On Interning at Island Press: Truly a New World

Books have always seemed like magic to me, like an enchanted entity conceived out of thin air for the purpose of readers’ escape from reality. However, when I got the job as Island Press’ Production Intern, I quickly realized that it takes a lot more than just magic for a book to be published and that books throw readers into reality rather than help them evade it (real solutions, real change, real life).

Before my first day, Maureen, IP’s Director of Production & Design, called me for a brief description of the many tasks of the production intern, such as creating cast offs, proof checking manuscripts, applying for preassigned control numbers—a 10-minute conversation that I struggled to understand. At my interview, Sharis, IP’s Senior Production Editor and my brilliant supervisor, told me I would never get coffee as an intern… and proceeded to give an even more in-depth sermon on the daily intricacies of the production internship. On my first day, I delved into the sorcery that is the Chicago Manual of Style, gaining proficiency in proofreading marks and the composition of a book and the impossible rules of grammar (if the production department had a religion, the CMOS would be our scripture). The internship was truly a new world for me, complete with an unfamiliar language and a fresh perspective on something that’s always been in my life: books.

Over the course of five months, I have gained an exhaustive understanding of and experience in the book production process. I’ve watched countless IP titles travel from a mere proposal to an unedited manuscript enclosed in a Word document, from red-and-green-splattered sheets littered with Post-it notes to the final bound pages sporting a sleek cover. I can remember the day Sharis called me a “castoff superstar,” a conqueror of my first and most frequent assignment: counting the characters, figures, and special elements of a transmitted manuscript in order to estimate the amount of pages the typeset text will take up. The Excel sheet works its magic and determines a number, a precise multiple of eight rounded up to the nearest signature, or a press sheet folded and ready for binding. My favorite task is compiling the master corrections of a typeset manuscript, which consists of author and proofreader marks, as well as mine. I have acquired hands-on knowledge in the industry of publishing as well as the necessary competence and confidence to move forward in the field. The internship caters especially to multifaceted people who can work independently and jointly, who love the printed word but care deeply for the environment, who consider themselves detail-oriented perfectionists but aren’t afraid of tackling some imperfection. And while I can’t look at a book the same way again, I will be forever grateful for the people who make magic happen at Island Press.