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Tonya Kuper: Is interning for a literary agency a good step to getting published?

Literary agents are often thought of as the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. So where better to learn about the keys that open the gate?

With many intern roles available for literary agents across the world (several of which can be worked remotely thanks to the magic of the internetz), there is more opportunity than ever for aspiring authors to get the inside scoop of what makes a literary agency tick. Get to know how agents think, discover for yourself what stands out in the slush pile... the knowledge is all there waiting to be taken and twisted for your own evildoings / honest search for publishing stardom.

One such writer who took this route is superstar debut author Tonya Kuper, the formerintern/Publicity Manager for The Seymour Agency. Her YA novel 'Anomaly', about a teenage girl who discovers she has the power to alter reality, launched not too long ago and garnered some pretty damn great reviews already.

Being the first book in the now hotly anticipated 'Schrodinger's Consortium' trilogy, Tonya has now decided to step away from the literary agency to focus on writing. However, I was lucky enough to bag a little time in her busy schedule to ask a few questions about her experience working for a literary agency while on her own publishing journey...

Tonya Kuper author of Anomaly

Tonya Kuper (photo credit: Hooton Images)

Most writers have non-writing related (and possibly very dull) day jobs to support the writing. Yours was working in the publishing industry for a literary agency! How did you end up there?

I was an educator turned stay-at-home-mom and began writing as a hobby. Eventually, I took the writing more seriously and wrote my first full-length novel and began my second when I started considering an internship to learn more about the publishing industry. So I was already writing, and had queried my first and second book by the time I finally landed an internship at a literary agency. Of course, I had to let my position of intern and Publicity Manager at the agency go eventually in order to devote more time to writing once I was sold to a publishing house. So, technically, I'm no longer working for the agency - I'm now one of their authors - which is pretty crazy-cool!

What did your role with the agency involve?

I dealt with clients (signed authors) by helping them promote their books and events and organizing agency events. I also dealt with querying authors via email and social media on behalf of the agency.

A literary agency seems to me to be the perfect place to develop your writing knowledge and confidence (especially if you get to dive into the slush pile). What have you learned there that’s helped get you to the stage of being a published author?

For one, it helped me figure out what works and what doesn't as far as execution goes. For example, what vital information, action, and reaction needs to be included and when. Also, it helped me realize just how subjective this industry is and how hard an agent works. And, yes, I did read slush! And it taught me so much about the importance of those first few pages.

It just so happens that your agent works at the same agency. How did you get signed up?

My agent actually asked for an R&R way before I started working at the agency. She eventually offered me representation after I took the position.

There are probably a lot of authors out there writing bestsellers, but who are put off taking their work further thanks to a rather daunting query process. As an author who's worked on ‘the inside’ what would you say to encourage them to start querying with agents - is an internship with a literary agency a good step to take?

As writers, you can't let self-doubt or fear rule you. If you have dreams about landing an agent, tackle querying with the same passion that motivated you to write in the first place (after you polish that manuscript ;D ). If it were easy, everyone would do it. So it's up to you to take that next step and not give up. An internship definitely gave me great experience and practice in figuring out what worked and what didn't, but I should say that getting such a gig isn't necessarily going to help a writer get agented or become a better writer. Great writing lands agents. And great writing comes from reading and writing. A LOT. Tonya Kuper is a young adult author living in Omaha, Nebraska with her two cool boys and husband. ANOMALY, the first in the Schrodinger’s Consortium trilogy, is her debut novel by Entangled Teen. Tonya is a music junkie, Star Wars dork, and Sherlock lover.

[First published on Wednesday 14 January 2015]


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