Where to Find Book Publishing Internships

Where to Find Book Publishing Internships

Last year I wrote a post on where to get started looking for internships in publishing.  That post lists different tips on ways to do general searches and how to extend your search.  Make sure you check it out after reading this one!  Here I’m going to get more specific and give you some links to publishers and literary agencies that frequently provide internships and tell you the difference between ones that are in-office and ones that are remote.

Decide: In-Office or Remote

Completing an in-office publishing internship will be really valuable if you’re serious about breaking into the publishing industry. However, most of these internships are located in New York City and most of them are unpaid.  If you can’t move to NYC and afford to live there for a couple months without a salary, however, there are other options.  Literary agencies and some smaller publishers offer telecommuting internships.  Just make sure you check the location for any internship you apply to, or ask if a location isn’t specified on the posting (this happens way more frequently than it should!).

First Stop: General Listings

If you’re not entirely sure what type of internship you’re looking for yet (publisher vs. literary agency, editorial vs. marketing), these general listing websites are a great place to start.  Depending on the site, you can filter by field, by location, etc.  Make sure you check all the sites, too, because some companies will cross-post to multiple sites while some will post only on Publishers Marketplace or Bookjobs.

On Bookjobs you can search “job listings” or you can search “internship listings.”  Make sure you do both, as some companies will post new positions on the job board.  If you’re looking through the internship listings, you have to go through to the company website and make sure the internship is still being offered because these postings are not frequently updated.

The Big Five Publishers

These publishers are considered to be the big players in US trade book publishing.  Their internships are offered only in-office, so if you don’t live in NYC you may be stuck applying only to their competitive summer internships. The upside is that many of these publishers pay interns; the downside is that everyone has heard of these companies and everyone wants to intern for them.  The competition will be fierce.

Smaller Publishers

Many smaller publishers also offer internships.  This is an incomplete listing of mostly in-office internships, but you should Google any publisher you are familiar with in order to find if they offer any intern opportunities and if they do so remotely.  Some small presses, instead of having a static webpage devoted to internships, will seasonally post about internships on their blogs and social media accounts.

Academic Publishers

When people think of book publishing, they often default to thinking of trade book and fiction publishing, but there are also lots of internship opportunities at academic presses!  This list is not exhaustive but is a good place for you to start.

Literary Agencies

Literary agency internships can be a bit harder to come by.  Some agencies will post internship opportunities on the general job listing websites linked to above, some will advertise only on their own websites, and some will post seasonal openings only on their blogs or social media.  In many cases, you have to be actively looking for these positions in order to find them.  The upside is that literary agencies tend to be more open to offering telecommuting internships than publishers are.  (The downside is that being a remote intern in these cases means you will often be assigned no other tasks than reading manuscripts from the slush pile and writing readers’ reports, so you may not get as good of an inside look at the agency as you would like.  The other downside is that all of them are unpaid.)

Some Remote Literary Agency Internships

Top Seven Things I Learned as a Literary Agency Intern

publishing post stars
I have previously blogged about my experience as an editorial intern at a children’s books imprint, as well as various other topics pertaining to the publishing industry: how to find an internship, what the interview might look like, and tips for getting an internship.

This past summer, I had a bit of a different internship experience, this time with a literary agency (which, like the publisher I interned with, shall remain unnamed.  My views do not reflect their views and all that).  Seeing the industry from a different perspective was interesting, so I wanted to share some of what I learned, both to help those who might be deciding if they want to work in publishing and to help those who might be trying to get a manuscript published.  Or just for the general interest of people who like books.

  1. Secrecy is the key word. I signed a confidentiality agreement before starting the internship, basically asserting that I would not discuss my work outside of the agency (mostly regarding clients, manuscripts, and deals). Agents don’t want other agents to know they’re considering X book because someone else might attempt to woo their potential client away from them.
  1. Agents want to have their authors’ backs. They are experts in the industry and will fight to get their authors the best deals, whether that means selling rights primarily to a single publisher, or pursuing selling separate rights to multiple publishers.
  1. I mentioned this in regards to editors, but it applies to agents, as well: They want to work with people they like. You don’t necessarily need to be best friends with your agent, but you should always be polite, respectful, and open to the fact that you’re going to have to edit parts of your manuscript. No one wants to work with someone rude or whiny.  And if you lie to them about how many other agents are interested in your work, they will find out, and they will not be pleased.
  1. In addition to culling submitted manuscripts for great books, agents are also looking for the Next Big Thing on their own. They stay in touch with popular culture and look for journalists, bloggers, celebrities, etc. they think could write a compelling book and sometimes pitch an idea to them!
  1. Having “influence” can only help aspiring authors. Agents and editors want to know that your book is going to sell, so if you have 90,000 followers on Twitter, you want to include that information in your query letter, as well as your intention to market your book to said followers. (Keep in mind, however, that for social media numbers to matter to agents, they have to be big.  Two thousand followers are not going to sway them.)  This does not mean, however, that if you are a completely unknown author that no agent will be interested in your book.  If it’s good, it’s good.
  1. As a corollary to this point, if you want to sell a nonfiction book, you need to have expertise in the subject you are writing about. You need to convince the agent (who will then need to convince an editor) that you are the person to write about a diet, or DIY remodeling, or whatever. List any degrees you’ve earned, any articles you’ve written, etc. that are relevant to your topic.  But make sure they matter and are unique.  Saying that you are a mother is not a fast track to publishing your book on parenting.
  1. It’s generally not easy to just “become a literary agent.” Agents get paid when they sell books to publishers. This means that those looking to start out in the industry often have to take on other roles in the agency (ones with a more stable salary) as they build their client list.

