On Interning at Island Press: It Takes a Team

Once upon a time, I was sure that I wanted to be an editor. I always liked reading and polishing people’s stories. It felt right to shape up someone's work, to see its beginning and see it transform into a finished product. But, as any recent English grad out there can attest, landing an editorial anything is difficult. So I joined Island Press in the spring as a social media and web intern, and it was not at all what I expected.

I never realized how involved marketing was in the publishing process of a book. Oddly, due to hearing that editorial internships and jobs were highly competitive, I always assumed that the editing team took up the most important role in publishing. But upon working here, I learned that every department plays a crucial role in making sure a book is in its best condition before going out to the public. I sat through the IP 101 sessions, where interns learn about each department, and I was stunned. This industry works almost like a human body; the whole simply could not function without the parts. You cannot market the book if the book isn’t worth reading. You cannot send a book out that is developmentally “in tune” but has horrid grammatical errors and an unattractive cover. You cannot form a book to perfection if you have no way to promote it. All of it was eye opening for me, and I only wish I had caught the importance of it sooner.

I’ve gained a great appreciation for the marketing team, my department for the spring and summer. Specifically, I was impressed by the creative ideas every member had during our meetings. We extracted every possible strategy to promote a book, including sweepstakes, social posts, book signing events, blog posts, and so on. I used to spend a lot of time thinking that there is this focus on editing a book, making sure it is written in proper context, with proper spelling, and that it is fully developed—all of which are important. But there is no point in writing a book if nobody else but you will read it. And people here are dedicated to making sure the books are sent to every possible platform. It does a great deal of service to authors, particularly to those who may not be very popular.

Island Press has a real hands-on approach regarding their interns. My first day on the job, my supervisor Jason Leppig tasked me with researching swag products for E.O. Wilson’s upcoming graphic novel Naturalist. Later I’d make banners to promote upcoming books and interview an inspiring climate activist from the Youth Climate Strike. I’d done other internships in the past and I did gain some valuable knowledge, but my tasks were...dispensable. You know, running for coffee, dropping off your boss’s laptop bag at their apartment, mailing holiday cards. But in Island Press, I actually did things that contributed to something. They had meaning. I not only got to learn, but I became part of a team, all working towards getting those books out there.