Hey everyone, welcome back to Community Spotlight, a space where Chronicles & Coffee works to shine light on those of you in the writing and book community! Today's spotlight shines on Mikaela Bender, a well rehearsed, young speck in the book industry. I am super excited for you to tap into and read what she has to say about her experiences in writing and publishing, and hope this brings a source of inspiration to your own creative endeavors as much as it did to mine.
"I’m an alumna of Florida State University where I graduated with a degree in Editing, Writing, and Media and a minor in Communication. I am a part of Wattpad’s new Creators Program and am a co-agent and an executive assistant at the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. This summer
I’ll be interning at Crooked Lane Books/Alcove Press. If I’m not reading or writing, I like to work on learning languages. I took Italian in college, so I’m working on relearning it, and I’ve started
to work on learning French as well."
How did/when did your love for reading, writing, and publishing come about?
"I’ve always enjoyed reading. but it wasn’t until I was fourteen that I realized I liked to write.
Before then, the idea of writing a full-length book seemed impossible. But then I sat down and
did it and fell in love with the process. Researching how to get my work published is what led
me to wanting to work in the publishing industry. Before then, I hadn’t come across a job that felt
right, that I wanted to spend my life doing."
How was the process of putting your foot in the door in the book publishing industry?
"After I graduated, I did the New York University Summer Publishing Institute and Columbia University’s Columbia Publishing Course in Oxford. An alumna of the Summer Publishing Institute sent out an email about an internship at the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency, and I applied, and three years later, I’ve ended up co-agenting a book there. When applying to
publishing jobs, I think it’s really important to make sure your resume is easy for AIs to read and
also to make sure you’re using keywords from the job description in your resume. Don’t just use
the same resume for each job, even if the jobs are in the same field."
What’s your experience working in a literary agency? What's your role? How has it helped you grow in your own craft and in your professional life?
"I started out as a reader at the agency. So for that position, I read manuscripts that writers had
queried and then wrote reader’s reports on them, breaking down what the story was about, its
flaws and strengths, and if I thought the agency should acquire the book. After that, I became an
assistant to Jennifer Lyons. In addition to my assistant role, I now handle translation rights and
have co-agented a book with Jennifer.
Working at the agency and reviewing queries has helped me better understand what makes a
query good and what little things a writer can do that will help their query stand out. Two of the
main things are following the agency’s query guidelines and keeping your query concise."
Break down your initiative to apply to NYU and Columbia’s Summer Publishing Programs + how those experiences were.
"I knew I wanted to work in publishing, but there weren’t many publishing internships available in
Florida. The two programs are what gave me the chance to get my foot in the door and let me
make connections. I really enjoyed both programs, and I even live with some of the friends I
made during them. I can’t say which program was better because I learned different things from
each, so both were really valuable but in different ways. If someone is thinking about applying,
don’t be afraid to reach out to graduates of the programs on LinkedIn or Instagram to ask for
their opinion of the programs and what their experience was like."
Where do you see yourself going from here?
"I’m currently working on a new novel about cults, and when I finish it, I would really like to query
that and try out traditional publishing. I’ve been writing on Wattpad since 2014, so I think it’s
time I try to get one of my novels in print. I’ve spent the past few years researching different
cults and knew that one day I wanted to write a novel where I created a cult based on
everything I had learned about them. Now, I’m finally getting to put that knowledge to use."
"Fantasy! Especially if it has fairies."
Top favorite books-
"Emily Wilde’s Encyclopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett, A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah
J. Maas, and Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare!"
Best time/space to get work done-
"Coffee shops on the weekend! If you go all the way there with the intention to write, you’ll do it.
It’s also great if you can bring a friend along so that you can do writing sprints together."
I hope you enjoyed today's interview featuring Mikaela Bender. From her extensive background already, future writing goals, and openness to providing advice and tips to all writers and others in the community, this is what makes the book industry so special! Stay up to date with all Mikaela does and will do in her future by following her on the socials linked below. Talk to you soon!