How To Get A Publishing Internship
1) Search for internships.
Check out these websites to search for internships and entry level jobs in publishing:
2) Use Twitter, blogs, and websites.
Follow agents, editors, literary agencies, and publishing houses that you might want to intern for, both on their blogs and on Twitter. Check publisher's websites often for openings (for example, Penguin has internships posted). And then... be patient. You never know when an internship will pop up. Make sure you tell your friends you're looking, in case they see or hear anything.
3) Consider if you're willing to move to New York.
I hate to say this (as someone who lives in Los Angeles) but most of the jobs and internships are in New York. When you check the websites listed above you'll see what I mean. If you want to pursue a job in publishing as a serious career path, you might want to consider relocating.
But if you can't move, don't give up hope! Thanks to the internet, many literary agents and publishers (especially small presses) are located outside of New York, and there are more openings for people in other locations than ever before. Many internships also allow you to telecommute.
4) Get experience any way you can.
-Read industry blogs and newsletters, and try to keep up to date on what's going on in the publishing world. Some good ones to follow are Publisher's Weekly, GalleyCat, Publisher's Marketplace, and Shelf Awareness.
-Consider joining an organization like SCBWI or RWA - they're a great way to make contacts, and it also looks good on resumes (and query letters!).
-Go to conferences and local events such as book signings or workshops, if possible.
-Read a lot of books in the genre or category you want to work in, and stay on top of popular and upcoming books even if you don't read them.
-Write for school newspapers, websites, blogs, or anything else you can get experience in. Being active on Twitter is also a big plus.
-Consider how the skills in your job, school, or your other interests could relate to your potential internship position. For example, I worked at a law firm in a position that required me to send professional emails and to deal with difficult people every day. On my cover letter I explained how those skills could translate to dealing with the slush pile.
-You do not need to be an English major in college, or have an MFA in creative writing (but it doesn't hurt either!).
5) Be professional.
-Always be professional, courteous, and friendly - both online and in person.
-Your cover letter and resume should be both professional and polished. Get at least one other person to read them before you send them out.
-Like a query letter, personalize your cover letter to the agent or editor. Tell that person why you want to work with them specifically. For example, mention books they've worked on that you've enjoyed.
-Don't lie in your cover letter or resume, as it will only come back to haunt you.
-Don't be scared to talk to agents or editors at events or on Twitter - they're real people too.
-That said, don't be a creepy stalker or a weirdo. And remember, no one owes you anything.
-Don't expect to get paid - most internships have you working for free. Learn to love the ramen.
-If you don't get an internship, keep trying. Like looking for a job or querying agents, it takes time and persistence before you get an offer. But once you get your foot in the door it will be much easier in the future.
Literary agent Joanna Volpe also has two excellent posts on How To Become An Agent Part 1 and Part 2. Alexandra Bracken also has a post about internships, and I blogged about my experience as an intern, if you'd like to know more about what it's like. And you should definitely check out Intern In Publishing for some laughs!
Please let me know if you have any questions! Or, if you're an intern, do you have any advice for others?