Agency Lessons: Internships

As you guys know, I recently opened the doors to bring on a new intern. Big shout out to Ethan Gregory who has already hit the ground running. :) Exciting times for sure.

But then I saw a few posts on a public forum that pointed out my post states the internship is "unpaid with no guarantee of advancement in the agency". The posters warned others away from applying.

At first I was sad that someone would think I was trying to take advantage of people looking to get into publishing. But then I realized that this is just a case of not enough information to go around. Today I want to clear up a few misconceptions around how internships work in publishing.

First, let me say that this is based on my own experience and YMMV.

I was an intern. I started out right here at Corvisiero and worked for about 7 months doing all kinds of tasks around the agency before I was promoted to an apprentice. Those 7 months were crucial!

It was during that time that I got the chance to find out if this was really something I wanted to do. I got to see the highs, lows and everything inbetween. I was able to get a real sense of all the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of an announcement on Publisher's Marketplace. Without that opportunity, I would have gone into the agency with some highly unrealistic expectations and probably fizzled out, taking clients with me.

There is no degree program for becoming an agent. Plenty of folks have degrees in English. Mine is in Communication. None of that matters. You can't go to school and learn the skills needed to be a good agent. This is not a job like accounting or engineering. An internship gave me the chance to develop those skills before I put someone's writing career on the line. While I still learn every day as an agent, I was able to get over the steepest learning curve in a safe environment.

To the issue of the internship not being paid. Let me just clarify some things. In case you didn't know, there isn't much money in publishing. Anywhere in publishing. Except for the few, most of us (writers, agents, editors, etc.) don't make much. We do this because we love it. And there is a long tail to making money as an agent. I don't get paid until my authors get paid. It takes a while before you make your first sale, and even longer before the royalties start coming in. The internship isn't unpaid because I am a cheap SOB who wants to watch minions suffer. It is unpaid because there is no money to pay an intern.

This is the road to publishing. Is it perfect? Certainly not. But it is what we have at the moment. And it works. For me and hundreds of other publisher professionals, this course got us to where we are.

If you are still in school and thinking about publishing at all, I highly recommend applying for a summer internship, or many of them. Get your experience in while you are still in the safety net of college so you can graduate into a paid position.

If you are like me, and had no idea this is what you wanted to do until now, don't give up. It might mean you have to make some sacrifices. So figure out how much you want it and go for it.