What is a Literary Agent?

Author: Megan Zimmerman, 2nd Year English MA Student

Over the last few years, as I’ve worked to improve my creative writing skills, I began to wonder how to get to the next step: publishing. I started participating in contests and sharing my writing with more than just close family. This desire evolved into not just the want to become published, but to work in the publishing world. I began researching – I followed blogs, signed up for newsletters, and delved into Twitter. Here and there I would see mention of the mysterious “literary agent,” but I rarely went further than a curious glance before moving on.

Then I started my internship at Triada US Literary Agency.

I had accidentally discovered the internship opportunity via the founder’s Twitter page. Discovering Uwe Stender had also been a stroke of luck. A newsletter about “the most active literary agents” had caught my eye and I decided to look up the agents mentioned in the article on Twitter. Most tweeted rarely. A few I would see a couple times a week. Uwe tweeted multiple times a day. His #askagent tweets came almost every day at 6:00 PM, and I tweeted a question at him one day, not expecting much. It was to my surprise that only a few minutes later Uwe responded. From then on, I followed him closely and that lead me to his agency website where I found the internship opportunities buried in the FAQ section.

When it came time to apply for internships, Uwe responded to me in a few days to set up the interview. At this point, I still only had a vague idea about what a literary agent did. I knew that they helped authors become published and I figured that an internship with the agency would help me understand the publishing world better. After a test of skills, Uwe brought me on as one of his interns where I would help work through manuscripts and, in return, I had unlimited access to all the knowledge he possessed.

During our weekly Wednesday calls, I learned that literary agents are the ones that make the publishing world go ‘round. If you want to be an author, you need a literary agent. If you’re an editor, you need connections with literary agents to get the best manuscripts. They’re the gatekeepers and advocates – they are the boots on the ground and they get things done.

Agents are an author’s best chance of being successful and being successfully published. Over the course of this semester, I’ll be writing about my experience at Triada US Literary Agency as an intern. I’ll be reflecting on the knowledge I gained via my internship, and how I plan to apply that knowledge in my pursuit for a career in publishing. In addition to this, I will also explore the connections of syntax and sentence structure to genre writing.

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