Where? Gollancz, Orion Publishing
What? Editorial Intern
Why did you choose this place? This is the job I want in the long run, and I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan when it comes to literature. But this one was through a connection as well – a friend of a friend had just had his own book published by Gollancz, and was in the process of finalising the print of the second (while writing the third). He snuck me into a party full of influential people and I got to chat to the head editor, and from there I was able to set up a two-week internship.
How did you find the application process? Making contacts was actually pretty nerve-wracking; even though I had an ‘in’ with my author friend, I had to make my own impressions on the right people to seem keen, knowledgeable and, above all, suitable. In many ways filling out an application form might have been easier, but I think the benefits of having my face in their minds when my name appeared in their inboxes were huge, and giving them the chance to make their own character judgments seemed to be advantageous as well.
What did you do here? Work was slower at this internship – as it wasn’t as long, and as I was only filling spaces at desks during other people’s holidays, there wasn’t the chance to develop any long-term responsibilities or learn anything too complex. There were different office tasks than at Firefly – binding, copying up blurbs from old book covers, proofreading cover designs before they went into print – but perhaps the most interesting was reading unsolicited submissions from authors who hadn’t come through agents. It was a simple job but I was essentially the judge of which authors went through for further consideration and which were put aside. While the work was sometimes sparse, many of the editors made time to talk me through the processes they went through in their jobs, which was immensely educational and interesting (as well as being beneficial for future interviews!).
The good things: The empty time between tasks encouraged me to make my own work, and I ended up writing reports on each of the submissions I read to pass onto the editors, detailing my decision based on content, style, linguistic ability and so on. The editors seemed pleased with my work, and I was happy to have the chance to be a bit creative and helpful. I also ended my internship with at least four free books – it does not hurt to mention to an editor who your favourite authors are, especially if said authors were published by them.
The bad things: I ended up taking an hour-and-a-half commute to this unpaid internship for two weeks, which wasn’t cheap – I probably wouldn’t have been able to carry on for much longer than I did. There were also long periods when I had very little to do – although I was only asked to read through the first few chapters of submissions, I finished one of the manuscripts completely in between tasks. This was partially my own fault for being too shy to ask for things to do too often, afraid of going beyond seeming keen and becoming a pest.
Anything else we should know? Showing willingness to learn meant I did, because I heard far more via word of mouth about the publishing processes than I ever have from reading about it. I personally think it’s a shame that these days it’s near impossible to get a job without connections and contacts, but learning how best to make them is a worthy skill, as well as how to utilise the ones you already have.