The Truth About Life as a Publishing Intern
What English student doesn’t dream of spending a life surrounded by books? Interning is the first step in most publishing careers, a title that is soaked in horror stories of months spent making tea and collecting the boss’s dry cleaning. Having grown up surrounded by movies such as The Devil Wears Prada, I had come to accept that my time as an intern was going to be a painful rite of passage. I was prepared to endure six months of fetching lunch orders and standing over a photocopier, however after just one day at Maverick House I knew my expectations could not have been further from the reality.
Having come back to Ireland for my final year of college, following a year of studying in New York, I felt a sense of urgency to start planning for my impending graduation. I attended London Book Fair in March and sat through multiple talks and presentations about beginning a career in Publishing. Each one offered various different insights and perspectives, of course, but the overarching message that I came away with was that to succeed in Publishing you have to be bold. Multiple people proclaimed that there is no such thing as being over eager, that you should apply for jobs that you may feel underqualified for. Which is exactly what I did. The minute I got home I was straight on to the Publishing Ireland website to scour for any potential openings. I found an advertisement for an Editorial and PR assistant and fighting my instincts, I did as everyone had prophesised at London Book Fair and sent in an application. Of course, I didn’t get the job – however when an internship position became available at the same publishing house, the company director remembered my name and invited me for an interview.
I’ve been interning at Maverick House Publishing for two weeks now. From day one I have had hands on experience and have taken full advantage of any learning opportunities. As part of my weekly schedule the company director sets aside time to give me a thorough and honest lesson on specific aspects of the business. Publishing, even editorial, is not about sitting around reading wonderful pieces of literature and drinking cups of tea. Publishing is hard work and can be far more cut throat than anticipated. Even within my short time here so far, I have learnt 5 crucial nuggets of knowledge that I think will be essential for the entirety of my career:
Being nice never hurts. Your co-workers, especially those with more experience than you are far more likely to offer you help and advice if you arrive into the office with a friendly attitude. If you feel nervous or shy, remind yourself that these people love books too, you have at least that in common, so just go from there. I could not have been luckier in terms of co-workers at Maverick House. I honestly don’t think I could ever thank them enough for making a nervous, fresh out of college girl feel instantly at home in our office.
Being nice never hurts 2.0. The being nice rule also applies to those that you don’t work with every day. Chances are that as an intern you will be asked to send out rejection letters. Remember that most authors, regardless of whether their submission is right for your publishing house, are human beings too. They put a lot of heart and effort into their work and you are about to give them some not so great news. If you can, take the time to read over their submission and mention something specific about their work in your letter. It shows that their submission was appreciated and considered, softening the blow even a little. This will also lessen the likelihood of you receiving any angry follow ups from disheartened authors.
There is a fine line between humility and self-deprecation. Being a 22-year-old who is aware of social media and the blogging community is a skill that I had never really appreciated until I started at Maverick House. Even knowing which #’s to use on an Instagram post is something that should not be taken for granted. Be aware of your own strengths and demonstrate to your co-workers and boss how you can apply them for positive impact.
Editorial is not the only path. There are so many areas to work in within publishing, once you realise that each position will still feed your love of literature you become more open to different opportunities. Especially with continuous advances in technology, working in Publishing no longer revolves around hardback books.
Fast reading is imperative. So far I have read at least six books and even more manuscripts. At the end of the day, regardless of point #4, this industry is based around books. The skill of quickly skimming a book and picking up important pieces of information is one that I am sure I will be using and improving for the rest of my career.
I am at the beginning of the beginning of my career. Within two weeks I am already certain that Publishing is the life for me, the fast paced and ever changing nature of this industry is something that excites me immensely. The adaptability of book lovers to this era of constant technological advancement proves that this is not a dying industry. Publishing is a thriving industry that offers new and challenging opportunities, and I could not be happier to begin my journey at Maverick House.