A Tale of Enthusiasm and Embarrassing Typos – SYPinto Mentee John

Posted on July 31, 2018 in London

With this final instalment in our mini mentorship blog series, we will be introducing you to our SYPinto mentee John – Publishing student, dragon and alien enthusiast, and defender of the Net Book Agreement.

Applications for SYPahead, the second stream in our mentorship programme, dedicated to junior professionals in their first or second jobs, are now open and will close on 12th August. To learn more about the scheme and apply, click here.


Hi, I’m John. I’m a Kingston Publishing MA student and aspiring literary agent. I’ve always been a proud Sci-fi and Fantasy nerd, but I’ve trained myself to read books without space aliens and dragons in as well. I want to be an agent, so that I can spend spend my days finding great authors, working together on getting their books even better and then spending the rest of my time fighting for them out on the battlefield, or should I say, positive and friendly world of publishing.

My SYPinto mentor is the fantastic Sarah Manning of the Bent Agency, and she has been brilliant from the off. When requesting a mentor, I specifically asked for an agent early on in their career, so that they had the most up to date info on how I could get started on the career path they were further down. Sarah started off by tidying up my C.V., so that in her words, it looked like one she would want to pick up herself.

I was lucky enough to get my first interview for an agency internship a week after the scheme began. It was very short notice, but Sarah very kindly took a couple hours out of her busy Monday morning to have a practise interview over skype, using all the questions she had been asked from her own interviews in her own career. We practised my answers and really refined them down to present myself in the best way.I wasn’t successful on that first attempt, but all that prep came in handy for my second interview which did work out and I’m over the moon to have started my internship at Blake Friedmann earlier this week.

Outside of interviews, Sarah has been a wonderful support as well. I have learnt so much about agenting from her, and even when I was having a slight crisis of faith, Sarah assuaged my fears about whether I was on the right track and shared that she knew exactly how I felt.

This scheme has been everything I hoped it would be and I really recommend anyone else in my positon next year to go for it.


My top three tips to help you get your break:

  • Go to the events. You’ll learn loads, meet so many great people and it looks great on the C.V. I recommend all the great SYP events, but also the Borough Book Bash, Book Machine, Super Relaxed Fantasy Club and volunteering at Stokey Lit Fest. But don’t go looking for the person who’s going to give you a job. We are lucky enough to work in an industry driven by a common shared love of books, technically you have a pretty big thing in common with everyone at these things so remember that.
  • LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES! If it’s an important email, or even has the possibility that someone important will read it, send it to a friend first. I once sent a casual email to someone I met an event, just saying that it was great to meet them and enquiring about a position they’d mentioned. The recipient forwarded it straight on to their boss (whose name was on the door) who loved my experience, but did not like the two typos!
  • Don’t be embarrassed to be enthusiastic. I am an enthusiastic person, it’s very clear. My course mates enjoy taking the mick out of me for it, but I ignore them. After many years of dodgy sales jobs and pouring pints, I am ecstatic about getting to work on books every day. I still get awestruck when meeting my favourite authors, or even more embarrassingly some publishers and I am determined to hold on to that feeling. And it’s always positively mentioned in feedback from interviews or meeting people, so I say own it.


If I could change one thing about the publishing industry:

I’d love to go back in time, save the NBA and tell Amazon to politely return to the hellscape from whence it came, but that’s just me. I know I’m a hypocrite because I’ve got a very stocked Kindle, but imagine a world where we don’t have to worry about them turning off the buy buttons, increasing their percentages and whatever other dubious shenanigans they come up with.


An Individual I find inspiring?

Now this might seem like a bit of a damp answer, but bear with me, but how about the SYP in general? It is a fact that everyone in publishing is incredibly busy, we all know how much required reading is needed for pretty much every department and the majority of that is done outside of work hours. So the idea that every year, there are enough volunteers giving up their precious and minimal free time to fully stock the numerous committees across the country, organise and run events and schemes like this one, for no financial reward, is pretty inspiring.


Want to keep up with John? Find him over at @JJBker!