationships.

The agent places a decisive role at this point in the publishing process. Pitching a project to editors and finding the right fit for both the author and the book could make it or break it. This crucial step in the process demonstrates why networking with editors and other agents through social events, such as meeting for lunches or coffee, is so important. So, here’s what I learned in Intern Academy this week:

Knowing your editors- “Who would I send this to?”

As an agent, when you’re reading and evaluating a manuscript, you should always be thinking along the lines of “What editor would I send this to?” Time is of the essence in the publishing world and from the very beginning of a project, you should have an idea of which editor you could sell it to. Inevitably, you’ll come across projects that you’ll love and be excited about. But, if you can’t think of a single editor you would send it to, then it will likely be hard to sell and may not be a smart decision to take on. So, how do you know who all the editors are in the publishing world?

Network, Network, Network

Above all, networking is possibly the best resource for meeting editors and finding a great fit for an author. Agents are always going to breakfasts, lunches, coffees, cocktail parties, office visits, and other events–getting to know the editors.  When you go to these lunches or coffees, yes, you talk about the projects you’re working on, but you also talk about each others’ lives. You’re getting to know him or her in a social way, which also helps you figure out what books may seem appealing. When you learn the personal details about an editor, you know what types of books he or she will enjoy.Publishers Weekly Logo

Moreover, you may pitch a project to an editor over lunch or through email and it may not be exactly the type of book he or she is looking to take on. However, he or she may know of another editor who is looking for a project similar, so you then have an instant connection. You can also ask other agents (who you have a good relationship with) for editor suggestions, yet another networking connection.

Also, checking sites like Publishers Marketplace, Publishers Weekly, or publisher catalogs is another way of familiarizing yourself with the types of projects that editors are taking on.

Publishers Marketplace

Wide submission vs. target submission

So, you’ve found the imprints and editors that you think would be a good fit for the book and author.  Now, you have to decide how you want to submit the book. You only get to submit to an editor and a publishing house once, so do you want to do a wide submission or a target submission?

First of all, here’s the difference between the two ways:

  • Wide Submission: Submitting to every, single editor at once that you think would like a project.
  • Target Submission: Submitting to a few editors at once, wait for feedback, then submit to another few editors until you have a taker.

The benefits of a targeted submission lies in the feedback. If all of the editors have an issue with a certain feature of the book, you can return to the author and fix the problem before submitting to the next round of editors. With a wide submission, you submit the project once and if all the editors have the same issue and no one wants to take it on, then that’s it–you can’t submit again.

Although it seems like target submission is the “no-brainer” way to submit, but the choice truly depends on the agent and the confidence in the material. Different agents have his or her preferred method of how to submit, so there’s not one tried and true way.

I learned so much from this week’s Intern Academy! There is so much more I could have included about networking and submitting, but this was the basics! Being a literary agent is definitely turning out to be more dynamic and interesting than I ever thought! I mean, who doesn’t love to have lunch for a living?

1 Comment

  1. Hannah, it is exciting to see how much you are learning and how much you are getting out of it. I feel as if a lot of these insights would be relevant to a whole range of careers. After all, building good relationships lies at the heart of most forms of professional success – and being able to predict and manage people’s reactions to ideas you pitch to them is also key. And on top of all that learning, you’re enjoying yourself. Perfect!

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