My first day of the three-month long internship at Melbourne University Publishing was surprisingly rewarding. I received two bottles of clearskin sparkling wine for one thing. Oh, and I learnt a bunch about the book publishing business.
I got there as close to 09:00 as possible, all geared up in suit. Naturally the first task at hand was moving 100+ boxes full of books from the basement into a truck. Apparently MUP is moving offices in the next month, just around the corner. Somehow I managed not to get my shirt too dusty, and a few boxes of wine were hidden among the books. Score!
Moving upstairs I was given a quick tour of the office. I assume that it’s you typical office (though I wouldn’t know) with open planning and meeting rooms, but the amount of books on display was pretty neat. With that done I was given a bunch of tasks: data entry for review copies, plugging in credit card details, researching upcoming literary awards, and, probably the most interesting, writing up a list of books to be sold the rights to punters at the Frankfurt Book Fair. I got to read all the media releases and notes for the upcoming books, which ties directly into one of my current units. Each publishing house has its own templates for such releases, and I tried to absorb how MUP did theirs. Hopefully I’ll see a bit of cross-pollination between the real world publishing and what I learn in the classroom, thereby helping me in both areas. It may seem like boring work, but the day disappeared, and I relished it.
The coolest part of it all was listening in on all the face to face and phone conversations that took place. Chat about non-existent ebook sales, how best to get an author around the country, and various other marketing chat bounced around, and I tried to keep an ear on it all. The amount of budgetary arguments and discussion was quite heated too—it made me fully realise how thin margins are in the publishing world. I felt like I should have taken notes on how to pose tricky marketing questions over the phone, but of course I was busy doing the lowly jobs. However, at one stage somebody asked me for my opinion on a cover design, which not only got me involved with the others, but let me see how you have to juggle publisher, author and designer expectations. When I got to uni that night, the lecture was on precisely that. None of the designs they showed for the true crime novel really grabbed me, and the only one interesting cover was rejected by the author (it had made her burst into tears; too many bloodstains). But it all ended well, with the author eventually caving. Trust your designer!
So that was my first day, and honestly it bodes well for the rest of them.