Quite a while back I wrote about Literary Agencies, and mentioned that I was going to be working this summer at a literary agency  for five weeks.  This week was my first week, so here’s an update on my experience so far.

I’m really really enjoying the placement; the people in the office are really friendly and, crucially, not at all patronising, but seem to be making a real effort to treat me professionally and make me feel welcome.  I feel the work I am doing is making a positive contribution and that they appreciate me being there, which is so important – there’s nothing worse than being given pointless tasks just for the sake of giving you something to do.

My main tasks so far are: answering the phone and forwarding the caller on to the appropriate person, taking a message or dealing with their requests for information (normally about the submissions procedure) myself.  I also have to do the same thing with the general info email account.  I sort the post when it arrives in the morning and frank all the post to be sent out in the afternoon.  I’ve done some filing of expenses reciepts and finance reports.  But best of all, I have to read draft manuscripts of books they’re working on or which have been submitted to them and write reports on them – does the plot work, are the characters realistic and well-portrayed, is the writing style good, have I got any suggestions about how any awkwardnesses could be improved, do I think it would sell, to what market … and so on.  When you write a report on a book and your comments are praised and then forwarded straight to the author so she can consider them, it feels pretty good!  I feel it’s really honing my reviewing and editorial skills – it’s quite a different thing in some ways to read a book with an eye to what changes could be made to improve it – develop a character here, get rid of a useless side-plot there – but it’s really fuelling my determination and passion to work either as a book editor or a literary agent.  I’ve been looking at a wide range of things as well – from a crime thriller about a serial killer, to historical fiction, historical non-fiction, philosophy non-fiction and children’s short stories – which again is really good because each different type of book has to be thought about in a different way.

So more to come over the next five weeks about literary agencies, how they work and what it’s like to do a summer placement in one!

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