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On Interning at Island Press: Acclimating to the Editorial Department
In this installment, Anastasia Stelse, Editorial Intern, writes about transforming from a publishing newbie into a seasoned team player.
Last semester, when I started interning at Island Press, I never thought I’d gain so much hands-on experience. On my first day, instead of running out to get coffee, I sat in on two meetings and listened to the zing of passionate discussion about projects in various states of development. Of course, I barely understood what was going on—terms and abbreviations were flung about with the nonchalance of those immersed in the industry; but, afterward, my supervisor went over those terms with me, and, in the nervous newness of the experience, I compiled a cheat sheet for future reference.
Now I’ve started a second term with Island Press. Not only do I still attend meetings, but I also understand enough without my reference list to be entrusted with the important task of note-taking. Sitting in on roundtable discussions and decision-to-publish meetings opened my eyes to what it really takes to put a book together. There are so many criteria to determine whether or not to pursue a strong proposal. Is the book different? Is there enough of an audience? Is the author open to suggestions? How could we market this? Then there are contracts, timelines to be agreed upon, drafts sent and revised and sent again—and that’s just in editorial! As a creative writing graduate, being part of the step-by-step process not only prepares me for future work in publications, but it also gives me an idea of what to expect when I try to publish a completed manuscript of my own.
Very early on in the Island Press publishing process, before a book makes it to roundtable, the proposal goes through a series of reviews. If it’s unsolicited, I’m one of the first people to see it. I learn more about what good proposals look like, and I learn so much about the environment. It’s like taking science classes again, minus the tests.
There are always new projects to complete and things to learn. For example, I’ve gotten to take a look inside the decision process for e-content, an ever-growing field. I once spent the morning searching for possible photographs to include in a book and then contacted the photographers for permissions. Slowly but surely, I’m figuring out how to navigate TMM, a book database.
All of this is great knowledge to have; but what really makes working at Island Press an incredible experience are the wonderful people I work with daily. They are continually excited by the work we do and are always willing to help me tackle new projects.
Although we’re not publishing books in my areas of concentration (fiction and poetry), we’re publishing material that makes a difference, and I’m thrilled to be a part of that.