This spring I had the pleasure of spending my Tuesdays with the wonderful team at Alban Books. Alban provides sales and marketing in the UK and Europe for several US-based religious publishers – one of which, coincidentally, is located in my former home of Grand Rapids Michigan. Clearly this internship was meant to be!

Elaine, Jonny, Margaret and Laura made me welcome from the start, and I soon looked forward to my morning journeys to their office in picturesque Dean Village. Working as part of a small team was ideal; not only did it allow me to interact with everyone and tackle a few projects for each of them, I truly felt like part of the group. Rather than being squirreled away in a corner, my desk put me right in the middle of operations, where I could chat, ask questions, and learn through osmosis about how the company works day to day beyond my own particular duties.

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Me with my brilliant supervisor Elaine!

My supervisor Elaine got me started with logins to the Vista inventory system, and one of my first projects was checking book prices there and updating them on AI sheets. Since Alban sells American books and their prices are based on the RRP dictated by American publishers, the recent drop in the value of the pound required recalculating our current list prices. Alban was uniquely instructive in entailing this international component; other considerations like the time constraints of transatlantic shipping and the cost of ocean versus airfreight affect schedules and planning on a day-to-day basis. As a wandering half-expatriate, I enjoyed seeing these components and how ties across countries affect each other.

During the London Book Fair, our Managing Director Jonny invited me to sit in on meetings with Alban’s distributor and shipper, which was an instructive addition to a whirlwind week. Seeing professional ties and networking in action brings to life who knows who in the industry and how connections are maintained; Jonny was especially helpful in this regard and even took the time to help me brainstorm networking avenues for an independent project of my own.

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The team: Margaret, Laura and Elaine (sadly Jonny was away that day!)

Over ten weeks I designed AI sheets and series flyers, managed product databases on Alban’s website and Amazon, entered new titles into BooksoniX, worked with spreadsheets and sales packets, and grew considerably more confident in my abilities. Work placements like these are instrumental in contextualising the skills we learn in postgraduate programs, and though I’ve worked in professional environments before, my time at Alban showed me how I can be a valued and respected employee in the publishing industry specifically.

I would recommend a stint at Alban to anyone interested in enhancing their industry experience and their familiarity with marketing and administration skills. The team is both informative and encouraging – they actively work to make interns’ experiences worthwhile, and that makes all the difference.