It's hard to find a book-lover who hasn't considered getting into publishing at one point or another. The idea that someone gets paid to put these unearthly, magical tomes we call books in our hands is a little mind-blowing, and that we could do these jobs one day is even more so. But if you're at the stage where you're looking for an internship to break in, the current landscape is tough — the Big Five publishers are in New York City, a town not known for being welcoming nor cost-effective for newbies with big dreams and empty pockets.
Tough, indeed, until you widen your search for the book-makin' experience to include some smaller presses beyond the view of the Empire State Building. Here are just a fraction of the small presses you can find across the country, making available unique and original voices that may have been eschewed, or simply not the right fit, for bigger publishers. Some authors prefer the DIY sensibility and hands-on approach that comes with indie publishers that they wouldn't receive at a major house. And, if you choose that route as an intern, you may find that you're more involved in major tasks because of a press' intimate team. Now is a great time to jump in at one of these houses: Small-press books are getting more and more real estate in bookstores and spots on much-loved book lists.
Prospective interns: you'll note that many of the internships listed below are unpaid; such is typically the nature of small outfits with smaller budgets. Although this isn't ideal for a college student or recent grad's budget, think about inquiring into flexible hours that would pair well with a part-time job, or limiting your search to an area that won't require picking up and moving. Once your internship is complete, you'll have established new connections, valuable experience, and (hopefully) a zillion free books for your shelf.
Where: Seattle, Washington For: Comics fans who want behind-the-scenes experience in the industry.
This press has been publishing some of the leading names in the comics industry since it started in 1976. Their catalog appeals to fans old and new: they've got The Complete Peanuts Collection, next to Love and Rockets,next to the recently published Displacement by Lucy Knisley. They host interns each season (summer applications are due April 17!), and successful candidates can expect to help out with research, proofreading, and maintaining the library, among other tasks.
Where: Somerville, Massachusetts For: Publisher-wannabes who want to bring out their inner child.
Even if you haven't been picking up kids' books lately, you'll likely recognize Candlewick's I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen (and the sequel above, This Is Not My Hat) or Martin Waddell's Owl Babies. Both are bestsellers for the company — and an internship can get you in on the ground floor of this prominent children's publisher. Candlewick offers internships "when feasible" in Editorial, Marketing, Design, and other departments — find out more, and how to apply, here. If you're one of the many college students in the Boston area, this internship is a score.
Where: Los Angeles, California For: Artistic types who want to support experimental works.
Les Figues Press describes itself as a "nonprofit, mission-based publisher" that supports a feminist vision and champions experimental works of prose, poetry, visual art, and translation. For a sense of their ethos, check out their catalog: there's the upcoming Leave Your Body Behind by Sandra Doller, a treatise on various forms of memory praised by Maggie Nelson; also I'll Drown My Book, an anthology of conceptual women's writing. Les Figues offers a number of what they call "Small Press Plus" internships, in which candidates get a thorough overview of small-press publishing during their tenure.
Where: Ann Arbor, Michigan For: Readers itching to sift through the slush pile.
Dzanc is the press responsible for publishing literary phenom Laura van den Berg's first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, alongside recent hits like Chicago author Jac Jemc's A Different Bed Every Time. But they didn't stop at just making books — Dzanc also supports several literary magazines and runs low-cost writing workshops, among other accomplishments. Editorial interns can expect to read and evaluate fiction submissions during their time, as well as seeking out new voices for the publisher to consider. Marketing internships, which is the other option the press offers, include promoting national events, tracking book reviews, and helping out with creating promotional materials.
Where: Portland, Oregon For: Pacific Norwesterners enthusiastic about publicity.
Founded in 2001, Hawthorne is a relative newcomer to the publishing game — but don't sell them short for lack of longevity. They've brought us heavy hitters like Lidia Yuknavitch's Dora: A Headcase, and more recently, Ariel Gore's memoir about caring for her mother, The End of Eve(chosen as one of Library Journal's Best Books of 2014 — not too shabby). Although they don't offer a summer internship, interested folks can try for spring, fall, or winter, and can expect to help spread the word on Hawthorne's titles as well as enter data and fulfill orders.
Where: Berkeley, California For: Literary types whose Goodreads shelf is full of cutting-edge fiction.
Headquartered in Berkeley, Counterpoint is the general umbrella for titles published under Counterpoint and Soft Skull Press — the latter which originated in the publishing idyll of NYC. They've got strange books (a compliment, of course) and haunting stories aplenty; the recently published Me and My Daddy Listen to Bob Marley by Ann Pancake is just one of many. Apply before May 15 to be considered for their summer season, where you might prepare galleys, update the website, or proofread manuscripts.
Where: Hadley, MA For: Off-the-beaten-path poetry lovers.
An imprint of the Flying Object Center for Independent Publishing (a dreamy place for workshops, public events, exhibitions, and more), this press specializes in broadsides, chapbooks, and regular books. It's a stellar platform for new voices and established poets alike who want to release work in small batches — take Beauty Was the Case That They Gave Me by Mark Leidner, above. The Press welcomes students looking for college credit and who have an interest in small-press publishing and distribution.
Where: Seattle, WA For: Those looking to see a small press get bigger.
Dock Street has already made in the book world with story collections like Sara Lippmann's Doll Palace or Christian Winn's Naked Me, and it's only set to go up from there. With a focus on daring, clean works of fiction and narrative non-fiction, interns at Dock Street can expect to handle tasks like social media, reading submissions, and marketing to stores — those interested in the growing press can get in touch here. U of W students, take note: editor Dane Bahr told me via email they're setting up a program with the school in the near future.
Where: Rochester, New York For: Rust-Belt romantics.
This nonprofit small press has been tucked into the arm of Western New York since 1976, but remains a relevant voice in contemporary literature. For a sample of what they've put out recently, turn to poet Erika Meitner's Copia, a examination of destruction and hope in modern-day Detroit. Learn what it takes to get books in the hands of readers nationwide by inquiring about their summer internships.