The Life of an Editorial Intern

Imagine reading a new book every week; Imagine getting your hands on a novel before it has even come out. Before it has hit the stands, pre-printing edition. Fresh and innovative voices floating around your head. You get to read a novel that no one else has read yet, and your opinion on it matters. That is the life of an editorial intern – glammed up of course. 

As an editorial intern, I read several manuscripts every week. Each manuscript is a book proposal from aspiring authors, established writers, or literary agents that are sent directly to the publishing house. The publisher or editor in chief then sends out select manuscripts within my area of interest for me to read and evaluate. Most of the manuscripts are fiction submission or short story fiction collections. I spend the first few days of my week reading the manuscript or manuscripts, just like a regular book lover. 

If I am loving the submission, I will finish the entire manuscript – a whole book within 3 days. If it is one that I am not connecting with or enjoying as much, I will read the first 100 pages. If you read 80-100 pages of a book and you're still not into it, odds are you won't ever be. That is a standard publishing fact. People who read the first 100 pages or 4 chapters of a book and don’t like it will put the book down, and never pick it back up again. Reading these submissions is my favorite part of this position. It would be incredible if a submission that I evaluated one day ended up on my bookshelf.

After I've read the first manuscript I will jot down some important notes and move onto the second one. When reading I am simply reading as a book lover, instead of with an editing mindset. These manuscripts are only perspective publications, so the editing process is not until a contract is signed.  Once I've finished my reading assignments for the week, I evaluate them.  

A manuscript evaluation is simple but can be time consuming. Each one has to include a summary of the work. A brief description of the piece, including the crucial details for the publisher to look over. Additionally, I will write about the audience I think would fit well with the piece. It is important to be specific and detailed, so the publisher knows whether or not this piece would work well for the house. For example, I can't just say young adults. I would instead say young adults who are interested in zombie stories with a romantic twist—this is just an example, and not a real manuscript I received. 

Next, I evaluate what works well within the piece. Think back to an entry level English or writing class, remember going around the class saying a pro about the essay you all read? That’s essentially this section, but much more detailed and precise. I have to focus on things that sell well for fiction novels, and specifically what the publishing house creates. Lastly, I get to include my personal opinion. The manuscript could've been fantastic writing and a perfect fit for the house, but I completely hated it. That is totally fine, and it happens frequently. Editors and editorial assistants are the voices of a publishing houses. The publisher often does not have time to read each manuscript that comes in, so they appreciate honest opinions of those who are at the front lines of the business.  

This internship is obviously heavily reading based, but there is a decent amount of writing involved too. Editorial interns assist with special projects that are happening within the publishing house, as well as create content posts. Of course, there is some editing involved too. Interns assist with copy editing and proofreading for e-books as well.  

On top of all of this, I meet with the Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of the house weekly. Our meetings last for about 45 minutes to discuss the manuscripts of the previous week, and the upcoming ones. We also discuss the process for the manuscripts that are passed on. Each week we also discuss how I am doing within the internship and my progress. 

Being an editorial intern is time consuming, but an absolutely amazing experience. You receive hands on experience, and a direct insight into the literary world. I am incredibly thankful for this opportunity, and I recommended that anyone remotely interested in publishing or editing reach out to local presses.