To start this post with a quick update about how the program is going so far: the first week here in Dublin has felt like an entire three weeks already and like the blink of an eye. It’s hard to believe that exactly a week ago, I was waiting for my plane at JFK Airport. So much has happened between now and then, but there are also so many things I still want to do in Dublin and so many things that I still have to learn about the city. Getting to Dublin and to the UCD campus was a little challenging; my overnight flight from JFK to Dublin was canceled at midnight, and I had to wait a whole extra day to be rebooked on a flight. Despite missing the first official day of my program, I feel like I have caught up and have used this past week to experience some really great things to do in and around Dublin (the picture at the start of this post is from our trip to Glendalough, which was such a beautiful area to experience in-person).
For my International Internship Program, I am interning with New Island Books. New Island is an independent publisher in Dublin that prints primarily literary fiction and Irish-interest non-fiction. I’ve never had an internship or any experiences in professional publishing, so my internship with New Island will be an introduction to the publishing industry for me.
Although I don’t have much “inside” knowledge about what skills and strengths are important for success in publishing, I have heard some information from professors at Pitt, published authors, and my supervisors at New Island. One of the most important skills in any industry, but especially in publishing, is good communication. Being a strong, clear communicator is necessary at both a macro and micro level. On a small scale, being a strong communicator helps eliminate avoidable mistakes and frustrations. Asking questions, following up with team members, and being very explicit and clear in all written communications will ensure that operations are running smoothly – in both publishing and non-publishing environments. Even as I was going through my interview placement process, my written communication skills were essential for scheduling my virtual internship confirmation meeting and getting on the same page as my supervisors at New Island.
Another skill that is essential in the publishing industry is being able to meet and stick to set deadlines. Because publishing is all about producing and finalizing books that are promised to readers on certain dates, being able to follow an established work timeline is critical for the success of a publishing house. While there may be many different components that go into publishing a book, each of these individual aspects of the publication process have to coordinate and synch up in specific ways. If individual members and departments of this production chain are unable to finish their part of a project in a timely way, that will throw off the rest of the production process. If these different departments are unable to coordinate effectively and efficiently and are unable to meet the set deadlines, the book production process (and subsequently, the viability of a publisher) is negatively impacted.
Similarly, being a good multitasker is extremely important when working in publishing. As an intern at New Island, I will be working on tasks and projects from all departments – not just from one, singular department. Due to the variety and variability of my internship tasks, I will need to be able to multitask and balance many responsibilities at the same time. This will primarily involve time management and prioritizing tasks based on their established deadlines. Because publishing is a collaborative process among all of the branches of a publishing house, being able to multitask and keep track of a few different assignments at the same time is key.
The importance of multitasking also goes hand-in-hand with the importance of flexibility in publishing. All of the editors, marketers, and writers that I’ve heard speak about the publishing industry have stressed the “all hands on deck” culture of working in book production. Even though there are specific departments, everyone is expected to roll with any sudden changes or alterations that come up. Even though addressing rapid changes is challenging, being able to take these challenges in stride allows people working in publishing to move onto their next task and – again – to stay on track with publication deadlines.
One of the skills that is more specific to the publishing industry is the ability to write and edit well and the ability to pay close attention to detail. Books are products that require a significant amount of time, energy, and care to publish, and each step of this publishing process necessitates thoughtfulness and care. Consequently, someone working in the publishing industry needs to have an aptitude for identifying subtle mistakes and hidden places for improvement. For someone working on the editorial side of publishing, the ability to read a submitted draft and identify both larger-scale and smaller-scale areas of improvement is imperative for publishing the highest quality books and products.
One of the competencies that is specifically necessary for success in Ireland’s publishing industry seems to be knowledge of the local book market and the ability to understand the ways that Irish booksellers interact when doing business with each other. Although I’ve only had a small introduction to this aspect of Ireland’s publishing industry, I’ve heard from my supervisors at New Island about the outreach that New Island does to their potential clients and readers. As an intern at New Island, one of the possible tasks I will be doing is reaching out to all of New Island’s educational and academic contacts in Ireland to check-in about their purchases of New Island’s books and textbooks. This aspect of my publishing internship will require me to work on my interpersonal skills and to learn about the tone and attitude that is customary when making calls and interacting with other people in the Irish publishing sphere.