By Natalia N.
Free Spirit has an active internship program. We invited our summer publishing intern, Natalia N., to write a post reflecting on her experience at Free Spirit.
This year certainly has been . . . something, to say the least. It’s an interesting time in American history, with COVID, civil unrest, the upcoming presidential election, and other items of note. (Anyone have fire tornado for Apocalypse Bingo? Anyone? Bueller?)
But this was all far from my mind when I applied for internships a lifetime ago in February. I’m not yet sure what I hope to do after graduation, but I know that I’ve always liked reading and writing, so publishing seemed like a natural fit. I wasn’t expecting much. Everyone knows publishing is a notoriously hard industry to break into because most people love their jobs so much that they never leave. On top of that, I’m technically a business major, a far cry from the usual English majors I was sure were queuing up for a chance to work at Free Spirit.
Then the pandemic hit America and everything changed. Classes moved online, everyone was isolating themselves at home, and basically all the internships I’d applied for were canceled. It seemed like the only thing I’d be doing this summer was staying home and puzzling over accounting homework.
Life goes on. I could always try again next year.
But just as I was ready to give up hope, I got an email from Free Spirit asking if I’d still be interested in a remote internship. After an interview, they offered me the position, and I jumped at the chance. Globally, things might not have been great, but my personal life? I couldn’t believe things were going my way.
This was my first internship, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d only ever seen interns depicted onscreen as harried assistants who ran around getting everyone’s coffee order and filing documents late into the night. Obviously, that wouldn’t be happening with a remote internship, so I was pretty much flying blind when it came to expectations.
I don’t remember much about the first few weeks other than that I had no idea what was going on, but I was swept up into the way of things immediately. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, which I was surprised by. I thought that people would just pile on menial tasks they didn’t want to deal with, but the staff genuinely wanted to talk to me and know what I thought. I figured I’d just sit quietly in meetings and take notes, but they made it very clear I was always welcome to chime in. That’s just the type of place Free Spirit is. People always made time for me, even though I was only an intern (even the president, Judy, sat down to talk with me one-on-one).
This internship is less an internship and more a learning experience. Everyone really wanted this experience to be what I wanted to make of it instead of a collection of mundane tasks. A big advantage of being at Free Spirit instead of another publisher is how small it is. There’s a lot of interdepartmental cooperation that happens in order to take a book from an idea to a physical copy, and being an intern here meant that I got to experience a lot of that firsthand.
Everyone Works Together
Maybe this is kind of an obvious observation, but I didn’t realize how much work creating a book would be. I guess I thought editors would quietly work their way through a manuscript before they sent it off to an illustrator and then to the printer.
But deciding on a title and subtitle alone can take an hour of back-and-forth between everyone to make sure it hits all the keywords and correctly conveys what a book is about. One of the first meetings I sat in on was between an editor and the creative team to go through a cover sketch and art direction for a picture book. I thought illustrators had free reign to draw whatever they want, but I learned that art direction can be pretty detailed. It’s important for an illustrator working with Free Spirit to be inclusive of all races, genders, abilities, and socioeconomic statuses so kids can see themselves represented in a book.
There’s so much more that goes into a book than just editing. A manuscript has to bounce between editorial, sales and marketing, and creative multiple times before it’s ready to be published. And there’s work to be done after a book is published too. There’re copyright applications to file, market research to conduct, eBooks to create, and foreign rights and licensing to manage, just to name a few tasks. I’ve spent the last few months immersed in this world, and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. (How do they do it all? Do they just inject coffee into their veins? They haven’t shared this secret with me yet.)
I have to say that my only regret was not being able to visit the office and see all the dogs! Free Spirit is a dog-friendly office, so there are always dogs running around begging for treats from suckers (allegedly). Of course, I have my own dog at home, but you can’t go wrong with more dogs, right? I will admit it was nice to see everyone’s pets online, but I do wish I could’ve seen some of them in person. Other than this tiny complaint, though, I’ve had a wonderful experience.
I know that something very special is coming to an end. I’ve been spoiled for any other company I may intern with in the future. (Was that Free Spirit’s goal all along? Because they succeeded.)
In all seriousness though, thank you to everyone at Free Spirit for taking a chance on me. I really appreciate everything everyone’s done for me over the past few months. I’ll be keeping an eye on upcoming Free Spirit books!
Natalia N. was the summer 2020 publishing intern at Free Spirit Publishing and is a junior at a nearby university where she is majoring in business.
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