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How to Get a Publishing Internship (In 3 Steps!)

Around this time two months ago, my friend asked me, "What are you doing this summer?" My response was along the lines of "Ummm…." I had no idea! But soon, after much soul-searching and aimless Internet browsing, I decided I wanted to get an internship in the publishing industry. Why? It seemed like it would be really fun; I could get an inside look at the industry that could help me become a better YA writer; and it could be the start of a non-writing, yet awesomely book-related career (financial stability, anyone…?).

The process of internship-getting wasn't easy or simple, but it was totally doable. I'm overjoyed to say that I now have a job lined up as a summer intern in the Marketing Department at St. Martin's/Macmillan! If you're interested in getting a publishing internship, whether at a publishing house, a literary agency, or a mass publication, I totally encourage you to go for it. Here's my slightly wild guide for you!

Step 1. Find the internships you want was amazing for this part. Some of the links are outdated, but if you Google the website of the company or organization in question, you can usually find updated information about internship availabilities. Feel free to apply to a huge number of places - unlike with querying, the more you throw your fishing hook, the better.

Not sure what area of the industry you'd like to work in? Bookjobs has you covered: I chose marketing because it seemed the most fun to me, and I love the idea of helping to get books in the hands of readers. But choices vary from sub rights, to sales, to managing editorial!

You don't have to work in NYC to work in publishing. A lot of the jobs I looked at were in California and the (non-NY) Northeast. There was even one in Wisconsin!

Question: is it possible to get a paid internship? Yes! They're rare in this industry, but they're out there. Many companies also offer stipends to their interns to help cover costs of living and transportation. If you're able to handle the cost, though, unpaid internships are a great option.

Step 2. Craft the resume(s) and the cover letter(s)

The key word with this part is tailor, tailor, tailor. Especially when it comes to cover letters, hiring peeps can usually tell when you've hit CTRL+V and inserted their company's name in the "I'd like to work at ____ because" sentence. Think about what the place you're applying to wants and needs, and then show why YOU would be better at filling that need than anyone else (in more polite/less capslocky terms, I mean).

Show your passion, show why you want the job, and show off the relevant experience that makes you the best candidate. That experience could be anything from running a book blog to working as a sales rep at the mall. Use your writing skills, and really wow 'em in a meaningful, professional way! :)

Should you mention that you're a writer/you like to write? It's up to you. Some would say no (the ideal worker is probably someone who will hypothetically work for the company again someday, not go off and be a novelist). I did, but I explained that I knew writing was a risky future, and I was really interested in the business side of publishing. While interviewing, I actually talked about writing a book and getting an agent as something that could help me relate to authors and that showed my capacity for hard work. Yay!

Step 3. Rock the interview

Congratulations! You got an invitation to interview with someone from one of the places you applied to. This means they're interested in you… but it's not over yet. I interviewed at a few places before finally getting an internship. Here's what it was like for me every time (I did mostly phone interviews):
~~NERVES~~~ohgodthecall'sinhalfanhour15minutes10minutes OH NO IT'S IN FIVE MINUTES okay put on your nice suit jacket so you feel professional okay calm down calm down play some happy music you can do this. okay sit down. oh god the phone is ringing. I BELIEVE IN MYSELF. *picks up* "Hello?" ohgodmyvoicecrackedwhy "Yes, this is she!" oh my gosh this person sounds so nice okay this is going to be okay. (insert interview) "Thank you so much again for calling, [name]! I hope you have a great day. Yes, thank you! Bye!" *hangs up* *sits still, in shock, for a full minute* …I think I failed completely but THAT WAS SO MUCH FUN.~~~~nerves leave…sort of~~~~
Basically: interviews can be insanely nerve-wracking, but they are fun, I promise. These are book people you're dealing with, and book people are awesome. Remember that the person(s) talking to you has one thing in mind, and that's figuring out why you deserve to be hired. They honestly want to hire you. Isn't that great?

During every interview, I had my resume in front of me so I could remember my selling points. You = a marketable product. Also, outlining your answers to common questions (like, "Why should we hire you?") can help a lot with avoiding the "ums" and "uhs."

*Super Tip*: Prepare the night before by researching the company or organization a ton. This will help you come up with relevant questions to ask at the end of the interview. Write those down - and don't be afraid to ask your interviewers semi-personal questions like, "How did you become interested in (area of publishing)?"

*Super Tip #2*: Thank you emails. They are THE BEST. If you talk to an HR person, email them with a thank-you for helping you; if you have an interview, say thank you to your interviewers; if you get the job, TY; if you don't get the job, TY. Not only is this plain nice, it will this make you seem like a great person to have around the office, and it will boost your reputation if you ever apply to that place again.

Step X

What if no one responds? ): I'm really sorry. If there were more positions out there, things would be so much better. (Publishing industry, Y U suffer in the recession?) I promise you are still amazing and awesome. There's a publishing job out there for you somewhere, I swear - and with enough time and work, you can find it!

Well, that's that! I'm sorry I couldn't cover anything - much of this guide should probably be supplemented by copious Google searches for things like "how to write a cover letter" and "what to bring to an interview." But these are generally the ideas that really helped me on the journey to my dream internship working with books.

Yay books, yay publishing, and yay new futures! Do you have any tips for publishing internship-seekers?
Emilia Plater

Emilia is a YA author who avoids studying, food that isn't covered in cheese, and waking up before 10:30AM whenever possible. A bundle of confusions.

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  1. Wow! Congratulations on your internship! Thanks for the advice about obtaining one, too. What a helpful post.

  2. If you don't want to go far, I'd recommend looking for internships centered around university campuses near you. A lot of them have university presses, poetry centers, academic journals, or even literary journals that offer unpaid internships. #pubtip #industrysecret

  3. This is a really great post! I hope you enjoyed your internship at Macmillan. Since you asked for more tips, here's a link to my blog post on the subject (I mention Bookjobs, too -- it's a great resource):


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