Dearest Miss Snark, our lady of the brazen wit,
Once upon a time ago, when I got it through to my dad that I was serious about this writing thing, he said, "You should apprentice with a literary agent." I looked at him like he was utterly mad--no one apprentices anymore. What is this, the Middle Ages?
Now I'm in college and I see that we just use a different word for it: Interning. And dear old Dad's idea sounds better and better as the Real World starts making 'Hello, I'm here and waiting for you' noises.
These internships do exist. I've Googled and searched my college's listings and they are out there. Unfortunately, Google and college listings are notorious for finding some less than desirable results. Is there a resource for finding legit agents willing to have an unpaid slave for the semester?
What skills would a literary agent most likely be looking for in an intern? What skills should I cultivate? (Aside, of course, from the ability to wade through the slush pile without getting a million paper cuts.)
Would the agent or company I intern with be able to represent me, or would that be a conflict of interest? I know better than to whack them upside the head with my proposal the moment I land the job, but when would it be appropriate to bring it up? Would I have to wait to formerly show something until I'd finished working there? Does this even happen at ALL? If it is, should I also be trying to find an agent in the same field on which I write?
Even if I didn't get an agent via interning, the contacts and experience would no doubt be invaluable. As is your advice. I now await your verdict. Is daddy right, or was my initial "You are NUTS, man!" closer to the truth?
There are ads for interns on Publishers Marketplace, so that's the first place to check. I know several of my colleagues have interns who are students in the publishing program at NYU and Pace, so if you're at those schools, they've probably got a list of agencies looking for people.
What skills are we looking for? Same as in an assistant. Reliability, punctuality, an ability to take and execute directions without screwing up too much.
My interns don't read the slush pile. They xerox, file, update data bases, and other things that actually teach them something about the industry. I do know other places do things differently.
The fact you are a writer will come up at some point of course. Don't ask to have anyone read your work. Ever. If they offer, great. Don't expect them to. Don't be hurt if they don't. Chances are, right now, at the start of your career, you'll need to make a lot of mistakes in your writing before you hit your stride. I don't want to talk to people I've rejected, let alone sit next to them for three months from 9-5.
Interning is a good way to suck up knowledge. It's not a fast track to finding representation.