Overall, I had a great time at this internship and learned a lot about how the publishing industry works.  As always, I’m happy to answer any questions, especially from readers interested in getting a publishing internship of their own!

Preparing for Publishing Internship Interviews- Updated

Publishing Internship Interviews Sample Questions


As the season for applying to summer publishing internships approaches, I thought I would share some of the interview questions I have been asked while applying to both internships and full-time jobs with publishers.  (Full disclosure: I have had one editorial internship with a major publisher and three internships with literary agents. No full time jobs yet, but I do have significant experience applying to these positions!)

I have written previous posts with my Top Ten Tips for Getting an Editorial Internships and my Top Ten Things I Learned As an Editorial Intern.  If you have any internship/publishing questions I haven’t answered, feel free to ask in the comments, or email me!

Interview Questions

First Interview

  • Why are you interested in [specific type of literature]?
  • Why are you interested in this publishing company?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • What are your favorite books?
  • What television shows do you like to watch?
  • What are you reading currently?
  • What is a recent book you read that you didn’t like?  Why?
  • How do you stay organized?
  • Are you detail-oriented?
  • Describe your ideal work environment.
  • What did you learn at your last internship?
  • Are you ok with doing a lot of administrative tasks?
  • Tell us about your blog.
  • Do you have any questions for us?

As you can see, the interview questions tend to include a mix of “standard” interview questions and questions specifically about books. Of course, you’ll want to demonstrate your interest in the company.  Tell them why you want to intern or work specifically at that company, with that imprint, not just why why want to work in the publishing industry in general.  You’ll also want to demonstrate that you read the books the specific imprint publishes. Be able to talk about a variety of books in the genre/category, and make sure you’re not only mentioning bestsellers.

First Interview (Academic Publishing Internship)

  • Read a manuscript proposal.  If you would like to acquire it, write a reader’s report to the editor explaining why.  If you would not, write a rejection letter addressed to the author.

Second Stage Interview (Children’s Editorial Internships and Literary Agencies)

  • Read manuscript and write a reader’s report.
  • Read manuscript and write a reader’s report and jacket copy.

How to Write a Reader’s Report for Your Application

If you’ve made it to the second round of an interview and are now being asked to write a reader’s report, congratulations!  In the best-case scenario, the publisher or literary agency will send you a sample of the type of report they’re looking for and other general instructions. (This is particularly helpful because different employers will want rather different lengths of reports and different information included. I’ve written six page reports for one internships and one page reports for others.)  If you aren’t given instructions, I suggest inquiring what they’re looking for. However, if the answer is vague or if (like me), you’re asked to write the report on the spot at an in-person interview, here’s some general advice:

Do Preliminary Research

If you’re applying to work with a specific imprint or a specific person, try to figure out their tastes.  As an intern or entry-level employee, you’re not generally being asked to give your personal opinion on a manuscript; you’re being asked whether the manuscript is something your supervisor would be interested in.  If your tastes don’t naturally coincide, you’re going to have to do your best to think like your supervisor, especially before they hire you.  I’ve been rejected from internships for essentially not having the “correct” opinion of the manuscript I was asked to write a sample reader’s report on.

So do some research. What manuscripts has your potential supervisor acquired before?  Have they done any interviews where they’ve stated what they are or are not looking for in a book? What types of books does their publishing house or agency generally acquire?  I’ve been given a manuscript for an internship application that was listed under “recent deals” on a blog post on the agency’s website and, in fact, had recently been published.  I tried to do the honest thing by telling the agency I knew the book had been sold to a major publisher and didn’t feel I could give an unbiased report on it (anyone who had done a Google search would know to write a positive reader’s report!), but the point is that you never know what useful information you’ll find.

