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On Interning at Island Press: Editorial Department

In this next installment, Noah Weisz writes about what it’s like to be the Editorial intern.

On the morning of my first day at Island Press, I listened to editors Courtney Lix and Heather Boyer talk on the phone in what seemed to me like a foreign language. Looking at the packet of papers they were discussing, interesting titles on important environmental topics seemed to float in a sea of abbreviations and mystifying phrases and dates. I applied for an internship here because Island Press lay right at the intersection of my interests as an English major and biology minor. And indeed, though I’m still far from fluent in that language now that the summer’s almost over, my internship has been an incredible opportunity to learn about publishing within such a unique mission-driven organization. As an editorial intern, I work most closely with my two supervisors in the editorial department, Courtney Lix and Becca Bright. One of my main assignments is to read and review some unsolicited manuscript submissions and book proposals. I try to give each submission a thorough reading, and in my written review, a fair evaluation of both the advantages and disadvantages of the proposal, from style and clarity to possible marketability and appropriateness for Island Press. I then pass the review to either Courtney or Becca, who makes a final decision or chooses to pass it to other editors for further assessment. In addition to these projects, I also do a bunch of smaller assignments on a regular basis, such as entering publishing contracts into the electronic book database, TMM, and other occasional tasks like checking part of an index or comparing two drafts of a manuscript to see if all the changes have been made. I also am lucky enough to get to sit in and take notes on the weekly decision-to-publish meetings. I’ve also learned (sort of) how to use the UPS and USPS mailing machines, sending out contracts to authors and complimentary copies of Island Press books as tokens of appreciation to blurbers and proposal-reviewers. Along the way, I’ve gotten to know the biggest printer/photocopier/scanner/who-knows-what-else that I’ve ever seen. Most of all, it has just been fascinating to learn what it’s like behind the scenes in a publishing house—the amazing tight-knit team of professionals with widely-varying areas of expertise, conversing freely about word counts and book reviews and e-ISBNs and fonts and hyphens and airport-bookstore sales.  But it’s more than just an English-major’s happy and often bewildering wonderland. As an avid reader, it’s often too easy to take good books for granted, and, when you do stop to think seriously about the process of their creation, to attach only the face of the author to the beloved paperback you hold in your hands. It’s safe to say, then, that this summer at Island Press has taught me to look at books in a completely new way.