Where Literary Legends Are Born

Intern Words of Wisdom

With summer fast approaching, we know that many aspiring publishing folks will be on the hunt for internships. And, with our fantastic spring interns leaving us this week (sob!), we thought it would be a good time for them to share their wisdom about what they’ve learned during their time at M&O and advice they have for anyone thinking about diving into an internship. Here’s what they had to say:

Justin: Interning is a learning experience as much as it is a job. I can’t speak for every company in the publishing industry, but I know that M&O provides an experience that has interns working on various projects, such that I really got to know the agency side of publishing during my time here. Be prepared to not have a firm job description at your internship; be flexible and eager to learn from any job you are given, no matter how exciting or tedious. In my time here at M&O I’ve read some really great manuscripts, worked on interesting research projects, and assembled the mail. And I can honestly say that I learned from each experience. Whether you’re an aspiring writer, someone who really wants to work in publishing, or both, you will learn a lot from an internship in the industry that will no doubt be valuable in the future.

Michelle: I had a diverse learning experience as a spring intern here at M&O. Not only did I read manuscripts, which is what most publishing interns do, I also did mailing, learned about sub rights and how to read contracts. There are also a lot of different tasks that come up on a daily basis, so don’t expect your job to be the same every day. You learn that there is a lotof  work that goes on behind the scenes of the books we all love, before and after they’ve been published. Whether you are set on working in publishing, or a young aspiring writer, or you just have no idea what to do with your liberal arts degree, interning at a literary agency is a great introduction to the publishing industry. To anyone who’s thinking about taking an internship, I say: do it! Taking an internship even if you are still in school will add so much more to your education.

Trisha: Interning at McIntosh and Otis has been a truly eye-opening experience! Having never interned before, I’ve certainly learned a few things during my time here. But I’ll keep the list to three:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! This is true for any place at which you choose to intern. One of the main reasons you’re there is to learn about the industry. The best way to figure out if publishing is for you is to be inquisitive and curious. You might feel like admitting that there are things you don’t understand will leave you stuck looking silly or incompetent, but the opposite is true. This is your time to really experience the industry, so make good use of it, and of the resources that surround you. Don’t cheat yourself. You’ll only be benefiting yourself in the end!
  1. Expect to be doing things outside of your field of interest. I’m a fan of editorial – like everyone else, it seems – but starting out, you’ll definitely be doing your bit of work outside of that area. That might very well mean doing things you don’t necessarily enjoy or find interesting. And that’s okay! But keep an open mind about your tasks, and give them your all regardless. You might realize you enjoy a particular area of expertise more than you thought! Or not. At the very least, you’ve expanded your knowledge and made yourself that much more useful. Every little bit helps!
  1. Expect to make mistakes. You probably won’t know everything coming into the office; that was the case for me, and I had no idea what to expect. The perfectionist attitude is helpful to a point, but it can also paralyze you, preventing you from really getting involved and learning. The part of your brain that is terrified to fail will, if allowed too much strength, take you down and hold you back. Expect that you’ll definitely mess something up one day or another. And then learn from it and move on. Don’t let accidents keep you from moving forward. Instead, show that you can readjust quickly, and promise yourself that you’ll do better the next time the opportunity presents itself. Others will notice how you’ve improved and grown!Granted, the internship learning experience is much easier and more fulfilling when you’re surrounded by wonderful and supportive people (like here at M&O!). But the three things listed above are useful anywhere you go, no matter the industry. Remember to take full advantage of your opportunity, and you’ll go far!

A huge thanks to our spring interns for all of their wonderful work and great advice above. For those interested, M&O’s Children’s Department is still accepting applications for a summer in-office intern and a remote reader. Best of luck to our departing interns and to those on the hunt!