How I got a Publishing Internship

I only graduated four months ago so my experience in publishing is insanely limited. I’m still on the hunt for a job, but I’ve now had two internships with the same publishing company and am a lot more confident in my knowledge of the publishing industry as a whole.

I know that I was incredibly lucky to get an internship when it’s so competitive and I thought it might be useful to share my tips on how I did it!

In honour of ‘Work in Publishing’ week, here are my top tips for getting a publishing internship:

Do Your Research

This should be fairly obvious, but you can’t just look up the five most popular publishers and send in random emails to them. Because the larger companies generally run work experience schemes (which you should definitely apply for!), they usually won’t respond to a random graduate asking for work. By all means, apply, but it’s definitely a good idea not to rely on these. It’s important to spend some time finding as many publishing firms as you possibly can.

I found it useful to make a spreadsheet of all of the companies that didn’t refuse cold emails (it’s useless to apply for a company that explicitly states that they won’t respond) and their contact details. Trust me, there are way more publishers than you even knew existed and one of them might be the one that give you a chance!

Check Job Listings

Many places don’t mention internship schemes on their websites, but some do! It’s a long task if you’re going to search the internet for every publisher in a 20-mile radius (especially if you’re looking for work in London!) but it’s completely worth checking every careers page you find. Very few internships are listed on Publishing job-sites, so your best chance is to check with individual publishers on their sites.

If you find one of these internships, apply exactly how they ask you to. Look into their specific titles and imprints and figure out a way to explain that, not only do you want to work in publishing, you want to work specifically for them. I didn’t have any luck with these types of applications, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t! Polish up your CV, write a cover letter that explains why you want to work in publishing and any relevant skills or experience you have, and cross your fingers.

Send Cold Emails

If you have no other leads, this is the most likely way you’re going to get an internship- this is the way I managed it! It’s terrifying to send out copies of your CV to people who have never heard of you and who probably won’t respond, but that’s half of the reason why it works. My boss during my internships told me that she respected the courage I had in randomly applying and that my cold emailing demonstrated a level of confidence that employers are looking for. Obviously, this isn’t a guaranteed way to get an internship, but it does mean that you’re getting your name out as far as possible. I had about ten publishers respond to me and say that they’d put my CV on file, one told me of an internship scheme that they would be running in the near future and another responded offering me a two-week placement.

To get so many responses, I had to email a lot of people. If you’re committed to doing this, your best shot is to send an email to every publisher you can find.

I did a lot of research on how to write a cold email/what to include/who to contact, so here are some of the websites that I found really useful:

Don’t Focus Solely on Publishers

If you’re looking for some experience in order to get a publishing job, or even if you just want more of an insight into the industry, publishing houses are not the only places you can apply for. There’s an incredible amount of literary agencies around that are equally likely to respond to an email with an internship opportunity that is just as interesting as one in a publishing house. Again, this requires research and persistence, but it’s a difficult industry to get into and applying to a wider range of companies can only increase your chances. Of course, if you’re looking for work in a specific department, this may not work, but if you’re open to any aspect of publishing, literary agents are incredibly knowledgeable about the industry and could provide you with just as much of an insight.

Do Some Extracurriculars

A lot of people are applying for publishing jobs and the majority of them are incredibly qualified. You won’t be the only person that’s sending cold emails or applying to internship schemes so you need to do something that really makes you stand out. I have a couple of publishing-related things on my CV that employers and interviewers have picked up on and taken interest in so, if you’ve got some free time, it’s always worth boosting your CV. The specific things I’ve used to boost my applications are reviewing books, volunteering in a bookshop, completing a children’s writing course and doing a fiction-focused EPQ in college. There are so many things you can do to make yourself noticeable and I’d really recommend going out of your way to try some of them if you get the chance!

Be Patient

I know that this is terrible advice, but it’s important. In such a competitive industry, an internship opportunity might not appear overnight. It’s so disheartening when you don’t hear back, but it just means you have to keep searching for opportunities, checking forums and sending out those emails. If you persist and be patient, I’m sure something will come up; it did for me!

I’d love to know if you found these helpful or if you have any advice to add to the list! Also, please let me know if you’re interested in these kinds of posts and if there’s anything else you’d like to know about publishing internships.

Best of luck in your internship search!

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