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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

What does a publishing intern do?

It’s always been a dream of mine to work in publishing. 

Okay, maybe that’s not strictly true. When I was four, I’m pretty sure that I wanted to be a pop star. I mean, who didn’t, right? But from about the age of six onwards, when I'd just fallen in love with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and with reading in general, I always knew that I wanted to work with books.

So you can imagine how lucky I feel (cringe) to have had the opportunity to intern with not one, but TWO of the biggest, busiest publishing houses in the whole of Britain. Now that I've finished my placements, I want to give a tiny bit of insight to anybody who might be considering a career in this wonderful industry.

Phase one of ‘Hannah Does Publishing Stuff’: Penguin Random House UK

Outside the Ealing branch of PRH.
In September 2015, I was 22, had just graduated, and had no idea what I was doing with my life. After a solid month of applying, and re-applying, and re-re-applying to every publishing work experience opportunity I could find (mostly through the 'Random House Work Experience' Facebook page and the 'Harper Collins Jobs' Twitter account), I got an email from Penguin Random House’s HR team. I was being offered a two-week placement in the Marketing and Publicity department of Random House Children’s Publishers. Cue endless amounts of squealing and self-congratulatory social media posts.

Most publishers have separate Marketing and Publicity departments, but some (like RHCP) combine theirs. Whilst they are very similar in ways, they do do slightly different jobs. 

Marketing departments deal specifically with getting the book in front of the consumers - making them aware of it. Think social media posts, reaching out to book bloggers to offer them the chance to review a new release, and striking up deals with advertising companies. Publicity, on the other hand, deals with reaching out to the media, instead of the potential buyer. Organising book tours and launches, alerting the press to a new release, and setting up author radio or television appearances all falls to the publicity department. 

Everybody went to lunch, so I took a selfie... (of course)
The first thing you need to know: if you are Marketing intern, you will do a LOT of mailings. A mailing is just sending a book or poster out, to either a blogger, competition winner, or – if they ask very nicely – even a school or library. There are shelves everywhere around the office absolutely stuffed with books, so it’s your job to hunt around for a copy of the book that needs sending out.

Random House Children's Publishers are the publishers of Jacqueline Wilson's books, and one of the first things I was told I’d be doing was looking after, reading and approving her fan mail. As if she wasn't hyperventilating enough already, my inner eleven-year-old pretty much self-combusted at this point. I wasn't allowed to take a photo, but let me tell you - that (amazing, wonderful, awe-inspiring) woman gets a LOT of mail.

Apart from mailings and fan mail, my duties ranged from creating a press release (an A5 ‘poster’ of the book’s seeling points, plus its publishing info and a bit about the author), to updating the author and book information on the Penguin internal database, to running down Ealing High Street to nab a quote for a cake with an A4-sized photo of John Boyne's face on it. I also gift wrapped and sent copies of a sleeping aid book, 'The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep' to some pretty big names, including the Beckhams, Gwyeth Paltrow, and most of The Saturdays' and their partners.

The launch of Jacqueline Wilson’s latest release, Little Stars, happened in my second week. Us interns didn’t get invited to the launch (*sign*), but we did get to fill 500 goodie bags full of posters, pens, T-shirts and postcards for an entire day! So everybody won really, right?! (Wrong. I still have paper cuts). I also worked closely with one staff member on a big social media campaign for The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle, and helped to create some Buzzfeed-style articles to be published on the Twitter feed.

Phase two of ‘Hannah Does Publishing Stuff’: Harper Collins UK

Reading Holly Bourne instead of serving mulled wine.
Let’s skip forward to December 2015. I now work at WinterVille, which is like a smaller, grimmer, less festive version of Winter Wonderland. To top it off, it's based in Hackney. I’m freezing cold, thoroughly disillusioned about graduate life, and fed up.
During my second week of working there, an angel calls me. This angel is called Melissa, and she offers me a Marketing placement with Harper Collins UK.

