My new internship is with a really cool indie feminist publishing house run by a really cool, supportive and incredibly smart woman. I mean, she not only added me on facebook, her relationship status is ‘in a complicated relationship’. Did I mention she’s above 40?
She’s very committed to producing good writing, and she picked me because of my feminist credentials (and I suppose my impassioned plea. I had reached the begging point in my hunt for jobs and Lynn has a kind heart). It’s an incredible opportunity to get an inside look at publishing, although I think I may be getting terribly spoilt with this as a first experience. Linen Press has both integrity and standards (she says, with a tone of surprise). It’s what you WANT your first job in an industry you’re passionate about to be; it’s never what you expect because an indifferent, result oriented world has made us (well, me) cynical.
The best part is that my responsibilities are both challenging and fun. This is the advantage of working at a small publishing house as an intern. A lot of the responsibilities you get are those of the editorial assistant. The only thing that separates you from them is the fact that you don’t get paid a dime. You get free books, maybe a free trip to London, and experience+references; but no money. I would add a cynical, saracastic comment at this stage but I think it’s hardly necessary.
Moving on from this (the only major drawback), like I said, I get to do a lot of cool stuff. Reading submissions, critiquing them, and then getting back to the writers with nuanced rejections that might help them. If it’s good enough, passing it on to Lynn and the other interns, so they can form an opinion. Discussions with them then follow, and we come to a final decision: if its a yes, the writer is asked to send in more chapters. When they do, we repeat the process. Then, if it’s still good, it moves solely into Lynn’s hands. The whole process is called ‘vetting’ and is an important part of editing. Lynn says increasingly, especially in big companies, this process is considered too labour-intensive to be worthwhile. Either the writer produces a perfect book (or has already been published, or is recommeded by a literary agent, or is willing to pay for everything) or he/she is chucked out before they are read. This might make sense for larger companies that get a million submissions a day, but it seems to me it doesn’t allow for the discovery of diamonds in the rough which is where smaller publishing houses, especially ones with high literary standards, come in. I LOVE this part of the job. It’s exactly what my degrees have prepared me for, it’s really fun, and it gives me a sense of importance as well as usefulness.
I also have to do some publicity and event related things, which of course isn’t my forte but which are pretty enjoyable nevertheless and I think I could be good at it. LA, to some extent prepared me for these kinds of tasks.
I really hope this experience leads to a job where people actually pay me to do more of this!