Editorial Internship at Fledgling Press

When you want to get your foot in the door of an industry, it’s often advised that you carry out a substantial period of work experience with an appropriate company; undertaking an internship not only allows you to experience first-hand, the environment you hope to someday work in, but it also looks great on your CV. However, the prospect of working unpaid for a length of time can be incredibly daunting and this is why it’s particularly important the company you’re working for recognises that and does everything they can to help you in other ways.

When I responded to Fledgling’s advert for Editorial work experience, I was not initially aware of what the working hours would be, I just knew that I wanted to apply and if successful, do everything I could to commit to the hours asked of me. I’d been aware of the publisher beforehand and admired their commitment to publishing debut authors as much as possible.

‘Fledgling Press are an independent publisher in Edinburgh, committed to publishing work by debut authors, emerging talent and new voices in the literary world.’

They also state on their website that they ‘have a healthy intern programme where [interns] don’t just have to make the tea.’ I in no way expected to be successful, having (I’ll admit) missed my initial interview slot because I went to the entirely wrong address. So, after the rescheduled interview and heading home annoyed at myself, I was shocked and delighted when Clare Cain emailed me to offer me the placement.

What I want to share the most about my experience so far is how completely and utterly accommodating and understanding Clare has been from the outset. When she emailed me offering me the position, she stated that it would be around six months long (February to September), but that the hours were one day a week on Wednesdays, 9:30am-3:30pm, 45-minute lunch break inclusive. That though the placement itself is unpaid, travel expenses would be taken care of and that come September, if I don’t want to leave or am looking for a job and feel it beneficial to stay, then I certainly can.

In addition to this flexibility, on a weekly basis Clare asks me how my course is going, what my workload is like and if I’d rather not come in the following week in order to focus on my studies. Though I have not yet felt the need to take any time off, it is incredibly comforting to know that I need only phone in, to let Clare know I won’t be able to make it, and that it would truly be okay.

Fledgling Press is run from Clare’s home in Portobello, by herself, husband Paul and designer Graham. Myself, Clare and a fellow intern spend our Wednesday’s sitting around the kitchen table, drinking copious amounts of tea (always offered to us by Clare) and trying our best not to get distracted by her beautiful dog, Charlie. Clare’s family are also often around, equally as welcoming as Clare, and with one daughter at university herself and another at the end of high school, it’s easy to relate and chat away about all our different career goals.

In terms of my involvement with the work itself, I cannot commend Clare enough for the access and control she gave me right from the beginning. On the first day, I was given login details to submissions, encouraged to turn down those I felt were better suited to a different publisher’s list, and to request the full manuscript of those I was interested in. At first, I was trepidatious about turning people down, reading as much as I could, convinced I would decide they were suited to us. Clare laughed nostalgically at this and assured me she was the same when she first started out. But that to keep up with the volume of submissions, you had to have the heart to say no and move on.

As Fledgling are a small, independent publisher, typesetting is done in-house, and I’ve had the opportunity to put the skills I’ve been learning in class to the test, sometimes even surprising myself when I’ve been able to show Clare something about InDesign she didn’t know. Though the role is Editorial, it has become clear to me that the roles are widely shared in a small publishing house and it’s all the more enjoyable for that. In my interview, I asked Clare what it is that makes someone really stand out to her, someone she can see going far in the industry, and she replied that an awareness of the industry as a whole is essential. It bodes well for someone to have an understanding of the areas outside of their own.

Though I could write forever about how much I’m enjoying my time there, I will say one more thing. The first full manuscript I worked on, where I carried out the final proof, was a genre I would never usually intend to read. However, I treated the writing with immediate respect and sat down, ready to pay full attention and to try to understand the author’s vision and world they had worked so hard to create. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement and I spent a great deal of time after, gushing to Clare about how much I loved it and how wonderful it was that I was one of the first people to ever see the work before it becomes a book.

I can assure you that travelling that little bit farther (really only a 30-minute bus journey from the city centre) to a little seaside town every Wednesday has been, and I’m sure will continue to be incredibly worth my time. I am learning so much from a powerhouse of a woman who has truly made Fledgling Press what it is today, and I feel nothing less than valued for the help I am able to give, as a complete beginner in this exciting, supportive and passionate industry that is publishing.

 

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Work Placement at Word Power Books

Inside Word Power Books

I was excited about doing a placement at Word Power Books, an independent and self-proclaimed radical bookshop in central Edinburgh, because there are books there that you would never find in large chain shops: bilingual children’s books; self-published magazines and pamphlets; and fiction from around the world. I was also keen to see what life was like on the other side of publishing.

My work at Word Power has been varied. I got to design new category signs, to make the shelves easier to navigate. I served drinks to guests at the launch of Jenni Fagan’s The Panopticon (chosen as a Waterstone’s 11 title). I also did some stocktaking, which helped me to get familiar with a lot of the shop stock, and tempted me to buy a few books.

Mainly, I have been observing rep meetings. It’s interesting to see how a potential book is pitched to a bookseller, and just how quickly they will flick through each AI sheet before making a decision (each has about three seconds). Apparently, the three most important things that a bookseller looks for are the price, the cover and the format, so AI sheets that have this information displayed clearly will stand a better chance of being picked up.

Each rep had a different selling technique. Some would try to push for the manager to take books she wasn’t sure about. Others were more relaxed, knowing the type of books she was interested in, and let her make her own mind up, happy to take an order for just one book if that’s all she was interested in. The reps often commented on how friendly it was in the bookshop, compared to others they had been to.

I have found out a lot through working in a bookshop that I never would have otherwise. For instance, although a publisher might think a pure white cover hardback book looks nice, every bookseller knows that within 5 minutes of it being out on display, it will be grubby with fingerprints and dirt. When designing book covers, I had never considered practicality along with aesthetics before.

Word Power have been keeping up with the times and have introduced a website, much like Amazon, where you can order books with the click of a button that they will dispatch. I was surprised to find that their orders come from all over the world, even from as far away as Australia.

Doing work experience in a bookshop has made me feel like I have a more rounded knowledge of the book trade. Before, I had only ever considered things from a publisher’s point of view, and not thought about how a bookseller makes a living.

When I was at the London Book Fair in April, it seemed like every sector of the publishing world was separated, not listening to the concerns of each other. Authors lamented: “We’re expected to speak to our readers via social media, but publishers don’t teach authors how to and don’t ask them if they want to”, while publishers advised us to “Always go with the self-promoting author”.

After working in Word Power, my opinion is even stronger now that publishers and booksellers should be communicating more if they want to navigate the challenges of the digital age.

You can find out more about Word Power Books by visiting their website, or by following them on Facebook or Twitter.