Answer These Questions

But what should actually be in the report?  Again, the desired information will vary by potential employer. Some people are mostly interested in characters while others want to know if the plot is engaging.  However, if you haven’t been provided with particularly clear instructions on what the employer is expecting the report to look like, consider these categories:

  • Summary. The editor/agent will probably have a query letter with a summary of the manuscript. However, since they haven’t read the manuscript yet themselves (the point of a reader’s report is to give them a sense of whether they want to), it can help to give them your own, brief take on what the manuscript is about. This will also give them the information they need to follow your report, such as who the characters you’ll be referencing are.
  • Characters. What are the characters like?  Are they developed?  Do they have arcs? Or are they flat? If you want to make a statement on whether they’re “relatable” or “likable,” remember that these impressions can vary widely by reader.
  • Plot. Is it engaging?  Logical?  What is the pacing like?  How much of the plot is “action” and how much is “character development?”
  • Voice.  Who’s telling the story?  What is the voice like?  Is it appropriate for the character?  For instance, does a first person narrator who’s fifteen sound fifteen or do they sound fifty? Or is the author trying too hard to make them sound fifteen and using too much ridiculous slang?
  • Writing. What is the prose like?  This could be one of the most important points of the novel. Remember that, with a good editor, anyone could spruce up their plot or make their protagonist more developed. But if the prose is clunky, awkward, or just unsophisticated, that’s going to be difficult to fix.
  • Recommendation. Finally, make a clear recommendation. Do you think this is a clear winner your supervisor will definitely want to look at?  Do you think it has potential so your supervisor should look at it to give a more experienced evaluation of it?  Or is the manuscript not worth your supervisor’s time? If you feel you have enough insight into the industry/market to make further comments, you can also give your impression of whether you think the manuscript would sell. (For instance, maybe it’s a pretty well-written vampire romance, but that fad is past and it’s not remarkable enough to really find readers at this point in time, so you’re recommending a pass on the story but keeping the author in mind for future projects.)

Further Reading

If you’re still searching for a position to apply to, check out my other posts:

Have you applied for any publishing positions? What was your experience?

Finding a Publishing Internship

How to Find Book Publishing Internships

If you’re interested in doing a summer publishing internship, it’s time to start looking!  The application deadlines for many internships are late (read: May), but some are being advertised now, and Penguin’s application deadline is the end of February!  If you’re not already updating your resume and writing cover letters, here are some tips on finding internship opportunities.

Editorial internships tend to be the most popular, but stay open to opportunities in other departments, such as marketing, publicity, social media, or design.

Note: This post is focused primarily on publishing house and literary agency internships, but the advice can doubtless be applied to various fields.

Check Internship Listings

There are tons of places to find internship listings, but if you check these websites, you’re likely to find most internship opportunities.

*Bookjobs isn’t always updated.  Be sure you’re applying to internships for this specific year and season.  However, even if you do find a 2012 internship posted, you might want to follow it up by going to the publisher’s/literary agent’s website and seeing if they have a more recent opportunity listed there.  Also, check the Bookjobs links for both internships and jobs; there will be internships posted in both.

Go Directly to the Source

Sometimes publishers or literary agencies don’t advertise their internships on external websites.  Be sure to visit their company pages directly and either search “internships” or find the “careers” pages.  Often, internship opportunities are listed along full-time jobs.


I never tried this tactic myself, but I’ve read blog posts by former publishing interns who claimed to have emailed literary agents asking for the opportunity to intern with them—when the agency was not even advertising internships.  If you’re assertive enough to take this approach, it might be worth a try.  I assume, at worst, you’ll either receive no response or an emailed rejection.

Just be sure to briefly highlight in in your query email why you would be qualified to work for them, and (if it’s true!) mention that you would be eligible to receive college credit in exchange for such an internship.  That way, they won’t have to worry about paying you. (Unpaid internships are a controversial topic right now, but, remember, you’re pitching yourself for a position that doesn’t even exist.  Reminding them that creating an internship for you isn’t going to cost them any money can only be a plus.)

Stay Connected

Although I was blogging when I applied for my first editorial internship, I wasn’t using Facebook or Twitter for my blog.  Since then, I have joined a lot more social media sites, and I have noticed literary agents, indie publishers, and major publishers advertising internship opportunities through these sites.  Many major publishers have career-specific Twitter accounts that you can follow to stay connected.  (ex. Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan)  Other times, you’ll just have to follow publishers and literary agents and wait for opportunities to show up randomly in your feed.

A word of warning: I have seen some advertisements for internships show up this way that include little to no information on the positions—even if they link to an actual blog post or website that should give details.  All they say:  “We’re seeking a marketing intern!  Contact us!”  Before going through the entire process of writing a cover letter, I recommend getting in touch with the internship coordinator and ascertaining a few facts: when the internship starts, how long it lasts, whether it is paid, where it is located.  (Seriously, why do people expect me to apply for a position without telling me whether it’s in New York, San Francisco, or telecommuting?  If you’re responsible for one of these ads and reading this post, please go fix it!)

Need More Advice?

Check out my previous posts on getting an editorial internship and what I learned from my editorial internship.  Also, come back in March for a post on the interview questions I have encountered!

If you have a question about something I haven’t addressed, or you have advice for would-be interns, please leave a comment below!