New Girl on the Book(s)

An Internship Experience in a Literary Agency

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!

1 Comment

  1. Hannah, it is great to see how much you’ve learned, how confident it has made you feel, and how sure you are that this is what you want to do as a career. I like your inclusive comment that everyone’s ms is a diamond in the rough – I’d like to have you as my agent! – but is it really true – I mean in terms of the publishing industry? There must have been some mss you read that you just felt weren’t ever going to catch many readers’ attention. Not to be cynical, or anything, but I’m really intrigued by your comment. Sorry we won’t be seeing you again on the blog and thanks for all the great posts!

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