Why Am I Hearing From A Literary Agency Intern?

By Amy Giuffrida

I have seen many writers on social media and Query Tracker wondering why they are hearing from an intern or assistant, rather than an agent they submitted their manuscript to. The feeling is that the agent never even saw their writing, which is disappointing to them after all of their hard work. I get it. I’ve been on that end and submitted manuscripts to agencies. Now on the other end as an assistant, I can dispel some of the misconceptions.

Who are they?

Interns are generally students who are working toward a degree in publishing or writing. Some may even be adults who are looking to change careers, but all of them are looking to gain hands on experience. And they work for free because they love books!

Most internships last six months at the most, which is why you will see many intern names associated with agencies. On Query Tracker, writers respond that names change frequently. This is why. 

Assistants tend to have more experience and are working towards becoming a literary agent. You will see more from them in response to requests and partials. Some will even be involved in the R&R process, but nothing happens without the approval and guidance of the agent.

Why do I only hear from interns or assistants?

On a daily basis, an agent receives AT LEAST 100 (this is on the low end, btw) queries/partials/fulls. This is on top of their work and possible communication with current clients. With that amount of work, agents NEED interns to help streamline the process. If you ever submit a genre to an agent that they don’t represent, an intern will automatically send a rejection letter. This is probably the ONLY time that an intern or assistant will send something to a writer without the agent being involved. For example, if you send a picture book to an agent who only is interested in adult mysteries, you will receive an automatic rejection. 

Does the agent read what is submitted?

Yes. Anything read by an intern is reviewed by the agent according to his/her preferences. Typically this is done via a reader report, but all decisions are made by the agent. Once a piece has been read, and as per the direction of the agent, a request or decline email is then sent by the intern.

While some agencies handle their work differently, I can tell you for sure that no decision is made about your manuscript solely by an intern. I have worked for three agencies and although they have each managed incoming manuscripts and queries differently, one characteristic is the same—agents are professionals who know their field and what will sell. They don’t want to miss discovering a new author, so rest assured they are completely involved in the entire process. That being said, responding and reading hundreds of submissions requires a little help.

Amy Giuffrida is an assistant with Holloway Literary. Follow her on Twitter @kissedbyink.