Why you should intern with a book publisher
The idea of interning with a book publisher didn’t occur to me until I was about, mmm, 26-years-old. Partially because most of the internships I had heard about growing up involved going to a big-time publisher in New York City. And even though I loved books, I was not interested in going to New York City for an internship or otherwise. *New Yorkers flip me the bird* #sorrynotsorry
So, when I began my internship search, I knew that one of my requirements was that it had to be remote. I had several non-remote jobs at the time that I couldn’t afford to leave for three months, or even three weeks. If I was going to intern, it had to be in my spare time, online. #justlikemycollegedegree #whoops Luckily, I was able to find a few, and even land a remote internship that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed.
Here are some things I’ve learned about modern-day book publisher internships. And why, if you are a book lover who wants to work in publishing, you should definitely consider sticking your foot in this door.
You don’t just have to be a writer to apply
Do you love books, but aren’t interested in writing the next Great American Novel? That’s okay! Book publishers are in need of people of all skill sets. Here are some areas of publishing that don’t involve becoming an author:
Editing - Obsessed with proper grammar and dialogue tags? Are you fascinated with the different spellings of words in British and American English? Did all of you friends in high school and college go to you to review their essays before turning them in? Are you the person who, when leaving the movie theatre, you say, “You know, that scene was okay, but here’s how it could have been better…” Consider an editing internship! In this age of digital media, there is a huge need for editors, and an editing internship is a great place to gain work experience. Plus, you get to read free books and help authors improve their work. It’s a win-win.
Graphic Design - Everyone says you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But readers do. Most of the time, well-designed book covers are the reason readers pick the book up in the first place and turn it over to see what it’s about. Book covers house and protect an author’s hard work. Publishers need excellent graphic designers to design such covers, and to create great interior layouts so the story jumps out to the reader. In a good way. In my humble opinion, an engrossing book is made up of several things; it’s about 72% great writing and plotting, 26% great editing and proofreading rounds, and about 2% awesome interior layout. And let me tell ya, that 2% counts. You’d think it doesn’t matter until it does. A poorly laid out interior easily makes an author’s wonderful story look sloppy. Even something as small as bad kerning and leading can disorient a reader, without them ever realizing it. It will make them say, “It was a good story, but I don’t know, there was just something about it that made it hard to read.” So, yes, book publishers need excellent graphic designers.
Marketing - If you’re the kind of person who is constantly recommending a book you just read, a marketing internship with a publisher may be for you. Authors often have to do most of their own marketing, and while some do all right with that, many need a helping hand. A good majority of authors struggle to say, “Hey, go read my book.” They need outgoing book-loving marketers on their side to get the word out. And if you happen to be social media and SEO savvy, even better. Larger book publishers have their own marketing teams, which is great for the authors. Smaller independent publishers and self-published authors often get the short end of the marketing stick. With the rise of smaller publishers, though, this may be changing in the near distant future.
And all the others in between - Man, there’s so many areas for great publishing internships! There are literary agencies, web designers, production, audio books, finance, education, legal/contracts and rights and permissions, international and translation, consultants, sales…I’d love to, but I can’t cover them all in one post. If any of these areas interest you and you’re struggling to find an internship somewhere, try looking in book publishing. I think you’d be surprised with what you find.
A website I recommend
If you are interested in applying for a few publishing internships, here is a website I recommend as a starting point:
bookjobs.com - This is a great hub to not only find publishing internships from editing to marketing, you can also job search here as well. Make this your first stop. And like with most things on the internet…LOOK OUT FOR SCAMMERS. After reviewing a few internship postings, take a moment to visit the publisher’s website. If they look like a company you can jam with, by all means, apply! A posting on bookjobs.com led me to my current internship.
Comb publisher websites
Have a few books or authors you love from a specific publisher, or a few? Go directly to their website! Sometimes it really is better to go straight to the source. If they offer internships, they’ll provide information there. If you decide to take to leap and apply, don’t be afraid to mention some of the books you’ve read and loved in your cover letter. The book publisher I’m interning with now has a webpage detailing their internship. Many other book publishers do, as well, so I highly recommend going straight to the source.
Who can apply
Anyone! You can apply as a college student looking for class credit and work experience. You can apply as a stay-at-home parent transitioning back into the work force who needs remote work. You can apply as a working person who is changing careers. If you have always dreamed of working in the publishing industry, no matter your background, an internship is a great way to get your foot in the door. And if you decide that the book industry isn’t your thing, guess what? ALL of the experience and skills you gain are transferable to other careers and you have great work experience to add to your resume.
I've learned a lot through my internship about the book industry that has helped me be more prepared as a writer trying to be published. Also, I've read more books than I have in a long time. As someone who loves books and stories, I'll admit it's been more fun than hard work. But my dad once told me, "If you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life." I wish someone had showed me how to find a publishing internship, so I'm passing it on to you. This is very cliché, but true: If I can get a publishing internship, trust me, so can you. Good luck in your internship search and may your life be filled with a never-ending TBR pile!