For two months now, I have been interning with Lantana Publishing, learning to discover its wonderful picture books and building new skills that will hopefully help me in my future career. As my internship is coming to an end, it is time to share my experience of interning with a small independent publisher of picture books, hoping that it might provide useful information to aspiring publishers like me.
Finding an Internship
When you first think about starting a career in publishing, one thing becomes clear very quickly: a significant experience of the publishing industry is necessary to find a job and opportunities to gain such an experience are hard to find. Big firms like Penguin Random House or Harper Collins have internship schemes, but small publishers often use their connections to find interns. I was a French graduate in English literature with no experience of the publishing world and almost no idea of how I would integrate it. Earlier this year, I met Alice Curry through an acquaintance and asked her if I could conduct an interview with her for an application I was preparing. At the end of the interview, she kindly offered me to intern with Lantana Publishing over the summer. I had always wanted to work in picture books’ publishing and it was a great opportunity to discover the different roles and skills involved in publishing and, more particularly, independent publishing.
To find an internship, you need to put yourself out there. Ask around for potential contacts, accept networking as an essential part of your sociability (I know, it’s hard!) and basically be aware of who’s who and who you would like to work with. You never know, that person you met for a college application might end up being a key contact in your career!
Working for a small independent publisher
The experience of working with a small independent publisher like Lantana Publishing is fascinating because it involves understanding and participating in every step of the production of a book. My main duties were to work on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the website and to focus on a marketing strategy for the launch of The Tigon and the Liger and The Ammuchi Puchi. Apart from that, I was able to observe how Alice proceeded to edit manuscripts, or to research different topics such as wordless picture books and foreign acquisitions. Multitasking is therefore a challenging but exciting aspect of working with a small publisher. Interning with Lantana Publishing allowed me to try my hand at the different roles involved in publishing and to decide which would suit me the most.
If you’re going to work for a young independent publisher, you should be ready to work on different fronts and deal with tasks that you probably never knew existed. It is a great opportunity to gain useful skills very quickly. Moreover, you will gain insight in how a company is built and, hopefully, actively participate in its development. I was personally thrilled to have my first experienceof the publishing industry in a small company with great values and products like Lantana Publishing!
When you leave university, your use of computers and the web doesn’t go much further than your personal pages on social media and word processing. In the two months I spent with Lantana Publishing, I learnt how to use different online tools to assess a website, the basics of SEO, how to lead a marketing campaign on social media, and so on. I discovered that, although our products are still material, everything takes place online and mastering all the tools the internet offers you is the perfect way to launch both your website and your products in an efficient and cost-effective way.
When you start making your way through the intricacies of the web, two things matter: be interested and be creative. You will soon discover that social media and the internet are actually easy to understand and use to your advantage. Observe the strategies of other publishers, spend hours on google looking for bloggers and organisations that might promote your books for free and, most importantly, think outside of the box. The internet is full of opportunities to interact with potential customers and reviewers, so find them and grab them!
Making the Most Out of Your Internship
The most important thing during an internship in publishing is to grab any opportunity you have to transform your work into useful skills and knowledge. You should obviously focus on the tasks you are given, but any task can provide you with occasions to enter intocontact with interesting people, to discover companies or organisations that you might later want to work with or simply expand your knowledge of the publishing industry. You shouldn’t hesitate to ask the publishers you are working with for explanations about particular aspects of their work.
Finally, you shouldn’t start your internship with the fear of being useless or, worst, an inconvenience to you employers. Be creative and pro-active, don’t be afraid of expressing your ideas, they are probably worth being heard! With passion, patience and goodwill you will learn very quickly and soon become an asset to the publisher.
I will be leaving Lantana Publishing with a new set of wonderful picture books on my shelves and an entirely new perspective on publishing. Yes, I have new skills that will help me in my job search, but, most of all, working with Lantana Publishing helped shape my approach to the world of children’s publishing. I am now more aware of the issues related to identity in children’s books, and have discovered the many publishers and organisations that fight for more cultural diversity in literature. Finally, I have discovered through contact with the different team members of Lantana Publishing that publishing is a challenging trade but a fascinating one, and that the satisfaction provided by the publication and promotion of a beautiful picture book is absolutely worth the commitment it demands.