5 things I learned as a publishing intern

It’s been a hot minute since my last blog post! Although I wish I had a better excuse for not posting in a year (welp), the truth is that life has just been hectic and blogging had to take a backseat between my final year of university, personal writing projects, and other things.

One of those things was the two-week internship with a London literary agency that I was lucky enough to land in January. It was an invaluable experience and, though it was short, I learned so much from my time there. So, I thought I’d share five of the most important things I learned as a publishing intern!

Agents are people too!

It should go without saying, but I think a lot of people have this preconception of agents as scary monsters who only exist to crush your dreams, and that is NOT true. Agents are people too! The agents I worked with were some of the loveliest people I’ve met, but they have a job to do. The fact of the matter is, agents can’t sign everybody; they have to look for any little reason not to take on your manuscript. They might like your manuscript but have just signed something a little too similar. They might like your manuscript but recognise that they’re not the right person for it. Honestly, they just might not like your manuscript. But that doesn’t mean that nobody will, and that’s the most important thing to keep in mind as a writer. One agent might not like your manuscript—but they might pass it on to a co-worker who does. I’ve seen it happen. As the writer, all you can do is keep your chin up and keep trying.

Don’t believe the stereotypes

Following on from my last point, I was TERRIFIED on my first day of the internship. A tutor at my university sat me down before I left and explained to me that the London publishing industry was a far cry from the (Northern, working-class) life I had always known. And in many ways, he was right. But there are definitely a lot of stereotypes about the white, upper-middle-class, we-all-know-each-other-from-our-Oxford-slash-Cambridge-days publishing industry that were completely debunked on my first day at the agency. There were people in the office from all walks of life, all different backgrounds, and all parts of the UK; I even met a girl from my (not very well-known) home city, which was a huge comfort to me. Yes, the UK publishing industry is still very London-centric, and there are still huge steps to be taken. But I found that the agency cared deeply about diversity, and that was reflected in the people I met while interning there.

Publishing covers so much ground

While I was definitely riddled with nerves as I started my internship, I strolled into the office thinking I knew exactly what to expect. After all, I’d listened to podcasts. I’d read blog posts. I spent all of my time on writing Twitter. I knew what to expect from the publishing industry—right? Wrong. As I was introduced to everyone in the office, along with each of their roles, I was shocked to find out just how much ground it covered. Things like writing up contracts and even international rights had never really occurred to me before. And the tasks I was given reflected the variety of responsibilities a literary agency has; reading submissions, yes, but also keeping the website up-to-date, researching book podcasts, finding journalistic work that demanded adaptation… the list could go on forever. After seeing just how much agents actually do, I don’t think I could ever complain about how long it takes to get a query response again.

The importance of comp titles

We’ve all hurriedly picked out two of the books our manuscript was loosely inspired by in time for the next Twitter pitch contest before. But until my internship, it never really sunk in just how important it is to have good comp titles. One of my main jobs at the agency was reading submissions and giving feedback (naturally, I was in my element). The very first thing I was asked by the agents is what books I would compare the submissions to. Likewise, I noticed that all of the full manuscripts they requested had really specific, well-thought-out comp titles. Even in casual office conversation when people were recommending books to each other, it was all “it’s this book meets this book, but as if it was written by this author.” Agents value good comp titles; after all, it shows that you’ve thought about how your book fits into the market. That means reading widely, and honestly, any excuse to read more is never a bad thing.

Kindness pays off

I guess this one applies to more than just publishing, but it’s a value I’ve always held and my internship only renewed its importance to me. I had absolutely zero experience in the industry when I went to London, and I found out that I knew much less about publishing than I thought I did. Naturally, I made mistakes. I got things wrong. I thanked everyone for the experience until they were sick of hearing it. I thought everyone would be glad to see the back of me, until my last day, when they wheeled in a little trolley of cakes and drinks and gave me the loveliest send off. I’m not going to lie, it made me a little bit emotional chatting to everybody in the office about my time there and hearing them wish me the best for the future. They wrote me a surprisingly glowing reference and sent me on my way, and ever since, they’ve been happy to answer any questions or help me in any way they can. Was I the best intern? Absolutely not. But—not to sound like a Disney movie—it just goes to show that being kind and trying your hardest is the best thing you can do.

The two weeks I spent at that agency is a time I will never forget, and I’m incredibly thankful to everyone there for making it such an incomparable experience. Of course, my experience as a publishing intern may differ to other people’s, especially since it was organised through my university. But I hope the things I learned can be useful to other aspiring writers or anybody looking for a career in the publishing industry.

Until next time,

-AWM x

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

A Writer's Advice from "The Inside"

Query Tips, Writer Tips, Bookish Things

Her Paper World

Bookish girl living in her own paper world

A Short Book Lover

Bite size book reviews

Flipping Through the Pages

of life and books - slowly, one at a time

Fafa's Book Corner

Book reviews for Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult Fiction, Chick Lit/Romance, Fantasy and Sci-fi.

Reading Bifrost

Take a look, it's in a Book! A Reading Bifrost Bridge...

Bookwyrming Thoughts

Musings from bookwyrms

Jill's Book Cafe

Bookish news, views and 'Five on Friday'

Caffeinated Reviewer

books, audiobooks, reviews & coffee

Books and Shadows

𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐒𝐡𝐚𝐝𝐨𝐰𝐬 (𝐁+𝐒) 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐭𝐥𝐞 𝐩𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜 𝐨𝐟 𝐁𝐨𝐨𝐤𝐬 𝐜𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐌𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜 𝐨𝐟 𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐔𝐧𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐞.

Always The Write Time Blog

Ramblings and Rhetoric

Book Jotter

Reviews, news, features and all things books for passionate readers

Writers In The Storm

A Blog On Writing


Fiction reviews, Bookblogger, Fiction book reviews, books, crime fiction, author interviews, mystery series, cover, love, bookish thoughts...

Pub(lishing) Crawl

Reading you under the table since 2012

Nail Your Novel

Nail Your Novel - Writing, publishing and self-publishing advice from a bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor

Good Morning, Page

Writing a mid-grade children’s book on pirates, one morning at a time…

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: