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On Interning at Island Press: Learning Never Ends

I am lucky enough to have gone to a university where Publishing was a field of study. I spent the last four years taking classes like Book Editing and Book Promotion that allowed me to get a peek into the publishing industry. I thought that after graduating in May, I had a pretty well-rounded knowledge of what working in publishing would be like, but my summer here at Island Press has showed me that learning never ends. And the biggest thing I learned was how collaborative the process of bringing a book into existence is.

I knew, from my classes, all the different departments that work on a book, but I didn’t know how close that work would be. It didn’t take me long to learn this, though—the sheer number of meetings on my schedule made that more than clear. And it was at one of our weekly meetings, our Decision to Publish/Round Table meeting when the entire team gets together to discuss possible projects, that I got a front row seat to the collaboration. I remember the first thing I noticed during this meeting was how many different voices needed to be heard before a book is chosen to be published. I learned quickly that all members of the Island Press staff have important ideas about every project that is proposed—which can be partially attributed to the unique culture of the office in which everyone genuinely cares about and believes in our mission (and also to the intimate size of the staff). I found myself excited for every meeting to hear the different opinions and concerns from each department and to see the many factors that must line up for a book to be picked for publication.

By attending those meetings and hearing the many thoughtful additions to the conversation, I also learned to think more critically in my role as editorial intern. One of my main responsibilities this summer has been to review book proposals, giving my opinions of and suggestions for the projects to the editors. I was originally pretty intimidated by this task—I didn’t think I knew enough about what Island Press looks for to judge the proposals. But after some time, I began to channel what I had heard in meetings from other members of the Island Press team. I started to think about a book’s promotion possibilities like marketing would, or about the schedule constraints like production, rather than just viewing the proposal through an editorial lens. I began viewing books holistically, which allowed me to review them more fully.

This summer at Island Press has showed me that experience really is the best teacher, and I couldn’t have asked for a better position to help me in my transition after graduating, or a better organization to be a part of.