How an Internship Could Change Your Life
At the end of summer 2011 I made one of the biggest decisions of my life: I decided to apply for an internship with a new publisher called Musa. To be honest, I didn't think I would hear back from them. I had read a couple articles about what successful authors learned through internships, so I figured plenty of other writers would be eager to apply.
I sent an email out anyway, and soon enough I got a response. I spoke with Celina Summers, one of Musa Publishing's founders, for about an hour over Skype, and at the end she offered me an internship working for the publisher's short fiction magazine, Penumbra(now closed).
Out of all the decisions I've made about my writing since I won my first Nanowrimo in 2004, signing up for that internship changed my life more than any other.
Musa provided opportunities I had previously only daydreamed about. I got to run the Penumbra blog, which meant communicating with a number of talented authors, some of whom are quite well known. I also interviewed a couple authors for the magazine itself, including one whose work I adored.
Now I work for Musa Publishing as a Book Promotions Specialist, helping speculative fiction and YA authors market amazing novels. It was a pretty great gig, and a fantastic start to what I hope will be a long career in publishing.
I've even gotten a published author to beta read a manuscript I've been working on for a while. Oh, and she loved it. What could be better than that?
I can't honestly say I've made a fortune from working with Musa, but I'm working in the industry I love.
So how do you get your own internship?
With the number of fantastic small presses and ebook publishers out there today, getting an internship with a publisher has never been easier. Modern technology means a great many internships can be done online. My entire internship with Musa Publishing—and all the work I've done—has been entirely online. My co-workers live all over the world and I haven't met a single one.
Most publishers will have internship information on their employment page. Pay attention to what kind of interns the company is looking for and what the qualifications are. Often you'll find that enthusiasm and the ability to learn quickly are the only requirements.
Send whoever happens to be in charge of the internship program at the publisher you choose an extremely polite email explaining why you're interested in the publisher and the internship. You'll want to be as specific as possible. If you already have a website or a blog, especially if it's related to writing or books, you'll want to mention that in your email.
You might end up having an extended email conversation or Skype chat with the person in charge of recruiting interns to see if you're the right fit, and short—one or two assignments—test work periods are pretty common, but if you're enthusiastic and determined you'll find that getting an internship is about 10,000 X easier than actually getting published.
Making the most of your internship
Getting an internship isn't enough to guarantee your success. There's always too much work to be done at pretty much any publishing house, and most publishers are always eager to take on interns. It's not uncommon for even a fairly small press to have half a dozen interns.
You have to work hard to make yourself stand out from the other interns. Go the extra mile. Volunteer for extra work, as much as time will allow. Get to know the staff. Spread the word about the publisher and their books—especially books you actually read and enjoy. The more connections you can build within the publishing house, the more opportunities you'll find there.
Publishing is a difficult industry to build a career in. It's not for the faint of heart, and an internship done right is a great way to prove to publishers that you have what it takes.
Dianna Gunn is a freelance writer and Book Promotions Specialist who's working hard to add published author to that list of titles. She also happens to love cats, photography and Scotland.