By Kolbe A.
Free Spirit has an active internship program. We invited our summer publishing intern, Kolbe A., to write a post reflecting on his experience at Free Spirit.
Ring . . .
Ring . . .
Ring . . .
“Hi there, do you want to intern for Free Spirit?”
It’s funny how things can sometimes take an interesting turn, especially when you’re not expecting them. That’s what happened when I was interviewing for Free Spirit’s publishing internship—the sixteenth publishing application I’d submitted.
I’ve always been punctual. I’m the person who shows up ten minutes early, the one who makes the dinner reservation or plans out the vacation. So when I (unexpectedly) showed up late for my interview with Free Spirit, I was devastated and knew I wouldn’t hear back. But after what felt like months of waiting, but in reality was probably only a week or two, I was offered a summer position with Free Spirit. Once I got over my surprise, I was super excited to have my first publishing internship.
May led into June, and finally, it was my first day as a publishing intern. I jumped right into my first project: collaborating on art direction for a picture book. While assisting with this project, I learned how to use terms like scene and vignette that I knew from other art mediums to describe an illustration. I didn’t realize how much an editor contributes to the art in a picture book. At Free Spirit, the editor writes art direction thoroughly explaining what is happening in an image, and then the illustrator interprets what the editor is trying to convey. This is where I fell in love with picture book editing and children’s publishing. I have always been an artistic person and a reader, so learning that I can do both as a children’s book editor has been an amazing experience.
As part of my publishing internship, I also assisted the marketing and publicity department at Free Spirit. In June, I was able to meet with authors and attend publicity calls. While shadowing these meetings, I learned the kind of communication style I enjoy: simply getting to know the author and learning what they like and don’t like. During these calls, I assumed that, as an intern, I would mostly be ignored, but that wasn’t the case. I was asked multiple questions and helped find solutions. These calls were a great opportunity for me to develop connections with up-and-coming and established authors. I also learned about researching comp titles (from Free Spirit and other publishers) to figure out how to make a book stand out.
These are just a few of the amazing things I got to work on in June.
When the month of July came, I assisted in promoting the fourth annual Black Voices in Children’s Literature Writing Contest. I wrote emails and tweets and attended meetings for the contest, which highlights Black voices and stories. I was also able to go into my own community and invite people to submit their work.
In an author call that I shadowed, the author suggested that TikTok would be a great avenue for promoting her book. She asked me questions about what strategies she could use on this platform. After this conversation, my publicity mentor suggested I create the first-ever “How-To Guide to TikTok” for new and established Free Spirit authors who want to work with this platform. Through this project, I got the opportunity to look at TikTok in a more analytical way and to see how BookTok has changed the scope for literature. For the editorial part of my internship, I worked on providing notes on a new manuscript for the editor. And I assisted with editing backmatter for upcoming bilingual titles.
In July, I also had the opportunity to interview members of the editorial and marketing teams. When I came into the internship, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in publishing. Through these interviews, I was able to learn about what various people do in their day-to-day work. I was given some valuable advice and the opportunity to make connections, which are such an important asset to have, especially in publishing.
During the last month of my internship, I got to work with a new form of media: audiobooks. I was given the task of reviewing audiobooks and listening and looking for mistakes, such as timing being off, mispronunciations, and missing pages. I’d never worked with audiobooks before, so this was a great opportunity to learn more about this medium. I also participated in judging in the Black Voices contest and reviewed unsolicited manuscripts on Submittable. Through these projects, I learned about what Free Spirit editors are looking for in new titles and authors.
Through this internship, I’ve learned so much about publishing and editing. I was able to help seek out new authors through my work on the contest and with submissions and had the opportunity to talk to authors and learn more about them and their books. I wholeheartedly suggest applying for the Free Spirit internship program. You’ll learn so much in a short amount of time, but it’s all worth it.
Kolbe A. was the summer 2022 publishing intern at Free Spirit Publishing, has a B.A. in English, and is looking forward to a career in publishing.
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