Friday, September 07, 2012

Dispatch from a Summer Intern

Do you ever wonder what it’s like to be a publishing intern—What skills must you possess to land the internship? What will your daily duties be like? Will your internship really prepare you for the competitive publishing industry?
Today we hope to answer all these questions and more through the words of a recently departed summer intern, Emma Nichols, on her last day on the job (Still looking for a fall internship? We have a few Editorial and Publicity slots still available!).
We miss you Emma; Best of Luck in your senior year!
I find myself walking around the office in fits of pre-stalgia—is there already a term for nostalgia that occurs too early? Even the mundane tasks of my day—printing out a UPS label—have me wondering if this will be the last time. Maybe this morning was the last time I’ll search for books in the stacks, making a mental list of the titles I’d like to read. I know when I come back to visit, these piles will be replaced; maybe that’s partially the cause of my pre-stalgia—I’ve become attached. 
Unlike Michael—one of my bosses and a former Overlook intern—no one has asked me what it’s like to be a publishing company intern. But I’m going to tell you anyway. I’m lucky enough to be a double-intern, working in both editorial and publicity. My work in editorial is pretty simple: read & report. My editorial day came just once a week, so at times it took three weeks to read a manuscript through, but the thrill of recommending we publish a title—and imagining it in print—was worth the time and effort. I even had the opportunity to proof the manuscript I was most excited about—Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores by Jen Campbell (coming soon to a bookstore near you).
My duties in the publicity department—which occurred twice a week—were more varied and equally as enjoyable. I’ve written galley letters and blog posts, mailed review copies, searched blogs, tracked down email addresses and book reviewers, mailed review copies, social networked, thought of interview and reader’s guide questions, mailed review copies, learned Microsoft Excel, posted events, created email lists, and mailed some review copies. (I never realized how many free books media outlets receive; maybe I need to reconsider my job aspirations for the sake of my personal library). These are just some tasks I could expect to do on any given day. But I also had the opportunity to assist at a double launch event for The Boxer’s Heart by Kate Sekules (at the infamous Gleason’s Gym!) and attend BEA for a few hours.
If I had to choose, attending BEA was probably the highlight of my Overlook experience—discounting the wonderful people I’ve worked for, of course. If you’ve never been to the Book Expo, simply imagine a giant arena of publishers, publicists, agents, reviewers, and stacks of free galleys laid out on make-shift streets flanked by fold-out tables. Still, that can’t encapsulate the sheer joy I felt, browsing publishers’ tables and discussing literature with publicists. I had to concentrate on not appearing overwhelmed and overjoyed, lest someone realize I hardly belonged—an intern simply intent on soaking up the literary scene rather than advancing my career or writing a book review (although I am interested in both).
 I see my internship at Overlook as more of an apprenticeship; though we’re only paid in books, we’re not overworked and we’re certainly gaining worthwhile experience (I never fetched a single cup of coffee). What I’m saying is, unpaid internships build character! And I’m now better prepared for a full-time job in publishing. 
Emma Nichols is a former publicity/editorial intern at The Overlook Press. Her favorite Overlook title is Phantoms on the Bookshelves by Jacques Bonnet. She is currently a student and the editor-in-chief at Petrichor Review.

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