On advice from interns


I was an intern. For four years I interned at two Bay Area agencies. I answered mail, e-mail, sent form rejections, read manuscripts, wrote pitches, and even sent some clients out on submission. You probably don’t remember any of that, and that is because I never talked about it. The first rule of interning has always been that you never talk about interning. It goes on your resume, not social media.

I have my own awesome intern. A lot of agencies keep their intern identities secret but I (and I was allowed at Kimberly Cameron) allow John to say that he does things for me. What John and I don’t do is say exactly what he does for me (besides making me coffee, which he can’t do but I would totally dig that).

Recently I’ve been seeing interns crop up on Twitter doing #askagent, #pubtips, and #tenqueries. I would have been fired for doing this and rightly so. Even while I was an assistant agent I didn’t dare. I didn’t know enough about what I was talking about to give really well thought out answers. I still at times refer to other agents before answering a question.

Writers, interns are not gatekeepers to get to the agent. Most agents, regardless of whether their interns know or not, check in on their own stuff. Most agents do not want their interns giving you advice. And interns are not cooler than anyone else, nor do they need to be put up on a pedestal.

As Lady Grantham would say, these youngsters should stop giving themselves airs.

The point of this entire ramble is this: make sure you are getting advice from a reputable source who has spent time in the trenches and has moved up to work as an agent.

7 Responses so far

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    I won’t lie, I oversee interns at my work — I’m the one who interviews them, who trains them, who supervises them and who writes the recommendation letters and serves as a reference and I would completely flip my lid if one of my interns passed self off as an expert at what we do here or gave potential clients advice etc.

  2. Gravatar

    When I saw your post on Twitter, I thought this was going to be a “How Times Have Changed” piece, looking back on the industry.

    For some reason, I’ve assumed that the interns offering advice had agents looking over their shoulders. Thank you for clarifying this, as they’re popping up all over the place.

  3. Gravatar

    Wow. I’ve been noticing a lot of interns/assistants offering to answer questions and take pitches on Twitter. I’ve considered sending my work to some for comment. I’m glad I read your post. I don’t believe I will be taking any of these Twitter offers seriously. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Gravatar

    The trick seems to be to take it with a grain of salt. I had a lit agent intern give me some great advice on my query, which improved it tenfold. But I’ve had great advice from others with an interest in the industry who aren’t interns too, and I go into it with my eyes wide open.

  5. Gravatar

    I don’t terribly mind seeing comments and “advice” from interns. Of course, I treat it as advice on the Navy from a Seaman Recruit. Sure, those four and a half months of experience count for something, but it’s nothing compared to the advice garnered from an old salt. It’s also (for you landlubbers) a lot like listening to my son try to lecture me on life. Patience, young grasshopper. Your opinion is duly noted. And taken for what it’s worth.

  6. Gravatar

    I agree. I’m a lit agent intern and have been since January however I wouldn’t dare to offer up advice on the twittersphere or elsewhere. Not necessarily because my boss wouldn’t approve, she’s very nice & might not mind, but especially because I just don’t know enough. The things I do, while they have taught me things 1. Aren’t anything new, it’s things writers should know by now & 2. I prefer to leave the advice giving to the agents who have client lists, etc… and actual experience.

  7. Gravatar

    You’ll make a good agent :)

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