Working with a Literary Agent

Undertaking a work experience placement is definitely an invaluable way to learn about working in an industry and understanding the roles available. I knew when we had a little less class time in semester two, that I could supplement my learning with another placement in order to understand more about a part of the industry I knew little about: literary agents. I contacted Jenny Brown, one of Scotland’s biggest agents and began working with her one day a week.

Jenny Brown Associates was founded in 2002 and aims to represents authors based in Scotland, writing fiction and narrative non-fiction. Jenny has a comprehensive list of over 50 authors including Malachy Tallack, Lin Anderson and Alex Gray. She needed someone to help her work through submissions, help design her Rights Guide for London Book Fair, to post on social media, and to assist with one of the books that is coming out this year. I was more than happy to be involved in all of these tasks and to be learning from Jenny about the inner workings of a literary agency. She was always answering questions I had and helping me when I was unsure.

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The first few weeks I read a lot of submissions and wrote readers reports for Jenny, as she had just opened her submission window and was receiving a lot of emails daily from authors. This gave me a great insight into the kind of books Jenny was looking for, and we often discussed books that we found interesting and why.

Throughout my time with Jenny, I also did a lot of social media posting for her. As an agent, she has so many authors to promote and various launches and events happening almost every week. I would take photos for her Instagram, construct tweets and post on her Facebook to promote her authors and their books.

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Finally, I helped with the Rights Guide which was probably the most valuable thing I did in my time with Jenny as it really gave me an understanding of the role of agents when it comes to rights and how she works at the London Book Fair. I was able to use InDesign to work on the guide, as Jenny usually had to send it away to be worked on, so I was glad to be able to put my InDesign skills into use to make her life a wee bit easier. It was also great to know that something I had helped to work on was being used in all of her meetings at London Book Fair. Whilst at the Book Fair, I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on some of Jenny’s meetings. This was probably the best part of the fair for me, as I was able to get a real understanding about the kind of work that goes on at the fair and to see Jenny’s job in action.

Overall, work experience with a literary agent was an amazing experience for me. I was able to learn about another side of publishing I knew nothing about, to learn some new skills, meet other people in the industry and even sit in on meetings and see an agent doing their fascinating work. I would definitely recommend anyone to seek out a placement with an agent as it is a brilliant learning experience.

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