Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with an Intern: the Bookmuncher Speaks

Today's interview is a bit different. (Every once and a while I like to do that. Just, you know, shake things up a bit.)

What has been on my mind, lately, are internships. Seems everyone but me went and got interned somewhere in the publishing industry this summer. There's a lot people say about these internships--we hear stories about reading the slushpile, getting free books, learning the secret ins-and-outs of the industry, discovering new trends.

Now that the summer is over, I found myself wondering: what did our fellow booklovers learn during their internship? Is it everything they imagined? So I decided to ask one.

Here, let me let her introduce herself--

Hi there! I’m Rachael from The Book Muncher. I attend Barnard College in New York City, and it’s my dream to work in children’s publishing.

Which is awesome. In fact, Rachel is pretty awesome herself. She runs a great YA book review blog with regular reviews, contests, and other fun bookish stuff. I'm tempted to visit NYC just to meet her. But airfare is kind of expensive, so I sent her an email instead asking for an interview. Here's what Rachael has to say about the insider scoop on literary internships.

Welcome, Rachael! Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you intern (if that's not a secret!) and how long have you been there?

Luckily for me, I landed a summer internship at Macmillan in the children’s marketing department, which I just finished in August.

I think a lot of writers would love to be publishing interns at some point, but not everyone has the time. What went into your decision to become an intern? Did you see it as a short-term thing, or a larger career move?

As a college student who aspires to work in publishing, I find the time to work internships because I know it will pay off once I graduate! Paying my dues to publishing is definitely a choice made with my future career in mind.

Publishing interns are famed to get an inside scoop on the industry. Would you say that's true? Has being on the "inside" changed the way you write or think?

I definitely think I’ve gotten quite a bit of an inside scoop! Just being able to go into an office and hear the conversations between people working (okay, I wasn’t really eavesdropping) around me gave me access to so much information I wouldn’t have encountered anywhere else. This is how I learned about the politics of publishing both within and between houses, among many other things. Has it changed the way I think? Maybe. It has definitely given me the knowledge to improve my plan of attack and shown me what to expect once I (hopefully) reach my goal.

What's something you've learned while being an intern that surprised you?

I was definitely surprised to learn that all marketing budgets not created equally. I already knew or had guessed that publishers put a lot more money into a select few “lead” titles than they do for the rest of the season’s books, because the “lead” titles are expected to be more successful. However, I didn’t know that there can still be a big difference in budgets for different lead titles. It’s always a little upsetting for me as a book lover to realize that some of my favorite books might not be reaching some other potential readers, but then again, it’s just another part of publishing politics that I’ll have to get used to.

What should other writers consider before becoming a marketing or publishing intern themselves?

Definitely consider who you want to intern for and what you want to get out of the experience. Interning for a literary agent might give you a better eye for what sells and the nature of contracts, but if you’re currently writing a manuscript or seeking an agent, that relationship could get awkward. An editorial internship at a publishing house would probably allow you to be able to develop your own writing skills while looking at others’ writing, but a publicity internship at the same house may not be all that useful.

Given your experience as an intern, what's your best piece of advice for aspiring authors?

My experience as a marketing intern didn’t really include a lot of interaction with aspiring authors, since all the material I worked with was already published or acquired. So I guess the best advice I could give is to not be intimidated by the publishing industry. Yes, it’s very tough to get your manuscript acquired by an agent and then a house, but once you get to that point, there will be people every step of the way. So don’t let the cynics get you down!

Tell us about your writing or any other projects.

Sadly I’m too busy to write right now, between school, internships, and other things (see above), but talk to me in twenty years or so once I’ve reevaluated my life and I may have projects to speak about! For now, I’m still reviewing books at my blog The Book Muncher ( and running around NYC to various book signings.

Great answers, Rachael, and thanks for stopping by!

THE BOOK MUNCHER is the reviewing alias of a prolific teen reader named Rachael Stein. She is guilty of several overflowing bookshelves in multiple states. Her literary diet is mostly dedicated to the young adult fiction genre but has been known to occasionally stray into middle grade or adult categories. She is a firm believer that reading and literacy are as essential to modern life as physical sustenance, that fiction is often truer than nonfiction, and that stories and words have the power to change the world.


Cialina at said...

Great interview! I love reading Rachael's blog, and it was great o read more about her internship this past summer.

jonyangorg said...

Thanks for the interview (to both of you)!

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