Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

How To Get An Internship in Publishing: 5 Tips

Having an internship, whether pre- or post-graduation, is the true “Step 0″ in a publishing career. Here, Livia Nelson, intern at Market Partners International /Publishing Trends and Editorial Assistant for Publishing Trendsetter, shares insight about her journey from overwhelmed college junior to happy-as-a-clam summer intern.

Follow Livia's advice so that you don't feel this way

1. Figure out how to live in or near New York City

Of course you’ll be able to find publishing internships in other major cities, or even at small presses in more suburban towns. But New York City is where it’s at. Wanting to work in publishing and never living/working in New York would be like trying to be a film actor and never living in LA. All of the Big 6—Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan—are in New York (not that you have to work at those houses, particularly, but their close geographical presence is important).

Though very few (if any) internships set their interns up with housing anymore, NYU will let interns live in their dorms in the summer for cheap. Also keep in mind that you don’t have to live in Manhattan–commuting from the boroughs, Long Island, Westchester Country NY, and Fairfield County CT are all very doable and surely cheaper.

(I’m a lucky duck because I grew up in a Connecticut suburb of New York City, so I can hop on Metro North and be at Grand Central Station in an hour. Not everyone–especially most of my North Carolina-native friends at UNC-Chapel Hill–had this opportunity of proximity, so I knew I had to take advantage of it. Thanks for letting me crash this summer, Mom and Dad!)

2. If you’re in college, go to your career services office

I’d never written a real resume before, let alone a cover letter, so I made an appointment at my career services office. I went up expecting to sit with a counselor and have my resume looked over—but I was so wrong. The career services office was an entire floor in a building on campus, by far the most beautiful I’d ever seen. They had walk-in resume reviews, conducted mock-interviews, have all kinds of seminars, and the counselors were awesome. They even showed me tons of places to find listings just for publishing internships. When I went in with a resume, the counselor then had me email her back and forth with resume edits until she gave me the go-ahead. And the best part was that they didn’t treat me differently than the seniors who were looking for jobs–they took my internship search just as seriously.

Career services is a pretty standard office in most universities these days, so get over there! If anything, they brought my blood pressure down, which had previously skyrocketed every time my parents called and asked, “So how’s that internship search going, Livy?”

3. Put everything on your resume

People will tell you different things about this, but I’m a big proponent of putting a lot of stuff on your resume, even if it’s not directly related to publishing–especially if you’re applying for an internship. Because after all, it’s not as if you’re going to have enough relevant experience to fill up a resume if you’re applying to an internship, right?

I included details like that I did study abroad in Germany and speak German (hey! turns out German is a great language to speak in the publishing world, since the Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest in the world!), that I babysit and cater (showing that I’m responsible and know how to work/think on my feet), and that I’m in UNC’s Ski & Snowboard Club (hey, if the person reading is a skiier, they might like me a little better–at least, that was what my career service’s counselor told me).

And because I put some of that extraneous information, I ended up with an internship where my tasks are very close my interests–learning about books, writing articles, working with a blog, doing layout in InDesign–so I’m glad I didn’t leave anything out.

If you want to see what my resume looked like, you can view it here.

4. If you have a blog that is semi-popular and writing/book-related, put that on your resume too (and if you don’t have a blog but are thinking about an internship for Summer 2012, maybe now is the time to make one!)

In the last minute I decided to put my blog, Yeah Write!, on my resume. I’d been worried that it would seem somewhat silly, but since a lot of the internship listings asked for help with blogs or web-related stuff, I figured it was sort of relevant after all. I included that I was the “founder and creator” (those are buzz words for resumes), a brief blurb describing the blog, and my approximate follower-count (the fact that that figure was around 8700 at the time probably didn’t hurt my blog’s credibility, either).

As it turned out, both of the internships I ended up “landing” (here at MPI/Publishing Trends/Publishing Trendsetter and a side project at Figment) wanted me because they were interested in my blogging experience. Go figure!

I do believe, though, that our generation’s saving grace in this economy is that we understand social media and the blogosphere. Even some of the most connected industry vets can barely figure out how to block pop-ups, let alone create a Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn/blog presence. But social media integration is essential to businesses now—and since we’ve been playing around with Facebook etc. since they’re beginnings (I first got a Facebook when I was 16), it’s like a first language to us (the technical term for this is “digital native”). So make sure to play up the fact that, for you, working with social media ain’t no thang (I included social media in my list of skills).

5. Once you have a draft of your cover letter and resume, apply to every internship you possibly can

Back in… February?… I started thinking about applying to internships. I have a family friend at Penguin, so I sent one application to them. But despite the family friend’s good word to HR, I didn’t hear any words back. In hindsight, this is not surprising–Penguin is one of the few places that pays interns, and my family friend told me that they therefore receive thousands and thousands of applications. So then I sent out maybe… two more? that I found out about from my University Career Services website. But again, I heard nothing.

So one afternoon, probably around 4 weeks after I’d sent out the first 3, I just sat down and Googled “publishing internships” and came across bookjobs.com. By then it was mid-April, so I was worried that I was too late and the positions had been filled. But I was wrong–there were a tooon of internships listed on there (again, mostly in NYC). So I went down the entire list and clicked on every single one and wrote down which ones would “fit”, based on their location, duration, when the application deadline was, etc. When I was done I had a list of 16 internships—and I sent my cover letter and resume to all of them.

