What I Learned as a Publishing Intern

Guest Post by Anna L. Davis

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What I Learned as a Publishing Intern

Ten years of writing from home, querying and plugging away at word count while breaking up sibling fights, can wear on the nerves. I wanted to learn more about the writing industry. I wanted to get out of the house, but still have time for my family. So with some hunting I found the perfect job: a part-time creative writing internship for Henery Press, a local mystery and suspense publisher.

The catch? It was unpaid.

After a conversation with my tolerant (and steadily employed) husband, I agreed to the job. Thus began my semi-formal instruction in book publishing. Oh, I knew a bit about publishing before I took the internship. I worked as an editor for the college paper, blogged regularly, even self-published a nonfiction book a while back. But much has changed since then, and this hip new publisher taught me what it takes to create and market novels in today’s volatile market.

I worked with some cool people out of a loft-style office in an artsy urban environment. We read through submissions and talked books while drinking coffee and jamming to Pandora (or sometimes the strains of hip-hop drifting up from the street below). We went to writer’s conferences and told people we worked in publishing. It was terribly exciting stuff for this write-from-home mom.

I learned more about publishing in six months interning, than in the previous ten years of trying to make it on my own as a writer. But I didn’t earn a dime. And this is perhaps the most important lesson gained: money should not be a writer’s goal.

Don’t get me wrong. Publishing is a business – a risky one. There are costs involved, and if you get a book published in today’s market, you better be out there doing everything possible to get that book moving off the shelves, not just for your own career, but also for the publisher who took a chance on your writing.

Creative writing should be about something deeper than money, though. In his book On Writing, Stephen King said, “Do you do it for the money, honey? The answer is no… I did it for the buzz. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”

When we as writers come to the blank page, we must set aside concerns about sales rankings and reviews. As writers we must focus on the words, not the money. We should sit at the keyboard and ponder the push and pull of sentences, the cadence of lines that spark emotion.

Yes, publishing is a business. This I know well. But writing?

Writing is for pleasure.

About the Author:

Anna L. Davis is a Dallas-area novelist who writes about flawed people, brain implants, and bio-surveillance. Read more about her internship at Henery Press on her blog, Invisible Ink.

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4 Comments

Filed under Guest Blog Post, Publishing, Uncategorized

4 responses to “What I Learned as a Publishing Intern

  1. Peggy Noonan a speech writer for President Reagan was asked at a Reagan administration reunion, “What do you now do, Peggy?”

    “I write,” she replied.

    “Oh,” the man said, “but what do you really do?”

    That’s pretty much the same answer I hear when I mention I’m a writer. So, yes, writing should be for pleasure and not for money.

    P.S. I now tell people that I’m working on a Phd in Armsaye. So, far no follow up questions.

    • Larry, I had to Google that one! And now my imagination is running wild with all kinds of stories, made up around armsaye as a field of study. I might need more coffee for this…

  2. Very true – I can confirm that, from an indie publisher’s point of view, it is also very much for passion, not money.

    If life was all about money, I’d be an accountant. Instead, life is about pleasure, words, reading and coffee. Thus, I’m a publisher.
    Worth (the lack of) every penny.

    • I completely agree. And I checked out the site for Fox & Raven… very cool stuff. “Publishing books on the Southern tip of the African continent” sounds like a terrific and pleasurable way to spend the days.

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