The Realities of an Internship

Enough time has gone by since my last blog post, that I’m now allowed to pull my soapbox back out and talk more about what you can expect from an internship.

I often tell this story about how I hated my first day as an intern at BookEnds. I was tasked with re-organizing the bookshelves (a task I ironically obsess over now) and spent 8 hours doing that and getting through 1/1,000,000th of the books we had here. I had these expectations of coming in and editing bestselling books, and being thrown up in the air in celebration like the little girl from the taco commercial when she decides everyone can have both hard shell and soft shell tacos.

Eventually, I got over myself. But it’s really one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned in publishing/my career– a job will likely never be what you expect it to be. Truth is, that full day-turned-week of re-organizing the bookshelves fully immersed me in BookEnds’ list. I can tell you just about any client’s book titles/series/publisher/agent off the top of my head. (Some pseudonyms still trip me up, not gonna lie.)

The lesson here is this: an internship or job is what you make of it. Look at shelving books as an opportunity to learn the agency/publisher’s list. Filing is a great way to familiarize yourself with publishing documents. If you have an open office environment like BookEnds, go ahead and ask questions on the spot: “What does this mean?” “What is a warranty and indemnities clause?” “Wednesday Books is an imprint of Macmillan?” “What IS an Imprint, anyway?”


If the office is not that open at the time, make a list of those questions and bring them up to your supervisor when you have the time.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor for more tasks, or more information on tasks they might be doing. We’d love to have you work on a revision with us, if there’s a book you’re particularly interested. A second set of eyes never hurts. If what you’re particularly interested in happens to be contracts, ask to read through a couple more and talk about them a bit. While BookEnds strives to make our internships as well-rounded and fulfilling of a position as we could, we might be missing/not focusing on what you really love, and it’s okay to let us know. There might be ways we can fit more of that fun stuff in for you.

Basically, when things aren’t going the way you hoped in your new position, it might be that you’re getting in the way. Move over; keep your eyes and ears open, and make that internship what you want it to be.

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3 comments

  1. Ya know, I missed that post about hating the first day at BookEnds! On the other hand, you’ve gone from lowly intern to agent at one of the best agencies around, so it obviously worked for you. Congratulations, and I’m looking forward to seeing you in NY this summer! If I can get a flight, that is…

    I always enjoy your posts. 😉

  2. It’s great to hear that an agency commits time to teach an intern instead of just leaving them to be seen and not heard. I wish I could intern with you all! My cats won’t let me relocate to New York , I’m afraid… 😉
    I do have one question; I hope it’s okay to ask this here. If an individual is currently querying (at your agency and/or others), is that a hindrance to being considered for an internship at those agencies? I’ve never seen this addressed.
    Thank you for your post!

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