Previously, I’d interned for Entangled as a reader. When I felt I wasn’t learning enough from it, though, I decided to see what else I could find. I had a few restrictions. I live in Philadelphia, and have a day job, and I didn’t want to quit it or have to travel to NYC on a regular basis, so it had to be online and without a set hour schedule. I knew I could handle any workload, but I wanted a steady amount of work and a variety of tasks.
Finding an internship was a matter of asking around. My friend KT’s agent, had an opening. That connection helped in this case, because I had a (hyperbole filled) recommendation from someone she already knew and trusted. Most jobs are a matter of knowing someone, but being polite and showing you’re willing to learn and build on what you already know can help too. After exchanging a few emails, she started sending me things to do.
So I do quite a few things for her. She reads a query, then forwards it to me with “Yes” “No” or “Maybe?” on it. I read it over, including the pages (This is where following their guidelines is SO helpful. If it doesn’t have pages included, it’s far more likely to get a no than a request). If it’s a maybe, she’s on the fence, and that’s where the pages REALLY determine it. Sometimes on those I’ll request a partial to see if the writing holds up for a few chapters. Most of the time, for requests, we jump to the full because it’s easier. If something’s amazing, we won’t want to stop while reading it, so why not? It keeps the clutter down in the inbox too.
I do have the wiggle room that if I see something promising in a no or maybe to request it anyway. But those go right on my To Do list, so I have to balance it with the rest of what I have to do, because they’re longer shots. Usually, if it’s a no, I have to REALLY love the voice in the pages to use the trump request.
Then I send the rejection emails and request emails. I have a system of tags in my email to sort them out, so I can just go through with the canned responses and just personalize them a little with the name/MS title/some phrasing changes; If it’s a kids book that’s really cute sounding but just not her style (Let’s face it, the goth girl isn’t going to go for the picture book that’s fluffy bunny!), I’ll say it’s cute but not a fit for her. Things like that.
Once the email’s sent, I tag it if it was a request or not, and archive it.
When the requested MSs come in, she forwards them to me. I read them over (If it’s poorly written, has major issues, etc, I don’t have to read the whole thing), and send her a report detailing the overall plot, my impressions and thoughts, such as what works, what needs improving, and if I think she’d like it. She reads that report, then as much of the MS as she needs to determine if she agrees. She then tells me if it’s a rejection, and I send an email with a couple comments. I try to always point out something good about it, as well as the biggest problem. I try to make sure it’s concise and kind. I wish I had time to give in depth critiques to them all, but given the workload, there just isn’t.
If it’s a possible fit, she handles it from there. They take SO MUCH longer, though, because she usually has to read the MS more than once before deciding to offer on it, making notes of things she wants to discuss with them on The Call. Given her busy schedule, there’s no predicting how long this takes. Weeks, most of the time. Sometimes potentially longer. She sends the rejections on the ones that are REALLY close, so she can give them more specific feedback.
I tag all those emails too, within a tag for requested materials. This makes it much easier to find when we’re discussing them later on.
Throughout, any time I have questions, I just DM or email her and ask. Sometimes I’ll run across something industry related, and ask how she goes about it, like picking which editors to submit projects to, and she’ll explain her process. Every agent works a little differently, so between her explanations and the blogs I read on the subject, I get a pretty solid idea. Someday, I’ll tweak it from my own experiences and preferences (Like I can already tell you, there’s a LOT of guesswork involved in figuring out which editors to pitch to, so I’ll probably have a database of some sort that I can use to index preferences).
I try to keep on top of things. Meaning, from the time a query lands in my inbox, I want to get the email to them within a week at worst. Full MS reports I try to get done within a week, though sometimes if there’s multiple requests that come in at the same time, it might take 2 weeks. It takes longer sometimes if something gets an offer from another agent and bumps itself to the top of the pile, or if something else in my life is taking up larger amounts of time. I give myself pretty strict deadlines for them, though, because the longer it takes me, the longer the whole process takes, and the longer the author’s in suspense. Publishing is a lot of wait training, I want to minimize it.
To give you a ROUGH idea, March’s statistics looked something like: 200 queries, 27 requests, 13 I’m currently working on (My weekend plan is to knock that down to 5 or less), and 5 I thought she might like and I highly recommended that I haven’t seen land back in my inbox for rejections. She’s busy enough right now that if she signs any of those, it probably won’t be until May. She’s being even pickier than usual, as she has quite the full workload with her current clients, so something has to very much blow her away to get an offer right now.
Any questions? Ask away.