You will be doing a good amount of work in a publishing internship. One thing I will note is that you will be reading – a lot. (Which is good, because it prepares you for a future within publishing.) You will also be giving your recommendation to agents or editors about the manuscripts you read.
In my past two internships in publishing, I worked at both ends of the process. My first was at a literary agency, and then I worked as an editorial intern. In both of those internships, reading was the main focus. You will (hopefully) be given a lot of manuscripts and proposals and asked to read them. You will then be told that you need to hand in a reader’s report. (Don’t worry if that sounds daunting- I was scared of them at first too.)
I will say this: you will never have to go into an internship already knowing how to write one of these. Your employer will most likely explain what they’re looking for. However, it can never hurt to get a head start wherever you can.
A reader’s report can vary from company to company, but the basis of them are always usually the same:
- Start with a description of the proposal you received. That means give the name, author, length, genre, type of book, etc. Also be sure to include your own name and the date you handed it in.
- Provide a short summary of the reading for the agent or editor. There is a chance they have never read the proposal, and might not have the time to read through it. That being said, only give what is absolutely necessary to know for the story. Agents and editors do not have the time to read through pages of a synopsis.
- You might be asked to create a tagline for the book. This is the one to two sentence blurb that is used to draw in readers.
- You could be asked to do some research and learn about the marketability of the book. The agent or editor will want to know if there is already a market for a book like this, or maybe even if the market is too crowded and might be overlooked. This might be the most important part of the report if it is asked of you, as it shows your eye for trends and what can sell.
- Finally, you’ll have to give your commentary on the book. Tell the agent or editor everything you loved or hated about the manuscript. If there were moments that simply felt off, talk about them. If you really loved, or hated, the main character, make it known and explain why. Everything in this section is coming from a gut reaction to the proposal, and because of this, it is incredibly important to read through the manuscript with a very critical eye. My biggest piece of advice for this is: be honest, assertive, and detailed. Everything you have said in the commentary section should make your final recommendation obvious: approval or rejection. However, there are moments when you simply don’t know, and might ask for another opinion. That’s fine, but be sure to explain why you feel uncertain, and why you’d like another pair of eyes to examine it. That being said: do not do this for every report that comes your way. It is important that the agent or editor sees that you can make a definitive decision and back up why you feel that way with strong evidence.
- In the last sentence of the reader’s report, you will have to give your suggestion to the agent or editor.
Not every manuscript that is sent your way will be appropriate to publish. Interns need to know that there will be more rejections you send out as an agent or editor than approvals.