By Celina Fazio
As a student in Ryerson’s publishing program, I have been told by people working in the industry that an editorial internship is an essential learning opportunity for anyone looking to secure an editorial position at a publishing house. As a result, I applied and interviewed for multiple editorial internships—both at major and “indie” publishers—before I landed one at a major publishing house. Though I had previously done a sales and marketing internship, I pursued an editorial internship because I had an interest in editing and relished the idea of working on books. So when I received the offer earlier this year, I happily accepted. I recently completed my internship, and I can confidently say that the advice is true: The experience was a great learning opportunity and reaffirmed my desire to work in the editorial field. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering pursuing an editorial internship.
So, if you are considering an editorial internship or are about to begin one, here are five pieces of advice I can offer:
- Learn to love the administrative work.
If you haven’t already been an editorial intern, it may come as a surprise that there is a lot of administrative work involved. In my position, this included tracking reviews and bestselling books, sending out mail, some data entry, creating meeting agendas, and more. It revealed that the job is more than just reading manuscripts and editing bestselling novels into fruition. The importance of administrative tasks was mentioned during the interview process, so I knew what to expect. The internship entailed about 70% administrative work and 30% editing and proofing. I learned that most roles in an editorial department are comprised of a similar allocation of time. Administrative tasks are integral to having a holistic understanding of the publishing process, and through doing them I learned a lot about the editorial process.
- Socialize with the other interns.
Being an intern at a larger book publisher means that there will likely be other internships going on at the same time as yours. Socializing with the other interns is a great way to get to know people who are looking to build careers in the industry and to hear about their unique experiences trying to break into a role. And if you’re looking for people to chat about books with, look no further! One of the most common questions I heard interns asking one another was, “What are you currently reading?” It was the perfect place to make friends who are as passionate about books as I am.
- Talk to the editors.
Another way to network with people in the industry is to ask an editor if you can sit down with them and have a casual talk for advice or insight. For me, this has proven to be the perfect opportunity to hear about the career paths of people working in the editorial field, along with some of the experiences that brought them there. If you can catch them at a time when they’re not too busy, many editors would be happy to chat over a cup of coffee.
- Get to know the company’s brand.
If you do an internship at a publishing house and realize that it is a place where you could see yourself pursuing a career, it’s worth getting to know the company’s brand a bit more. Attending company meetings, following department updates, and taking in-house webinars are good ways to learn about the company and its values.
At my internship, I learned that most imprints acquire books in a specific market or target audience. This selectivity is true for editors as well: As you get to know people, you will realize the authors and types of writing they generally look to acquire and work with. It’s something to consider when looking to find permanent work at a publishing house: What kinds of work does this house publish, and is it the kind that I could see myself working to cultivate?
- Don’t be shy.
One last piece of advice I will leave you with (and something I struggled with, truthfully) is to not be shy. Realistically, many people who work in this field are self-proclaimed introverts. We thrive with a book in our hands, and for some of us, it is hard to come out of our shells. But, making an effort to speak up when you have questions or comments will help you get the most out of your intern experience. In my office, everyone was very helpful and eager to help me learn; all I had to do was not be shy, speak up, and ask.
Overall, the experience was priceless. The things I learned have equipped me to move forward in forging a career in the industry. The enthusiasm of the people I was surrounded with reminded me daily that we are bound (pun intended) by our love of literature. One last tip: Make sure to stop by the “free” shelves and grab a few books!
Celina Fazio is a writer and an aspiring editor based in Toronto currently completing the publishing program from Ryerson University’s The Chang School of Continuing Education. In her spare time, Celina can be found reading anything she can get her hands on.
This article was copy edited by Leslie Lapides.