April 22, 2019

An Intern's Look at the Publishing Industry

I've interviewed a few publishing professionals on the blog before, but one thing I thought would be useful is for y'all to hear from interns. We're still very new to the industry; we're entry-level so our day-to-day tasks and our processes of getting into publishing are more in line with what some of y'all might be doing soon. :) I had the honor of interviewing one of my fellow interns at Bloomsbury, Chantal, and I'll be sharing my own experiences, too!

1. What are your usual tasks in this internship?

Chantal: As the publicity intern at Bloomsbury Children’s Books, my primary responsibility is organizing and maintaining blogger and reviewer mailing lists. For each category (picture books, middle grade, YA), there is a curated list of bloggers/reviewers that have shown interest or professional prowess in reviewing these categories. After I receive the advance reading copies (ARC) or final editions of our forthcoming titles, I am responsible for sending them out to every person on the list.
 Another responsibility I hold as the children’s publicity intern is sorting through NetGalley requests. These requests for an e-pub edition of a featured title can come from librarians, booksellers, reviewers, or media professionals and from all over the United States, as well as Canada. I accept or deny these requests based upon certain aspects of the user’s profile—their rejection/approval rates across publisher databases, their feedback ratio, etc.—and their social media platforms. 
Occasionally, I am asked to draft copies of press releases and galley letters for forthcoming titles. These are my favorite requests! I get to dig deep into my persuasive creativity and come up with something that will, hopefully, inspire others to read our books. 

Emma: As the children's managing editorial intern, my main task is keeping everything organized! This ranges from the foul matter (cover "drafts," manuscript pass pages [typeset pages that aren't ready to be bound into a book yet], and various print-outs) to the production bookshelves, to schedules, to filing style sheets and design memos. I get to make pages for each of the titles in each season that the team uses to keep track of deadlines in weekly production meetings (as well as outside of the meetings). Other tasks I usually do include reading jackets (making sure the final jacket is error-free, the color matches the proof, and any special details are implemented correctly) and assembling picture book proofs.

2. What has surprised you most about working in publishing?

Emma: Just how much everything is about who you know, even in "behind-the-scenes" departments like production. It's all about networking and forming connections.
There are also little things I've picked up at launches, like why holiday-themed books publish so long before said holiday (Christmas books have to be on shelves in September usually!), or what certain colors or animals will imply in a consumer's mind. That's all stuff I've never thought about before.

Chantal: Publishing continues to surprise me every day, but I think the most shocking is seeing how many people it takes to bring a book to life. I mean, before entering the publishing industry, I’d see a book on the shelf and only see the author’s name. Don’t get me wrong, the author is a HUGE part of the equation. Without their ingenuity and perseverance, the book would not exist. However, now when I see a book on the shelf, I also see the beautiful cover, knowing an art designer or illustrator created dozens of drafts before choosing the one before me. I see the agents name in the acknowledgements and wonder how many thousands of queries they must have gone through before finding this one special submission, and how many revisions it took until it ended up on the editor’s desk. I see the editor, the book’s champion, reading at their desk late at night, knowing they were supposed to leave hours ago and still unable to put it down. After rounds and rounds of editing, that manuscript becomes the book I have in my hands. I see the marketer, publicist, managing editor, sales department, production staff, interns—the list can go on and on. When I pick up a book now, I have a better appreciation and understanding of the hard work and countless hours spent bringing this book to life, and how seeing it on the shelf makes everything worth it. 

3. How did you get this internship? How many internships have you had before this?

Chantal: One of my past supervisors recommended me for this internship! And I’m so lucky she did, because I’m really enjoying my time here. I’ve held three publishing internships before starting at Bloomsbury—most notably was my summer internship at Writers House. 

Emma: I was fortunate enough to have formed a connection with the children's publicists because of this blog, so as part of my creative writing practicum, I shadowed for a day at Bloomsbury last February. While here, I got to sit down and learn about managing editorial/production at Bloomsbury from my now-supervisor. I followed up after the chat with a thank-you email (important after any type of interview, y'all!), and landed the internship I'm still doing. This is my first internship in publishing, but I did one at my university's library last spring that gave me a look at another side of the book industry.

4. What did you study in college? Did you do an additional program, or a masters in publishing/creative writing?

Emma: I majored in creative writing, minored in history. I didn't do an additional program, although my adviser told me I would need a masters. *eye-roll* I've spoken with several publishing professionals since then, and they've all told me a masters isn't necessary. An additional program - like those at NYU and Columbia - can be good for making connections, though! But I needed a break from school so I didn't want to apply to those. But if you haven't been running a book blog or doing other publishing internships, they can be a great asset.

Chantal: Funnily enough, I studied Criminal Justice and Criminology in undergrad. I’m the first person in my family to go to college and, since both my parents served in the military, I felt a strong pull towards the justice field. Originally, I thought I was going to be a cop/lawyer in Chicago (where I’m from), but after one internship at the Chicago Police Department, I knew that wasn’t my path. I floundered for a bit after that—I was too far into my program to change majors—and decided to study abroad in Brighton, England. Best decision I’ve ever made! One of my teachers at university worked in publishing and she showed me a different future, one I could imagine myself stepping into without hesitation or regret. When I returned home, I researched my options and applied to NYU’s Masters in Publishing program…and was accepted. I haven’t looked back since.

5. Why did you want to work in publishing?

Chantal: I feel like this should be an easy question—It’s the most popular question I get asked, especially during interviews, and yet I still find it hard to vocalize. I mean, I want to work in publishing to have a voice in the industry. I want to influence what books are being published and I want to get those books into the hands of readers who need them. 
Books have power—they shape who we are, our opinions, our understandings, our capacity for empathy. One of the most important lessons I learned from books is that while I’m the hero of my story, I could just as easily be the villain of someone else’s. 
Books show us the best and worst of society, can predict any number of futures…they are the foundation upon which we evolve. And children’s books are exceedingly progressive. But that’s not all they are—they are also hope and wonder and magic and strength and so many other empowering things. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling job than one in which I get to work with books all day. 

Emma: I've known I wanted to work with books for awhile, but college helped confirm that I don't want to teach English/creative writing or work in a library. So publishing was the natural route. I thought I wanted to be an editor for awhile, but I've realized I'm better at proofreading and copy editing than big picture edits, and also I like pushing books on people via publicity/marketing, so my route has changed a little. :) I really like the idea of helping someone find that book that changes their world, like so many did for me when I was younger. Whether that's in a publicity/marketing role or a production editorial role where I make sure the book is as perfect as it can be, I'm excited to make it happen.

6. Do you want to be an author as well, or are you content just helping books get out into the world?

Emma: If y'all have spent any time on this blog, you'll know I want to be an author too. I've been writing stories since I was ten, and my major was creative writing, so... But I like publishing as a day job because I get to see both sides of making a book happen, and I'd like to hope that'll make it easier for me to understand editorial and marketing decisions when my books are going out in the world some day.

Chantal: I’m completely content to just help books get out into the world! I think there is a certain spark inside those who are authors—I like to think of it as a mix of creativity, bravery, and an unexplainable need to write. While I enjoy dabbling from time to time, I just don’t have that spark. But I’m super lucky that I get to work with people that do! 

7. What are you reading right now?

Chantal: My TBR shelf is overflowing at the moment—okay, it’s always overflowing—but I just picked up The Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds. I haven’t read page one yet, but I’m extremely excited about it. 

Emma: The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu, which is a quiet MG book, and A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn, which is the third in a historical fiction series that is such a fun romp.

Are you interested in working in publishing? Anyone else in publishing that you'd like to hear from?

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