Harper Collins' headquarters are in The News Building, which is an absolutely HUGE office block based in London Bridge. They somehow beat out their office block buddies, The Sun and The Times to nab the top two floors, and honestly, the view alone is worth trying to get a placement there.

My placement was with the imprint 'Harper Fiction'. More specifically, I was working under the Brand Manager of The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Agatha Christie. I’m not going to lie, a LOT of this placement was sending books to competition winners and bloggers. Not that I was complaining, trust me. 

Other tasks included drafting Tweet copy for book events such as '12 Days of Kindle’, which was Amazon’s promotional post-Christmas e-book sale. I also Tweeted to promote the BBC version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which aired on Boxing Day (if you didn’t see it, you SERIOUSLY missed out. YouTube it. DO IT NOW).  

Trying (and failing) to look annoyed at having to gift wrap.
I was only at this placement for a week, but during my short time there, I set up Goodreads competitions, created PowerPoint presentations of 2016 releases to be forwarded to book clubs, proofread promotional materials of the latest releases to be sent out to bloggers, wrote an email to be sent to Harper Collins website subscribers advertising The Art of the Lord of the Rings (if anybody subscribes, that was totally me, y’all) and attended a GORGEOUS carol singing service in Southward Cathedral with the team on my last day.

And yep, just like with Random House Children's Publishers, I got an absolute HEAP of free books on my last day. All of them were brilliant, but I'd especially recommend Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, and Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom. 

A day in the life of a HC intern...
I had such an amazing time at both companies. It was such a joy to intern in a place where it was so obvious that everybody truly loved their job. Everybody was so welcoming and lovely, I considered just hiding in the loos on my last day and refusing to leave! (Spoiler: I didn't). And if I wasn't already, having these experiences has made me even more sure that publishing is the right career path for me. 

So there you go! That was a brief (ish) rundown of my experience with being a publishing intern. Let me know if you've ever done something similar, or, if you have any questions about interning at a publishing house, I'll try my best to answer them! 

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Hannah x



  1. This has definitely just confirmed for me that I want to work in publishing. Great post! So exciting!! X

    1. Thank you so much! I've been loving all of your posts too! Xx

  2. Wonderful post! I'd been looking in to publishing, particularly Marketing and Publicity so this was great to read :D I'm glad you had such great experiences!

    1. Oh, I'm so glad I could help! Definitely try and go to RHCP if you can, they're all super lovely! Xx

  3. Absolutely loved this post. Really interesting to see what entry-level type work in publishing actually looks like on a day to day basis. Thanks!

  4. You know when a post just randomly appears at the exact time you need it? This . . . this was one of those times. It was actually quite eerie - I was just thinking about publishing and how I should probably learn a bit more about it if want it to be a solid career option, and there you were! Thank you so much for being so helpful.

    Can I ask what sort of A-Levels and Degrees you took to get to this point? I've been googling but just making myself more confused.

    Thank you in advance for any help you can give me.

  5. I think your title is misleading as there are 900 different kinds of interns from editorial, marketing, publicity, production, art to sales and contracts. You should be more specific because each intern has different roles, responsibilities and overall interaction with books. As someone who was a digital marketing intern who dabbled in publicity, marketing and editorial (because I'm super efficient and everyone loves when you have time to get shit done), I can definitely say what I did. I'm glad you enjoyed your time in publishing, though.

    S .x http://ramblingsofayoungprgirl.blogspot.com

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  7. This is so odd reading this again now Hannah, as I came across this post before I embarked on a 2 month trip to London all the way from AUS to do an internship (at a company unrelated to publishing). I remember wishing for the same opportunity as you, because publishing is the field I really want to pursue...and I ended up staying an extra two weeks in London after my original internship as I landed a work experience placement at Vintage!

    I think this post gave me that extra dash of determination to go for the placement! Now I'm back home and absolutely terrified about my life post-university, but I find comfort in this post once again :) I just have to remind myself to never give up (even though being unemployed is SO soul destroying).

    I wish you all the best and thank you again.


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