Each month, one of the weekly posts will be a bit shorter and more personal: a “monthly mini-post” about my experiences in publishing and literary agency to provide you with a view of what it’s like on the inside of these operations. Last month, I wrote about my responsibilities as an editorial intern to a literary agent and how I interact with manuscripts that come to me to read. Today’s post delves more into some of the experiences I’ve had reading manuscripts.
The best manuscripts I’ve read are the ones that have struck me immediately as very original. A lot of what I read when I first began working at the agency was surface slush-pile: things that didn’t necessarily fit my agent’s list, weren’t ready for acquisition, or otherwise “not great.” Nowadays, I read much better submissions that I sometimes get really excited about.
Since I’ve been working with the agent I intern for for over a year and a half, we have a very symbiotic relationship. These days, I read manuscripts that she’s already interested in or excited about. And oftentimes that equates to things that I’m really excited about.
I can’t disclose any particular submissions that I’ve read, but there was one last year that I thought was really fantastic. It was unique, original, and everything I wanted in a book that I would read as a reader, let alone an intern or agent. It was exciting and enthralling, and it might have been the first time I realized that this career path was really one for me—I could imagine myself working with this particular author and manuscript.
And then the author signed with a different agent. And that sometimes happens. From the agent’s (and intern’s) point of view, it can be really tough to lose a potential client to another agency. This particular manuscript that I really enjoyed was very hard to see go elsewhere. I knew it would have been a great fit for my agent and our agency.
When an author gets multiple offers from agents at different agencies, however, it’s always in the author’s court to choose the agent he or she feels will be best for the manuscript. It’s nice, though, when an author does choose one agent over another, to send an email or note thanking the agent (or agents) that the author didn’t sign with for their interest. It definitely weakens the blow when an agent hears that their interest and offer were appreciated, despite the author choosing to sign with a different agency.
And then, of course, there are times when I really enjoy a manuscript, but the agent doesn’t. Or the agent thinks something is brilliant, and I think it’s just so-so. No matter how much training interns get, there are always odd moments when we don’t see eye-to-eye with the agents we work for. And that’s fine. Having the dialogue between the agent and intern about the manuscript’s qualities is a great way to suss out whether or not it’s a good fit for the agency.
And overall, it doesn’t happen often. I usually know when the agent is going to really love something I’ve found or when she might think it’s not quite right for her. Part of being a good intern is being able to gauge where the agent’s interest might fall and save her or him time in reading through the slush pile.
Thank you for reading! As always, if you have questions, comment below or Tweet me at @slush_diamonds. Next week’s post will be about rejections and how to react when you get them. Until then.