Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Interned At A Publishing Company, And All You Got Was This Stupid Blog Post

I spent the whole summer as an intern, and I didn't get coffee for anyone. I know. I didn't blog, either, but I'm here to remedy that.

I certainly learned a lot, and had fun. And also did some boring tasks, because you can't escape that kind of thing. Publishing can be as tedious as it is rewarding. Ever wondered why the process is notoriously slow? It's because there are a million things to be checked, double-checked, and triple-checked. Fortunately, it's worth it.

Anyway, I'm here to share some of what I did all summer:
  • Proofreading. Ah, yes, hear the crowd gasp in surprise. Actually, I didn't do anywhere near as much proofreading as expected, but I still got to do it, as per the title "Sales and Editorial Intern."*  You can't publish without proofreading, though--and I'll admit that anytime someone handed me a huge stack of papers and said "Proofread this," I got a little excited.  The Chicago Manual of Style is my best friend and worst enemy.
  • Checking alts. When someone proofreads the book, someone has to enter it into the document. And then someone has to check to make sure everything was entered correctly. This is typically done by, you guessed it, the intern.
  • Epub markup. I did a LOT of this, which put quite a bit of mileage on my highlighters. When books are transferred to ebooks, publishers have the opportunity to add hyperlinks directly into the text, which is really convenient for readers. These hyperlink locations are identified through the extremely high-tech process of highlighting each possible hyperlinkable word on a paper copy. Incidentally, I feel like I've now heard the name of every single nature preschool in the world, since I've had to find links to so many.
  • Fact checking. I felt rather important whenever I did a fact check.  I felt like the last line of defense between scientific accuracy and fiction. While authors should, theoretically, get all their facts straight before the book even hits a publisher, they sometimes don't. And if they don't, some intern somewhere will take great pride in calling your bluff.
  • More fact checking, now with added quotation checking! I did fact check runthroughs specifically to make sure that the author had cited her sources correctly and catch mistakes in retyping quotes.
  • Proposal summaries. When an author sent in a book proposal, the acquisitions editor would send it to me so I could type up a summary and give my recommendation: should this project be pursued, or should they get a nice little rejection letter? I also felt rather important doing this, mostly since I had the opportunity to type my opinion on a piece of paper. As if I had the final decision, which I definitely didn't. But still. (Pro tip: I don't care about your 5-page curriculum vitae. I just want to know whether you can write a coherent sentence, or whether a dozen other people have already written your book idea.)
  • Sending out review copies. Which essentially translates to sending 160 emails all saying variations of "Look! This book has a dog in it! A cute dog! Also some important moral lessons for children. But, dog! Please say something nice about this cute dog--I mean, book!" (Dogs sell books, people.)
Me handing out review copies, probably.
  • Manuscript cleanup. In other words, the dire task of ferreting out every bit of strange formatting Microsoft Word randomly added to a document and attempting to remove it. Key word: attempt.
  • Creating a spreadsheet of all the names and addresses of every single childcare provider in New York. Seriously. Gotta send all your book catalogs somewhere, I guess.**
  • And more things, like: babysitting printers, playing Scattergories, folding things, double-checking address labels, double-checking things in general, setting up Goodreads giveaways, and so on...
Internship pro tips:
  • If you have a general question, don't wait. Ask it. That way, you won't feel stupid asking for the building's wi-fi password two months into your internship when you were too shy to ask right away. RIP, my phone's data plan.
  • Ask ALL the questions, actually. You're there to learn. If you want to know, speak up.
  • You're an adult now and can talk to other adults like real people. You mean...I'm in a position where I can call a "real adult" by her first name? I'm twenty and I've called everyone Mr. or Dr. or Professor probably since I could talk. But hey, real adults have names, too. (Does this make me a real adult? Probably not. I'll admit that I was listening to this piece of art while working at my internship today.)

  • Break up your big projects. If you're handed a huge project, try to intersperse smaller projects into your time. Trust me--it's no fun to do nothing but stare at the same manuscript for three hours. Please let your brain have a break.
  • Use the resources available to you. For example, there's probably someone at your internship who would be happy to sit down and give you feedback on your resume, or give you advice on what courses you should take next, or whatever you might need to know. (And if they freely offer their services, that's even more of a reason to take it!)
  • Have fun. Just be chill and enjoy the process. Do adult things and feel productive. 

What were you up to this summer?

*My other title was just "Publishing Intern." Or "Editorial and Production Intern." Or just "Editorial Intern." Or "The Intern," capital T. It was heavily dependent on who you asked.
**It was times like these, facing that 2,000+ item spreadsheet, that I stared down the pinnacle of human innovation and came to the conclusion that we've come too far as a species and should revert back to 1800. Preferably with more women's suffrage and less disease, but definitely no spreadsheets. In the words of Douglas Adams, "On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons."
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