Some of you have asked me to post about publishing internships, so I decided to give it a try.
As you may know, I’m currently the intern for an awesome literary agent and I am still so thankful she’s letting me do this. Internships teach you an incredible amount about publishing, books, writing, querying, etc. and they are perfect for anyone who is interested in going into publishing later on, whether as an author, an agent, or an editor. I’ve learned more than I probably even realize through this internship. Plus? I don’t have to live near the agency to do it. A number of agents and small presses offer remote internships, which is what I have, where you work online from your home. The best part about remote internships are that you are doing hands-on work, rather than the stereotyped internship busy-work like making coffee, etc. (Although it doesn’t hurt to email the occasional picture of coffee, of course…) I’m not allowed to say exactly what I do on a daily basis, but it’s basically reading submitted manuscripts, responding to queries, and helping out with various client-related manuscripts. Now, keep in mind that an internship is a pretty major time commitment, but it is completely worth it in the end. You learn a lot, you get connections, and you have the unique opportunity to work with an industry pro boss.
So how do you find out about these internships, anyway?
If you’re on twitter, follow agents and editors, especially ones who work at agencies/publishing houses that take remote interns (assuming you would need a remote internship.) I found my internship through a call on twitter. Also regularly check sites like bookjobs.com, maybe set up google alerts for remote publishing intern calls, etc. Small presses like Entangled Publishing, Spencer Hill Press, and Musa Publishing regularly post calls for remote interns, so be sure to check their websites and blogs as well. And if you live near a legitimate agency and small press, ask them about employment. See if you can intern there.
(In case it isn’t clear, however, your internship will most likely be unpaid.)
How do you know when you’re qualified to be an intern?
The truth is, we all have to start somewhere, but it isn’t easy for a writer without much of a publishing-related resume to break into the world of internships. Personally, I think the trick is to go after the little things when you’re starting out. So, subscribe to Publisher’s Lunch (it’s free), read it everyday, check Goodreads for new books in the genre you’re interested in all the time, follow agent and editor blogs, get on twitter and follow industry pros, etc. And then? Beta read. Start small with reading manuscripts for writer friends in your genre, then as you gain experience work your way up to reading for agented writers, then, eventually, published authors (if you can wrangle that.) Applying for an internship is about proving to the agent that you know what you’re doing, and you will work as hard as you possibly can for them, so even if you don’t have a history with interning, the little things–and your professionalism–will add up. I promise.
Things to keep in mind:
1. Not all internships are open to high school students (assuming most of you are either in high school or are home-schooled, although we do have a few awesome college students here!). Actually, a fairly large number of internships require that you be something like two years into a college education to even apply, which makes it especially hard for teens. However, there are also many places that allow interns of all ages (Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Publishing, etc.) If the internship doesn’t specifically say how far into your education you have to be, it’s safe to just apply and see.
2. Don’t flaunt your age. Your age is not usually a selling point if you don’t have any previous experience. It’s best, in my opinion, to mention you are in high school or you are high school age as not to hide it, but don’t make it your selling point and also don’t make it a big deal. Just say add that you hope the quality of your work will make your age not an issue, or something similar, if you like.
3. Be wary of unhelpful internships. There are tons of small presses and agencies out there. TONS. And not all of them are legitimate, or will help you in any way. The whole point of an internship is not to say, “oh, look, I’m an intern!” It’s to learn, to gain experience as you work for an industry pro who knows what they’re doing. Background check everyone you apply to. If it’s an agent, do they work for an agency with a track record? Do they appear to be professional? If it’s a publisher, what’s the quality of their books? What kinds of agents have sold to them?
Plus, putting the name of a publisher or agency that no one has ever heard of on your resume will not make you look experienced. You want to start small with your internships, yes, but don’t start too small. You don’t want to work for someone who won’t help you, and will only waste your time.
And, of course, good luck when applying! Let me know if you have any questions.
P.S. If you’re a fan of YA books and The Avengers, three other writers and I are launching an awesome new blog. See here for details.