How to Land a Publishing Internship

Updated on July 27, 2019
Rachel Aldinger profile image

Rachel is an avid reader and writer of young adult literature.

While publishing is a competitive industry, it is possible to find jobs and be hired as an intern, so long as given time and persistence, along with objective qualifications needed for a given position. I will be assessing some industry options as well as emphasize the importance of persistence in the publishing industry.

Simple Overview Of Internship Process

What is an Internship?

An internship is defined as a learning and educational experience which is supervised by an industry professional. Some internships are able to be transferred as school credit while others are offered as paid internships. Some are both!

Publishing internships will vary dependent on the company and what they are looking for in an intern. Some companies may have interns to assist in reading author submissions, while others may have interns work in an editorial position under a specific department such as Children’s literature, or genre, such as non-fiction. Positions may also include working under different departments such as Publicity and Sales. Some internships may be an overview of the field as a whole, while others may have various interns specializing in specific departments. It’s important to be open to the many available positions, while also researching companies that offer the position you’re pursuing. Some internship application deadlines are prior to each semester, while other companies accept applications on a rolling basis.

Available Positions

Those interested in the publishing industry can work in any department from finance to publicity, to editorial, etc. When applying for any position, it's important to follow the application instructions, as instructions may vary by company.

I have listed two common industry sections to pursue internships: Literary Agency and Publishing House. It is also best to utilize a company’s department guide or descriptions of available positions in order to decide what department is the best fit. Also consider what genre you’re most interested in working with, as some companies specialize in various categories.

1. Literary Agency

A Literary Agency represents authors to publishing houses. Agents work as an author’s advocate in the industry and assist them in a variety of ways from polishing their initial manuscript, submitting to publishing houses, to explaining publishing contracts. Primary employees are literary agents. Depending on the agency, there may also be literary assistants, a social media manager, or a Rights Director.

-It’s best to research agencies hiring interns. Any job listings will have information regarding what the position entails as each agency may have different job requirements dependent on the company needs.

2. Publishing House

A publishing house acquires new manuscripts, often working directly with submissions from literary agencies/agents. Publishing Houses work to produce a finished book product and bring it to readers. Positions at a publishing house may vary, but range from acquisitions editor to marketing, or even sales/finance.

-It’s best to research publishing houses hiring interns. Any job listings will have information regarding what the position entails as each publishing house may have different job requirements dependent on the company needs.

What's the Difference Between a Literary Agency and a Publishing House?

While both are similar, their main difference is in terms of author representation. An agent represents an author, and a publishing house looks to a literary agent to find quality novels. Both are excellent places to intern and offer valuable, but different perspectives of the industry and will teach interns important skills they can take with them into their next position.

Many Options!

Publishing is a large industry and isn’t limited to just literary agencies and publishing houses. Content publishing positions are also a great way to break into the industry. Content publishing positions may vary but consist of editorial positions at magazines, professional blogging platforms, and other online media. Some companies hire interns to write quality articles or blog posts on a regular basis. Content publishing is a great way to earn writing credentials while also gaining experience in the industry. While each internship position may differ, they all work under the umbrella term of the publishing industry as a whole.

Are Unpaid Internships Worth the Time and Additional Expenses?

Yes! Internships are a great way to network and gain experience in the field. If it’s possible to get a paid internship, this is the best option simply because it is a paid opportunity. Bonus points if academic credit is also possible. However, unpaid internships are still valuable, especially if completed for academic credit as well. Also, unpaid internships must adhere to stricter standards because interns are not being financially compensated for their work. Both unpaid and paid internships are valuable, the primary difference being unpaid interns are not financially compensated, but there are still benefits to working an unpaid internship. The knowledge base and mentorship opportunities included in the position are priceless.

Is There a Difference in Regards to Internships for School Credit?

Internships for school credit are when you can utilize the knowledge and time accumulated throughout the duration of an internship to your benefit by getting school credit. The internship is virtually the same, but you get school credit for it!

How Many Credits Can Be Earned with an Internship?

