Mahima Mukherjee (CH7)
Interned at First Forays (a Literary Agency)
I am Mahima, a third-year Chemical-Dual student, which means my intern season was not this year, and I got more time than others to try for off-campus interns until I can apply through OCS. I am very active in Debsoc, and I was also a journalist at BSP, and I'm the chief editor of Tech Ambit. I was also in NSS and managed to do a lot of writing for them. I was in BloodConnect at some point and got into Cadence, the Western Music Society.
Motivation/Inspiration to Choose this Field
I have been an avid reader since primary school and was really into creative writing. Growing up, I became interested in other genres, articles, and technical writing. Once I came to college, this interest was even more cemented because I had all these avenues to pursue them further.
I pursued this because I had more time than other people since I could not apply for an OCS internship till later. I was not particularly interested in engineering in the first place, and it was the entire “family ne PCM kara diya" story. I knew that this was something that I was interested in, and there was a time when I wanted to pursue a career in this, but that was not very realistic for me to do. When faced with this opportunity, I was immediately motivated to pursue it because I knew I had the time to come around and do more engineering-related internships later.
My application process started during "Literati". The founder of the agency where I worked was the primary judge in the event hosted by me, "Lit Fair." I was in charge of reviewing the book pitches submitted by these writers and shortlisting them into the top eight. I was constantly interacting with the founder throughout the event. Afterwards, we talked, and I expressed my interest in the field. That's when she mentioned that she has a summer internship program and if I was interested, I could sign up for it. I reached out to her via email, and I had an interview. About the prerequisites, they looked at my resume, which included BSP and Tech ambit, and also some of my writings, which included stories and poetry.
It's called the "First Forays" literary agency, and they're one of India's most established agencies. They have an excellent reputation in the publishing field, but most of it is because of the popularity of its founder, Mrs. Lalitha Ravindran. Most of the people work under her on a contractual basis.
The internship is open to anyone interested. I come from a technical background, so I had to rigorously explain in the interview why I would still be a good candidate because mostly students from Humanities take up these internships. But they also have a history of having people from technical backgrounds. So I was not disheartened by that. The internship opens only during the summer for two months.
Internship Work Experience
I learned a lot about the publishing world in general. We all have a lot of misconceptions about it, and I was the connecting link between the author and the publisher. When authors reach out to publishers, they get few responses, so the authors reach out to the agencies, and then the agencies reach out to the relevant publishers who might be interested in the said work. I was in charge of a lot of shortlisting, for which I read through almost ten manuscripts daily and tried to ensure that the good ones were picked. I was also doing general intern stuff, like sitting in on meetings with the founder, and I was in charge of looking up marketing trends. Essentially, I went through the book pitches that used to get sent to us by authors. Then, I used to push them forward to the founder in a particular format, including a synopsis and an analysis of the target audience and why these kinds of books have done well, according to previous market research.
Personal Experience (Favourite Manuscripts)
There was one fascinating manuscript which is getting published soon. It was written by this UN rights lawyer, who was there in Afghanistan during the takeover by the Taliban. It was a story essay; that's what they called it in the synopsis. I read through most of the book, and it left a mark. Another book I loved was a criminal romance fiction with some fantastic writing. All these things really fascinated me about the process. There is a fundamental confidentiality part where I cannot discuss these books often. But anytime I even vaguely discuss this with some of my friends, like there was this book about a Bangalore super-heroine who fights foes in the metaverse- even these basic snippets get so much attention and lead to hour-long discussions. So, it was fun at an informal level.
Work of a Full-time Literary Agent
It is similar to my work but more rigorous as they read through more submissions without getting them vetted by somebody. They can respond to the authors by themselves. I had to refer to the founder before doing something like that. But that's mostly it. Most literary agents don't edit. That was something that I did on the side since I was interested in it, and the founder liked my work, my writing, and so on. But I think they mostly do the entire process of interviewing and shortlisting and making sure that these deals get pushed through and having a shit ton of meetings.
It's just an internship for two months, and you'll get paid for it, which means that you should at least try it out and convince yourself or your family that it's okay to explore, which was my entire thing. I was not set on making a career out of this, but doing something that I'm genuinely interested in and getting paid for was the better option than not doing anything all summer. It would be harder for people who don't have dual degrees because then they'll have to streamline the type of internships they can get and go for research internships at the end of the second year. I also had a couple of research internships lined up, but I was more interested when I got this one. You should at least take one summer to explore your interests, even if it's only a fallback or for the memories. Expand your resume as much as possible and get experience in diverse fields.