Kate M. is the summer editorial intern at Free Spirit Publishing and a rising senior in English literature at Seattle University. Cassidy F. is the summer sales and marketing intern and a recent graduate in creative writing from Macalester College.
Internships are often displayed as less than glamorous: filing, paperwork, and, if you’re lucky, maybe an opportunity to throw out an idea during a crowded, busy meeting. Nowadays, internships are becoming increasingly necessary in order to secure a future job, but too often, interns are thrown into supporting roles with little purpose.
Thankfully, this is far from the case at Free Spirit. Since the beginning of our internships, we have contributed to vital steps in the publication process. We do not fetch coffee or busy ourselves with mundane tasks; rather, we continuously aid and provide important feedback to people who genuinely care about our opinions and our interest in publishing. So if you’re wondering what a Free Spirit intern actually does, or are interested in becoming one yourself (do it, apply!), read about how interns help your favorite Free Spirit books come to be.
Kate: As an editorial intern, I have the privilege of being the first pair of eyes to read each manuscript proposal. This is one of my favorite duties—it is incredibly special to read the work that authors have put so much time and thought into. After I read each proposal, I contact the author and acknowledge receipt of the submission. Then, I am free to write notes to the editors, including my opinions and suggestions for further action with the text. More involvement than you expected? I was definitely surprised! My opinion is valued at Free Spirit—so much so that it is requested immediately after receiving a submission.
Cassidy: Every month or so, the editorial and marketing departments join forces to discuss proposals we are interested in acquiring. Before each meeting, I do a bit of background research on the authors. Mostly, I research their Internet presence: Do they have a website? Do they blog? Do they have a large Twitter following? First-time authors are wonderful and exciting, but from a marketing perspective, a larger Internet presence usually means a higher number of sales.
Kate: The editorial team takes these things into consideration but is also concerned about a book’s purpose and relevance, the quality of writing and structure of the text (for instance, how much editing will be necessary), and the text’s ability to complement other published Free Spirit books.
Kate: At the beginning of my internship, I was asked to share my learning objectives, which manifested as a few major projects that I have been working on throughout my time at Free Spirit. My current—and favorite—project involves critiquing a manuscript. I read, mark up, and review the text, and then submit my suggestions for feedback. While this critique is not part of the formal editing process, it is useful exposure and practice.
Kate: Being aware of the market and potential competing products is vital for the editorial department. Upon request, I research books that may compete with upcoming Free Spirit titles and notify the department of my findings. This research is important because it helps predict how our book will sell. Important information for the editorial department—even more so for Cassidy, I’m sure!
Cassidy: Research on competition and companion books is definitely a key part of marketing—I’ve learned all books become part of a network. It’s important to understand what already exists, but also to reach out to the greater community. Before a book is officially in publication, an eBook version is created and uploaded to a site called NetGalley, where people can request advance copies for reviewing. I go through each of the requests to approve them. We love any and all honest reviews that we get, not just those from professionals in the publishing world. We want to hear from people who are really in the field, from teachers to parents to counselors, and more.
MAILING OF REVIEW COPIES
Cassidy: Once we have finished printed books in-house, I mail copies with press releases to publishing magazines and various parenting and educational journals. I also send copies to international presses to promote interest in potential translations.
RESEARCH AND OUTREACH TO POTENTIAL BUYERS
Cassidy: Occasionally, with so-called “topic” or “issue” books, I will research potential buyers and write a press release or formal letter to reach out to them. “Potential buyers” are typically organizations or schools who we think would benefit from our resources. Once I draft the letter, I send it to our proofreader. After she edits it and I make the proper corrections, I mail it with a complimentary copy of the book.
Cassidy: After a book’s publication, I track its review statistics on sites such as Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes & Noble. Currently, I am compiling a spreadsheet of review statistics in order to determine if there is a correlation between the number of reviews and the number of sales and if we can implement any outreach or marketing programs to promote reviews. As the marketing intern, I remain involved in a book’s life long after a title has gone to print.
From concept to consumer, Free Spirit interns are submerged in the publication process every step of the way. While other internships may involve little more than paperwork and copy machines, Free Spirit goes out of their way to ensure interns leave with valuable knowledge and experience, prepared to take on the publishing world ahead.
We welcome your comments and suggestions. Share your comments, stories, and ideas below, or contact us. All comments will be approved before posting, and are subject to our comment and privacy policies.