I was in Ebury Publishing, and most of what I had to do involved mailing books out (which was cool because I got to write and sign letters on behalf of my mentors), filing book contracts, entering data, basic photocopying/printing, making spreadsheets of publishing contacts, and other lovely book-related things. I also got to see sample chapters of books that they're thinking of acquiring and publishing, which was pretty surreal.
My thoughts throughout the experience went something like this:
Day 1: The Random House building is the building in the Random House logo!!! Mind blown.
Okay, so maybe this was obvious to everyone else, but I never noticed! When I showed up on the first day I was completely amazed by the fact that their main office in Pimlico actually looks like the one in the logo! I always thought that it was, you know, a random house. I find this unbelievably cool; like I'm a step closer to breaking the book/reality barrier.
Day 2: Is it just me or is there free stuff everywhere?!
There are literally random book stands all over the building filled with books they've published - in the cafeteria, in the lobbies, in the hallways - and I'm pretty sure people just take them. I didn't know how to deal. It was just too much for me to handle. And if you're wondering if I took any, the answer is no, because I am a coward. I did, however, walk away from the experience with great exposure to the publishing industry.
Day 3: The-food-is-delicious-I-could-eat-this-every-day.
Food isn't something I even considered before I started, but just like in school, it soon became a huge part of the day. Considering there weren't many good eating options in the area (that I knew of, at least), I was expecting generic, awful cafeteria food. Of course, Random House had to go and prove me wrong. Their cafeteria has some of the cheapest, healthiest, most delicious canteen food I have ever had, and I was pretty impressed.
And the lunchtime conversations are basically a dream come true for book lovers... People are generally so well-read and had so many great book recommendations from every genre imaginable. The atmosphere at Random House is just really great, and everyone I talked to seemed to love their job.
Days 4-5: Erotica is in!
Cornerstone, an imprint of Random House, actually published the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy! It was fascinating to see them in the midst of all this 50 Shades success, and I found myself cataloging and mailing out TONS of old and new erotica that they're publishing in its wake. People talk about this all the time in the YA community - the wizard craze brought on by Harry Potter, the vampire trend sparked by Twilight, the influx of dystopian novels in the aftermath of The Hunger Games - and it was so cool to see trends like this in action. I gained a whole new, practical appreciation for what this really means to a publishing company.
I also had the lovely task of tracking down the real addresses and names of erotica authors, as most of them use pseudonyms. I felt surprisingly gleeful looking at their real names; it was all kind of like one big game of "GOTCHA!".
Days 6-9: This is real work.
I think a lot of the time I get caught up in glamorizing the publishing industry. While I know, on a logical level, that there is TONS of work that goes into the making of a book, it is so easy to fall into the mindset that publishing is this magical profession that pumps out books by the dozen with, I don't know, a wave of a wand and the tears of a unicorn or something equally fantastic. Hence my speechlessness on my first day.
This work experience was such a good reminder that this is a real industry, and just like all industries, there is so much work involved. I was exhausted at the end of every day just doing basic data entry, filing book contracts or mailing out the many, many books that have to be sent to reviewers, newspapers, foreign publishers, authors, agents, and the dozens of other people involved in making books happen.
Seeing even a glimpse of how the many departments all work together to create a single product was astounding, and has given me a newfound appreciation of all the hard work that they do. And yet, despite all this, everyone was so NICE!
Day 10: They pay their interns in books!!!
Their exact words: "Since we're not paying you, feel free to take any books you like." *gestures to the dozens of shelves all around the office*
I smile politely. "Aw, thank you!"
Inside I'm going: "Why would you say that?! ANY books I like? Don't you realize what a mistake you're making?!?"
I managed to resist. I was luckily working in Ebury Press, which has fantastic books that are 90% non-fiction and so didn't have as much of an appeal to me as, say, Young Adult... But in the end, I chose a couple and were given quite a few, as well as a Random House tote bag, and left extremely happy. Check out some of the great books they gave me on my Stacking the Shelves here!
Overall, this was an unforgettable experience, and absolutely perfect if you're looking to:
- Learn more about the publishing industry
- Gain some work experience
- Have FUN and meet great people (there are also always loads of other interns around)
- Explore London and the rest of the UK