I just passed the three month mark as an intern for agent Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency, and thought it might be a good time to do a post about my experiences. I can't believe it's been three months already!
When I started interning I studied each query, sometimes reading them two or three times. I also read all 10 pages and really analyzed them. As you can image, it took me a long time to go through queries! But as I got more experienced and learned more about what Jill liked, I realized that I didn't need to read everything. I got better at picking out a strong concept from just the query, or great writing from just the first pages. (This is why you want your query and first pages to be as strong as possible!)
At first, reading queries felt like a TON of responsibility. I also felt REALLY bad rejecting other writers. I tried to personalize a lot of my rejections, but it started taking up way too much time and I had to stop. I only do it now in very rare cases. I know writers want feedback on why they're getting rejected, but it's very time consuming to give a reason to everyone who queries.
I also decided early on that I would never tweet about the queries I saw, no matter how how crazy or funny some of them were. I was once a writer in the query trenches too, and I remember seeing agents tweet about bad queries and then worrying that they were talking about me. It's fine if other agents or interns do it (these tweets can be helpful too) but I personally don't want to make anyone feel bad. I did some stupid things while querying too! (Maybe I'll save those for another post, haha.)
In the beginning, I flagged a lot more queries for Jill than I do now. I was still learning her tastes, but I definitely got better at that over time. Jill has a great list of things she's looking for on her website that I refer to a lot, and we've also discussed specific things she isn't interested in. And when she rejects something she often gives me her reason why, and that helps me learn what she wants and doesn't want.
I also try to find authors for Jill through other means - looking through online contests, talking to other writers about their books, reading the WriteOnCon forums, etc. In fact, a query I found in a contest resulted in an offer from Jill this week! This was the first time a query I'd recommended to her resulted in an offer, so I'm super excited! But as with all things in publishing, it's very subjective. Sometimes I'll love something but Jill won't. That's just the nature of this industry.
Overall, it's been a great experience, although I didn't realize just how much time it would take. Not only do I help Jill go through queries, but I read full manuscripts too. I have to make time for my internship, along with my own writing, my family, my volunteer work, and my full time job. But in a way, interning actually made me better at time management, because I had to prioritize things and not slack off as much.
Interning has also made me a better writer, because I read so many different queries and opening pages and have seen what works and what doesn't. I've also learned a ton about publishing from Jill, and she's always happy to answer my questions about the industry. I'm very lucky that I have two agents to learn from! And in return, I want to help other writers as much as possible.
On that note, do you have any questions about agents, querying, publishing, etc? Would you like query or first page critiques posted on the blog? Posts about query trends or querying advice? Q&A sessions? Let me know what you'd like to see here!
Edit: Jill responded to my post! Thanks Jill!