A little side-tip on that: since you usually paste your cover letter into the body of an email and attach your resume, I highlighted the parts of each that I would have to change for each application I sent (the company’s name and address, the skill sets they specifically asked for, etc). Then, right before I sent the email, I turned everything back to black.

And believe it or not… I applied to all 16 in one (long) afternoon.

That makes 19 internships total that I applied to. These days, that’s just what you have to do. Most of my friends who graduated from college this May are applying to internships just as earnestly as they are to salaried jobs. So you have to remember that you have competition not only from other students (and unless you’re at Ivy, there will always be students from better schools), but from people who have a degree, or might even already have experience in the publishing field.

These tips definitely worked for me: I was asked to do 5 interviews at 5 different companies I’d applied to, but after going to 2 and being offered both positions, I decided to turn down the other 3 (I’d really liked what I’d already seen at non-publisher internships, and my remaining interview offers were at small publishing houses). I feel so lucky that I had choices–that’s what sending out 19 applications rewarded me with. I’m working at MPI/PT/Trendsetter internship 3 days a week and doing freelance (keyword: free) work remotely for Figment. And despite what everyone told me–oh, internships are terrible, they’re just something you have to slog through, you’ll be bored to tears/treated like dirt/ready to go postal by the end–I’m actually loving mine! (And no, I’m not just saying that because Trendsetter is my internship).

8 Comments

  1. People throwing up their hands in despair at Livia’s first injunction (the one about living in New York) might be interested to know that there are ways of doing this even if you don’t have family or friends within 500 miles of NYC.

    That was my situation. I applied for an internship early in the spring without any IDEA how I’d live anywhere near it–especially given the non-paying quality of so many. But I got my Shameless on (which would serve me well a year later when I lost my first job), and started talking about my need for a [basically free] place in New York. To everybody. Preferably people over 30. Lots and lots of dead ends, but one day I asked my boss “Do you know anyone who ever houses students in exchange for nannying/dogwalking/house-sitting?” And shockingly, the answer was “Yes, actually.”

    Said person was an alumna of my college and had an extra bedroom she lets young women working on their professional goals stay for FREE. (I’m not making this up.) All I had to do was catsit when she went out of town. My internship was 3 days/week and paid me in unlimited Metrocards, and I got a part time job for the other 2 weekdays. Voila.

    The key is: don’t shut up. I’m not promising it WILL work, but I am telling you it has.

  2. Livia Nelson Livia Nelson says:

    Good thought, Elisabeth–I hope I didn’t scare anyone!

    Someone could make a mint starting a service that connected income-less interns with families who were willing to board them at their NYC homes for the summer in exchange for house sitting, babysitting, chores, etc… sort of like babysitters.com meets couch surfing.

    I also should have emphasized the not-always-thought-of fact that most internships aren’t every day… so you can still get a part-time job during the other days of the week.

  3. Rachel Stark Rachel Stark says:

    Wow, I’m jealous of your free housing, Elisabeth!

    One thing I learned from my search for internships, though, is that it pays to do that housing search really early–actually, before you start applying to the internships themselves! It makes a huge difference to be able to put a New York address on your resume or say in your cover letter that you have a plan in place to live within commuting distance. Or so Scholastic’s HR manager told me here.

  4. Marnise says:

    HI Elizabeth,

    I wanted to know if there are any post related to finding remote internships in publishing, specifically at literary agencies.

  5. [...] Internships are an almost non-negotiable step between you and a job in publishing. [...]

  6. [...] Internships are an almost non-negotiable step between you and a job in publishing. [...]

  7. [...] her article, “How to Get an Internship in Publishing: 5 Tips,” Livia Nelson [...]

  8. [...] her article, “How to Get an Internship in Publishing: 5 Tips,” Livia Nelson [...]

  9. Really excellent post on the topic, Livia. I mentor college students who are looking for publishing internships, and I’ll definitely pass your post along. I have a new post on my blog about finding publishing internships, too. The more information, the better! http://allisoneditorial.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/pub-internships-1-the-search/

  10. Kristin Tajlili says:

    Wow, this is super impressive!

    My goals are very similar to yours. I am young–only 19-years-old and getting ready to finish my second year, so I’m not ready to go away to New York for the summer. Still, I am hoping to get a publishing internship around Chapel Hill/N.C. area. What were your credentials while you were applying?

  11. […] we have some (possibly) bad news. While, as a caviat, we are not in the world of publishing, what we are reading all amounts to one thing: if you want to be in publishing, you really have to move to New York. If […]

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  1. [...] Internships are an almost non-negotiable step between you and a job in publishing. [...]

  2. [...] Internships are an almost non-negotiable step between you and a job in publishing. [...]

  3. [...] her article, “How to Get an Internship in Publishing: 5 Tips,” Livia Nelson [...]

  4. [...] her article, “How to Get an Internship in Publishing: 5 Tips,” Livia Nelson [...]

  5. By beginnersguidetopublishing on August 5, 2013 at 10:14 pm
  6. […] we have some (possibly) bad news. While, as a caviat, we are not in the world of publishing, what we are reading all amounts to one thing: if you want to be in publishing, you really have to move to New York. If […]

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