New Girl on the Book(s)

An Internship Experience in a Literary Agency

Month: August 2017

This Isn’t Goodbye, It’s Only Farewell

Flashback twelve weeks ago. Fresh out of my sophomore year, I was eager to finally get my toes in the vast ocean of the publishing industry (sorry for the ocean cliche). I felt beyond lucky and thankful for the opportunity to intern with a literary agency. But, if you would have told me that the internship I was about to experience would be as meaningful as it turned out to be, I would have said, “It’s just a first look at publishing.”

But, that’s just it–it’s just a first look at publishing. CMA was my very first experience in publishing and this is something I will never have again. I was excited going into the internship and eager to see what being a literary agent entails. However, I never imagined exactly how much I would learn in the end.

Thinking about how overwhelming it all seemed the first week to how familiar it feels now just proves the extent to which I grew and changed as an intern. Even though the week-to-week tasks did not vary much, I learned something new with every manuscript.

“Sometimes we’re tested. Not to show our weaknesses, but to discover our strengths.”

At the beginning, as I mentioned before, I wanted to say yes to every manuscript I read. As I went along though, I discovered the difference between a strong and a weak submission. Now that I can immediately spot the difference, I am more selective with my yes decisions. Although I learned to differentiate between the strong and weak manuscripts, I believe I gained a skill more valuable.

There’s a quote from my favorite author, Jodi Picoult, that I have always loved:

“Everyone has a book inside of them–but it doesn’t do any good until you pry it out.”

Going into the internship, I thought everyone held the capability to write a novel, even if it takes a little work. I still strongly believe this, but a literary agent obviously cannot represent every one of the hundreds and hundreds of submission she receives. So, you have to pick the strong ones. While you can consider every manuscript a diamond in the rough, the ones that authors have polished and refined stand out.

In fewer words, here is what I learned: Choosing manuscripts to represent is not about separating them into strong and weak. All manuscripts have potential to be good books. As an agent, you look for stories that have heart–the ability to capture readers and stay with them long after they close the cover. And that is what publishing is about–gifting readers with books that have passion. This reason is why I love reading, and why I want to go into publishing.

“If you do what you love and love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

 My intention with this final post was to reflect on the entire experience. However, I realized when I began writing that there’s one part of my internship that has been the most rewarding for me. Now, I’m even more certain that I’m on the career path that I want to be on. Not only was the quantity of what I learned so much more than I could have ever imagined, the quality of the experience I gained was just as valuable.

Yesterday was the last day of my summer internship with CMA. Even though this first experience has ended, my time with CMA has not. As the fall 2017 internship is around the corner, I decided to stay on remotely as an intern.

So, while this is just the beginning of my (hopefully) long experience in publishing, it is only farewell for now. In a few short weeks, I’ll be back at it again with CMA!

Thank you for following my very first publishing journey with me! The experience is one I will never forget!

You’ve Got a Friend in Me: Why an Agent?

With my internship nearing the end, it sadly means that my very first experience in the publishing world is, too. In these few short weeks, I have learned so much about the industry. More than I could have ever imagined. However, of course, I’ve especially become familiar with the role of a literary agent in the publishing process.

But, there’s a question that my adviser posed to me in the comments of one of my previous posts: Does an author necessarily need an agent to get published? The answer to this is no. In today’s world, self-publishing makes companies, such as Amazon, directly accessible to writers. So, essentially an author no longer needs to go through an agent.

Here are all the alternatives to traditional publishing!

Here are all the alternatives to traditional publishing!

Yet, this question got me thinking a little deeper and reading more articles on what exactly the purpose is of an agent today. I came to the conclusion that a few qualities set an agent apart and give authors an advantage in the industry.

1.  The Matchmaking Business

First of all, it’s the agent’s responsibility to know the industry. An agent works to build connections to editors in various big and small publishing houses to find a great fit for the author. Agents know their authors and they know editors. Playing the role of matchmaker, an agent should automatically be thinking about what editor a manuscript would appeal to while reading an author’s work (as I talked about in this post). By querying an agent first, an author essentially already submits to multiple editors that will most certainly be a good fit.

2. Submissions

Going off the first point, a lot of big publishers refuse submissions that don’t come directly from an agent. So, not only do agents know the preferences of editors, they give authors access to even more publishing houses. Moreover, an agent helps editors by saving them time. By reading through all of the submissions before they reach editors, agents weed out the manuscripts that still need revising before taking the next step toward publication.

3. Contracts & Rights

This advantage is very straightforward. Publishing houses look out for their own interests in the publishing process and it’s the agent’s responsibility to ensure that the author maintains rights to his work. Plus, agents specialize in the language of book contracts, and thus, know what to look for when negotiating it.

And last, but most certainly not least…

4. The Author/Agent Relationship

From my experience this summer, I’ve realized that one advantage truly sets the agent apart in the publishing process: the author/agent relationship.

The biggest difference between an editor and agent lies in how deep the relationship goes. While an author may have great rapport with both an agent and editor, the relationships differ greatly. With an editor, the end goal is to read and revise the manuscript, sculpting it into a finished product ready to hit bookstore shelves. The author and editor work together to edit the book and ensure its success, but that’s about as deep as it goes. Of course, the focus of the editor/author relationship should be the book. But, after the book is published, then the editor’s work is done.

On the other hand, the relationship between an author and agent goes much deeper. When an agent makes the decision to take on an author, she is in it for the long-haul, so you better get comfortable. This summer, I got to witness this specifically by being an in-office intern. Hearing Paige talk about some of her authors like old friends showed me exactly what an agent’s main role is. While an agent works to get a manuscript ready to submit, her main responsibility is not to edit the book. Rather, her primary purpose is to befriend and take care of the author.

On the CMA website, Paige provides a guide to a good agent/author relationship. In short, however, an editor works with the book; an agent works with the author.

Until next time!