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July 7, 2015

Navigating the Literary World


There's a lot more that goes into a book than what we see on a store shelf! Teenreads intern Hannah Kaufman writes about various internships that have taught her about the literary world, which is ultimately a sprawling and dynamic network. In this blog post, she talks about insights gleaned from working both at Teenreads and a literary agency, and what those jobs have taught her about the literary community and herself.

After the previous summer of bumming around being wholly unproductive, I decided to dedicate this summer to working in the city. My goal was to fill up my time with experiences that would resonate with me far longer than a day watching Netflix on the couch (although that, too, can be pretty awesome). Thus, in the last month I’ve found myself interning part-time for two very similar, yet very different, workplaces: a literary agency and The Book Report Network.
At the literary agency, I help filter through unsolicited queries (people sending in their book proposals and samples), critique manuscripts and edit text and audio books. At TBRN, I help manage the Teenreads and Kidsreads websites and brainstorm new themes to help categorize old and upcoming books.
On a weekly basis, I could be reading at least one or two full books at the agency while flying through hundreds of book titles and summaries at TBRN. And in the little time I’ve worked for these two places, they’ve taught me a lot about the literary world, about other people and about myself.
The agency I work for has pretty niche guidelines for what it chooses to go to market, while Teenreads and Kidsreads deal with content across the spectrum. Working for both gives me the ability to see the big picture, like the genre trends happening all across youth fiction, as well as recognize the little things, like what kind of a voice a protagonist tends to have and where their story is most likely to go when it’s tailored to a specific audience.
I encourage anyone who’s interested in books to dip their toes in the literary world at least once, whether it’s through a publishing house, an online company, a literary agency or anything in between. The experience allows you to see how the books you choose to read fit in at a macro and micro level, and that is a pretty powerful tool.
Beyond the literary world, internships like these teach you about how people interact with the world around them, and you can use this knowledge to leave an impact or spread your message in almost any field. At the agency, I’ve learned what kinds of people tend to favor audiobooks versus Kindle or a regular paperback, while at Teenreads and Kidsreads I’ve dealt with different online platforms like Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. Yet many millennials still favor a classic print novel, while older generations are experimenting with more efficient electronics. Everybody has their general comfort zone, but the ways in which we communicate overlap more than we think.
Lastly, being exposed to so many genres, characters and stories on a daily basis has helped me learn about myself. I get a clearer sense of what draws me in as a reader, what I connect to most and what I’d like to learn more about. I strive to economize my work while absorbing everything I read, and I’m given a greater sense of purpose knowing that people will be affected by the edits I make and the feedback I give.  
Interning for my agency and TBRN makes me proud and at the same time humbles me. Everything I do affects everyone else, even if those tasks seem like such small pieces of such a very large puzzle. My experiences have gifted me with something very special indeed --- the ability to put anything I read or do into a meaningful context.

Hannah Kaufman is an intern at Teenreads.