English Careers Membership Opportunities

How an Internship Shaped my Career

CCox-PengBlog2Since I was 15, I was convinced I wanted to go into editorial work. It seemed like the ideal existence: quietly working on a manuscript, polishing it into a final draft, and seeing the results of my labor on shelves in bookstores. And while I honestly still love editing, I’ve found myself enamored by another aspect of the publishing industry—publicity.

I initially asked for an editorial placement with Penguin Random House, and my first interview was with Penguin Books for Young Readers as a split editorial/publicity internship. After a couple anxious weeks, I learned I didn’t receive the job, but immediately was offered a second interview for a publicity position with Random House Children’s Books. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, though I wasn’t too sure about what publicity entailed. I did a bit of research in preparation for the interview and was fortunate enough to be offered the position, but I still was pretty clueless as I walked into my first day.

Tip #1: It’s sometimes okay to be clueless.

I was happy to learn I would have a co-intern (shout out to Melissa), who also was just beginning work at Random House. It was comforting to share my uncertainty with somebody, though she turned out to be a miraculously quick learner and an Excel wiz, which always kept me working at maximum efficiency.

Tip #2: Get comfortable with Microsoft Excel (it’s essential).

The first day was full of introductions, reintroductions, and many, many books. I figured there’d be books around, but I didn’t expect them to fill every possible nook and cranny. Sieving through the stacks, I learned a few terms:

  • Galley = Advanced Readers Copy (publicists are always mailing out galleys to reviewers and media outlets).
  • Fold and Gather, or, F&G = Advanced copies of picture books, before they are stapled or otherwise bound, laid out in sheets.
  • Bound manuscript = When physical copies of a book are needed, but a Galley isn’t yet prepared. It’s essentially a bound draft of a book, with a lot of changes expected to be made before release.

CCox-PengBlog3Working in the Children’s Division, I handled each of these items for mailings. Children’s also tends to have the greatest variety of manuscripts, ranging from Board Books for infants/toddlers, to Young Adult novels that may be read by both teenagers and adults. It provided some relief from the literary fiction and theory I’d been consuming as an undergraduate; children’s literature, as it turns out, is incredibly nuanced, and the publishing process begins years (yes, years) in advance. I’ll explain the responsibilities of publicists.

To put it plainly, publicists are the interface between books and media. Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that—they work with a long list of national and regional reviewers, coordinate television promotions and interviews, organize book tours and blogging tours (both of which involve thousands of potential venues), and assist marketing campaigns for new releases.

Tip #3: Get organized, because your email inbox is going to be busy.

My day-to-day involved general assistance to each of these tasks. In the first six weeks of my internship, I had written several press releases for fall 2015 titles; contacted potential reviewers for a book blog tour; sent out Galley mailings to top media, regional outlets, and famous acquaintances (a celebrity shout out always is helpful); created a master contact list of 1,000+ bloggers; and conducted work on several social media campaigns (including the #WhatPet project for the new Dr. Seuss book!).

CCox-PengBlog4Tip #4: Learn to prioritize, then to reprioritize.

I’ve learned to love publicity, and it’s very much because of the people I worked with. The job entails a lot of talking to a lot of people, which is something I may not have gotten in editorial. I also feel fortunate to say I was offered an extension on the internship with Random House through the fall (there’s always enough work to pass around, and I’ve never gotten coffee for anybody—no time to waste!).

Here’s to hoping this may be the beginning of a healthy career in publishing. Thanks are due to Sigma Tau Delta, whose generosity made this job—and its commute—possible.

To leave you off, here is a photo of me during Week Two, during the release event for What Pet Should I Get?

Happy reading, friends!

Colton CoxColton Cox
Mu Omega Chapter
SUNY, College at Oneonta, Oneonta, NY




Sigma Tau Delta Summer Internships

Sigma Tau Delta co-sponsors internships in partnership with Penguin Random House and Better World Books.

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  • Its wonderful to see the publishing industry dynamic with different opportunites. I graduated recently and looking forward to different areas in publishing.