Top Ten Tuesday (44): Top Ten Tips for Getting an Editorial Internship

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Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week’s topic is

Freebie: Top Ten Tips for Getting an Editorial Internship

This past summer, I worked as an editorial intern for a children’s publisher.  During the application process, I learned a lot about what publishers are looking for in potential interns.  I certainly did not follow all these tips, and if you are interested in publishing, you don’t need to either.  But in such a competitive industry, everything helps!  I hope some readers find these ideas useful!

1. Read.  If you want to work in publishing, you have to really love books.  You also have to convince publishers that you do.  Interviewers will ask you what you’ve read recently, what you thought about it, and why, so make sure you read books relevant to the jobs you are applying for.  If you apply for children’s editorial, it will not help to admit you haven’t picked up a YA, MG, or picture book since you were ten!

2. Blog.  Putting yourself and your thoughts on the Internet comes with a lot of risks.  Running a blog in which you routinely insult authors, commenters, or the publishing industry, for example, may do more harm than good.  However, running a well-written and thoughtful blog can help a lot.  It shows your dedication to reading and that you are comfortable and proficient in utilizing online resources to promote books.  Your reviews will give publishers a good idea of what types of books you like to read, and it will also help them decide if you will be capable of judging manuscripts and writing useful reader’s reports.  (Reader’s reports generally include a summary of a manuscript and an intern’s thoughts–what was good, what was bad, how the manuscript could be improved, what type of audience might enjoy it, and, ultimately, a suggestion whether the editor should bother to reader the manuscript, too.)

3. Employ social media.  Again, poor use of social media can be risky.  Yet certain editorial internships (and almost ALL marketing/online marketing internships) require proficiency with common websites like Facebook and Twitter.

4. Get office experience.  If you can, find an on-campus job that will give you office experience.  Publishing internships (and jobs) often include tasks such as filing and copying, and many applications list such experience as a “plus.”

5.  Start early.  Publishing is a competitive industry, so if you are looking for an internship with one of the “Big Six/Five,” it can help to have a previous internship with a literary agency, a smaller publisher, even your local newspaper.  This isn’t strictly necessary, but it can only help you.  (We don’t really need to discuss how ironic it is that one needs to have already had a internship in order to get one….)

6.  Remember the costs.  Many publishing internship are unpaid (again, a separate discussion).  And many of them, particularly the “big” ones, are in New York.  If this is something you want to pursue, consider how you can finance living in a major city for a summer with no salary.  Check if your school has scholarships.  See if you know anyone (a relative?) you can live with.  Look for a part-time job on the weekends.  If you need summer housing, try to find it early (difficult, since the deadlines for the internships are often very late in the spring), so you can get the best deal.

Update: If you can’t afford to live in New York without a salary for a summer, you may also want to look into literary agency internships. Many also require you to show up in person, but there are a decent number of telecommuting positions available, as well.  The downside: they’re often advertised sporadically and not well publicized.  You’ll have to follow agency blogs, Twitter accounts, find a lot of them.

7.  If you have housing, mention it.  In more than one interview, publishers have mentioned it offers them ease of mind if potential interns already have housing, or at least concrete plans.  They don’t want to hire someone who won’t be able to show up at the last minute.  If you do not actually have housing (which may be the case, as you may not want to put down a deposit until you actually have a reason to live in New York), explain your plans for obtaining it.

8.  Personalize your applications.  One publisher called me for an interview because I had mentioned specific titles they published in my cover letter.  She said I stood out because I had clearly researched the company more than most of the other applicants, and I sounded as if I were actually interested.  I didn’t claim to have read them–because I hadn’t–but simply mentioned I thought they published a great variety of titles and that they looked like books I would love to work with.

9.  Read the application and FAQs carefully.  You don’t want to be that person who asks on the publisher’s Facebook page for information they clearly have listed under their internship guidelines–and which three other people already asked about on the page before you.  It will definitely kill the “pays attention to details” claim you have on your resume.  You also don’t want to forget to submit anything or otherwise disqualify yourself for failing to follow instructions.

10.  Be passionate.  There are probably people who go to a better college than you, who have better grades, who have more connections.  Companies will pay attention to those people.  Ultimately, however, a passion for literature is something that cannot be faked, and if you really love books and the industry, the publisher will choose you.  Put effort into conveying your excitement, as well as your qualifications, in your cover letter, and if you are called for an interview, be excited then, too.  Sound like someone who will be happy to show up to work, so that your supervisors will be happy to work with you.

7 thoughts on “Top Ten Tuesday (44): Top Ten Tips for Getting an Editorial Internship

  1. Stormy says:

    Wow, your list is really helpful! One of the reasons I started a book blog is because I think I want to go into the book world someday(maybe not exactly in editing but perhaps in something related).


    • Briana says:

      Thanks! I hope it helps you out, and wish you lots of luck! I really loved my internship. It’s really great to go to work and get to work with books, with a bunch of other people who love books, too!


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