Sometimes you have to ask for what you want. When I got my first internship it was through a live chat event that the Literary agency was hosting and I “kiddingly” asked if she wanted an assistant. She didn’t, but they were going to be looking for readers soon and I was invited to email her directly.
The latest internship I’ve gained is with a Canadian Literary Agency that I had been keeping an eye on. I watch their sales and acquisitions. I took a chance and cold e-mailed them back in August. The initial response was no one was looking at the moment, but to keep them in mind in the future. I took that suggestion to heart and as I neared the end of my second internship I emailed again.
When sending a cold e-mail it is important to keep it professional, approach it like you would if there was a job-posting but state in there exactly what you are looking for: why are you emailing them? And it is best to do that within the first few sentences, so they have some context moving forward. After the second email, I didn’t expect much of a response, I didn’t think enough time had passed, and I started making other plans when I got an email from one of the agents. I was ecstatic and a bit surprised.
It is important to take risks when going after what you want. There were more reasons to not e-mail the agency than there were reasons to. I did not expect much of a response. I did not think the odds would be in my favour. And, initially, they weren’t. However, the response I got to the first cold e-mail was so kind that I made a note to try again—. even though my expectations were that I would not hear anything back. I have discovered through job applications and writing novel queries that it is so important not to self-reject. I thought my odds with this last email were slim, but, as the old saying goes, if you don’t ask the answer is always no. So why would I tell myself no? If I get a pass or no response then that is okay, but at least I took that chance, I gave myself the opportunity to succeed—or fail.
I can’t control what anyone else is going to do. I don’t know when I send out emails if the response will be positive. I cannot control that response, but what I can control is what I do. I can make them tell me no. At least then I know that I am doing what I need to do to move forward.
When I read stories about people landing jobs, internships, agents, it always feels like it is done quickly. Even as I read back through my article it feels like I have just stumbled on these opportunities. But beyond the three yeses I got from agencies that welcomed me as an intern there were many I never heard from or that told me no. I spent days researching agencies and seeking out opportunities. I got through the initial screening on a few to be passed on later in the application process. But I never let these bring me down for too long, I kept moving forward and making them tell me no: until I got a yes.