Last week we introduced you to our new series, Beyond the Lobby: Anything and Everything You Wanted to Know About Publishing; we told you about ourselves and recounted our stories and paths that led us to where we are today. A big thank you to everyone for your kind comments and interesting questions!
This week we’ve decided to focus on the new generation of publishers. We get this question all the time and we’ve had several of you email us to ask “How do I get an internship in publishing?” We’ve gone straight to the source and asked our summer Knopf Canada editorial intern, Maeve O’regan, how she struck it lucky. Here’s what she had to say:
When I finished my English degree in the spring of 2009, I did the compulsory traveling—to Europe, South East Asia and South America. I worked a job I didn’t particularly like and that didn’t particularly challenge me, but that paid my bills and distracted me from thinking about what I actually wanted to do with my life. And I continued to read. I also continued to think about the things that I’d read. Although I was no longer required to do formal critical analyses, like I had been of Chaucer, Eliot or Woolf, I was still critically analyzing—and with startling enthusiasm.
Then a friend mentioned her interest in pursuing a career in publishing. Although her affair with the idea was brief, something stuck for me. I researched a few programs and found that Ryerson offered a huge selection of courses through their Chang School of Continuing Education. These courses, taught by industry professionals, were highly regarded in the publishing community. And I could take them online or in the evenings—whatever worked. Without much sense of where it all might lead—although I’ll admit, I hoped it might be a corner office with a view of the park—I registered.
What I discovered on my first day in my Trade Overview course was that it took a lot of people to bring a book into being, but that each of those people worked closely with one another, from editorial to sales, and that they all had the same passion for books. Despite my teachers’ apologetic warnings about the state of the industry—its lack of available jobs, the poor pay, the advances in digital publishing that would eclipse paper—I decided that this was where I wanted to be. I eagerly threw myself into my course work. I got excited about grammar, toiled over real manuscripts and scrupulously wrote non-fiction book proposals, marketing strategies, press releases and tour schedules. I built relationships with my instructors who continue to act as wonderful mentors and supporters of my career.
From the beginning, I was advised to keep my eyes peeled for upcoming internship opportunities and to apply, apply, apply. Although the prospect of three months of (essentially) unpaid work terrified me, I knew that the only way to get hired in editorial, publicity, sales or production would be to get some practical, hands-on experience. The Knopf editorial internship offered a chance to learn about publishing in a large and thriving house. I knew that the Random House family was home to many prominent authors and that they published books on myriad subjects. I was asked in for an interview and was thrilled to receive a call a few hours later telling me that I’d gotten the job.
Eight weeks in and true to what I was told in my interview, I haven’t done any coffee runs or lunch pick-ups. Each day I work closely with the editorial team, participating in meetings about our list and submissions. I proofread and copyedit book material, check indexes, maintain a database of review quotations and read. My reports are taken seriously and my opinions are sought out on proposals. I’m getting a front row seat to the book-making process and I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people while doing it. There are even parties to attend (with free wine, I might add). I’m very grateful for the chance to work with such an incredible team, and I’m keenly anticipating whatever’s next for me in the wonderful world of publishing!
Read last week’s recap here.
Do you have questions about anything publishing-related? Leave us a comment below with your question or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask us and we’ll get you some answers from the people in-the know!