While this is dependent on the school’s policy, it’s possible for students to earn between one and six academic college credits through an internship program. The purpose of an internship is to learn more about the industry, not earn academic credit so it’s important for students hoping to obtain class credit to advocate for themselves to be sure the credits will transfer accordingly. The decision to credit a student for an internship is based on the school’s policy in addition to major criteria, the educational bent of the internship, and if the student has previously completed an internship for college credit. To know if an internship is eligible for class credit, a student should meet with an academic advisor to discuss their options.

Financial Considerations

In choosing between a paid and unpaid internship it’s important to note that there are several factors that go into this decision. For many, finances is a huge question, and many students simply cannot afford to work an internship that is unpaid. That being said, if an unpaid internship is the only option available, students must weigh the pros and cons of working the internship to see if the benefits are worth the cost. This is especially true when it comes to the consideration of remote internships, which can be worked from any location so long as the intern has internet access. Since New York City is the heart of publishing, a lot of internships are based on the East Coast so remote internships are an excellent option to consider if unable to temporarily relocate. That’s not to say that other internships can’t be found locally, but the majority may not be local to the area a prospective intern lives. Students who choose to relocate must factor in the cost of living for a semester in contrast to how much their internship pays, or doesn’t pay. Some internships offer housing, so sometimes it's a matter of finding the right opportunities within your budget while also considering long term future goals.

Additional Resources

  • It may also be helpful to visit the Association of Authors’ Representatives webpage. While this website is primarily for authors searching for literary agents to submit a manuscript to, the agents listed on this website are usually connected to an agency, so this will give a good overview of agencies that have well established agents to determine if an agency is reputable.
  • Online resources: Handshake: A job and intern search website for college students and recent graduates. Also, other job networking platforms such as Indeed,, and job search platforms for local areas.
  • Employer websites: If an intern knows specifically which companies they’d be interested in interning for, they can research these company’s websites to see if internships are offered. Some companies offer resources for those interested in interning and their website may reflect what they are looking for in an intern, in addition to what the position requires. For example, BookEnds Literary Agency’s website not only reflects their internship position, but additionally offers an educational video for how to land a publishing internship. Resources like this are great tools to enhance education on industry standards.
  • Follow blogs written by those working in the industry. Also check out their social media pages and follow those working jobs in departments you’re interested in pursuing. This is a simple thing, but these are priceless resources for those new to the industry because they are written by industry professionals, and often offer advice to those new to the industry. Public figures can be anyone from authors, to editors, to agency/publishing house associated blogs.
  • Young to Publishing is a great and informative resource to those new to the industry. Young to Publishing offers a newsletter, event invitations, glossary of terms for educational value, interviews with publishing professionals, free giveaways and much more.
  • According to WayUp, a website targeted toward college students and recent graduates, students should ask themselves the following questions when deciding upon an internship:
  1. What do you need to get out the internship?
  2. Which type of internship will be most helpful to your career path?
  3. Is there a possible future with the company?

Consider these questions during your search!

One of the most important things to remember about publishing is that it is a mentorship-based industry. An internship is the best way to start because it allows interns to get their foot in the door and learn more about the industry while also growing their network. Treat internships like a job and while it’s important to act professionally, interns shouldn’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions. In free time, read about the art of writing and read the genres you are most interested in pursuing. Take advantage of companies or industry professionals who promote content to educate beginners on the industry.

Students should also take advantage of college career services. If anything, career advisors can help guide the search for an internship, and may be able to refer any relevant contacts they have. I've found that employees in this department take internship searches just as serious as job searches and are genuinely excited to help. They can also assist with making cover letters and putting together a professional resume.

It can be discouraging if you don't hear back from internship opportunities, but don't worry! When one door closes, another is bound to open soon enough. Moreover, publishing is a competitive industry so keep applying to positions, and don’t give up!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers


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      • Gurpinder Vir Singh Rai profile image


        8 months ago

        Thank you for sharing, very informative article.


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