Understanding the Behind the Scenes Work of a Literary Agent

Four weeks ago, I started my internship at Ken Sherman and Associates, a literary agency located in Los Angeles. While I originally anticipated completing the internship in-person, the internship was inevitably modified to be done remotely. Nonetheless, it has been an enriching, insightful, and fun learning experience.

The literary agency handles film, television, and book writers (fiction and nonfiction). Writers submit a diverse range of manuscripts that come in many different genres. If the work leaves an impression on the agent, he will work as a middleman between the writer and publisher by finding a publisher that is suitable to the manuscript. The literary agency also handles film and television rights to books and life rights. This includes the estates of deceased writers. Some of the clients at the literary agency can be found here.

As an intern at Ken Sherman and Associates, I read submitted materials and offer my opinions on the given manuscripts. These write-ups are called coverage and include a logline, synopsis, and comments section. I begin the coverage with a logline, which is a sentence summarizing the story without giving away the punchline of the story. Then I write a synopsis. This consists of a two page write up of me telling how the writer has written in my own words. I summarize the overall story, highlighting main plot points and characters. Finally, in the comments section, I offer my personal opinions and suggestions about the story. I comment on what I liked, what works and what doesn’t work, and how to fix what doesn’t work. I’ll also include what I would add to the story and think about if it would be good as a studio film, TV, stage play, TV series, Netflix series, etc. So far this summer, I have written coverage for six manuscripts, ranging from novels, poetry, and short stories. The genres have included drama, young adult fiction, and mysteries. Hopefully, I will impact the greater organization by giving the literary agent a framework to work off of before he decides to commit to a project or bring on a new client.

In terms of my learning goals for the summer, I hope to further develop my writing skills and become a more creative thinker when it comes to analyzing stories and determining the areas in which stories can improve. I hope to gain a better understanding of the literary agency industry and explore the different mediums it includes from novels to TV series. Ultimately, by writing coverage and analyzing stories, I aim to strengthen my interests and knowledge of this industry along with gathering the tools and skills to succeed. This includes writing useful, insightful coverage that will both help the literary agent and the writer deepen her story. The fact that my suggestions could have a real impact on a story and that my comments are heard are acknowledged by accomplished writers is a very fulfilling, unique responsibility to have on my hands.

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