The Value of the Internship Experience for Both Students and Employers

Professor Jane Denning, the Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for the MS in Publishing program, recently wrote a piece for BIGMPG Marketing & Design, a Milwaukee, Wisconsin based company (, entitled The Value of the Internship Experience for Both Students and Employers. This piece was written for the BIGMPG Index: A monthly examination of the human experience.


Professor Jane Kinney-Denning has been the Director of Internships and Corporate Outreach for the MS in Publishing program at Pace University in New York for the past 12 years. Each year she places over 50 students in prestigious internships throughout the book, magazine and digital publishing industries.

Her students are required to take her internship course and complete one “for credit” internship to fulfill the requirements of their graduate degree. The internship experience is solidly grounded in the academic experience:  from securing the position – i.e., preparing resumes and cover letters and interviewing – to the writing of a graduate thesis paper in the second part of the course. Pace students have interned at such powerhouse companies and publications as: HarperCollins, Simon&Schuster, Random House, Penguin, Pearson Education, Tor Books, Writer’s House Literary Agency, Vogue, Details, Martha Stewart Living, Sports Illustrated, The New Yorker, GOOD Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, as well as new and innovative companies and organizations like Open Road Media, Diesel eBooks, and as bloggers for the Women’s National Book Association, to name a few.

In this piece, Professor Denning talks about the value of internships for students and the value of interns for employers. Recently Professor Denning was interviewed for an article published in the Village Voice entitled:  Unpaid Internships Aid Schools’ Bottom Lines, But Do They Flout the Law? According to Professor Denning, “The work experience is now expected by employers, leading some of my students to accept multiple internships without credit simply to build up their résumés. It’s incredibly valuable. In today’s competitive marketplace, you need a résumé that shows some experience already in the industry to even get an interview for an entry-level position.”

For this month’s BIGMPG Index, Professor Denning will discuss the value of the internship experience for both students and employers, offering up a bit of advice to both parties, for making sure they are the unique, career launching experiences that they should be.

The Value of the Internship Experience for Both Students and Employers

In a perfect world all internships would be paid and lead to employment. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While some employers do offer minimum wage or stipends to their interns, employers can legally “hire” interns without paying them as long as the experience meets the criteria laid out by the US Department of Labor.

When I first started my position at Pace over 10 years ago, internships as we know them today were not as common, and if there were these types of opportunities, they usually included a modest stipend. Today both employers and academic institutions across the country realize the incredible value of the intern and the internship experience. The expectations of employers are that students fresh out of college come equipped with resumes that include relevant work experience in the form or one or two (or three) internships.

For employers, it is a wonderful way to tap into potential employees who come with an outstanding skill set; something that is invaluable in this age of rapid technological change. Today’s college students have remarkable computer and social networking abilities, as well as strong writing and analytical skills. Due to the huge amount of applications that employers often receive for internship positions, they can cherry pick from the most prestigious universities’ best and brightest, in both the US and abroad.

For students, working as an intern can open the door for potential employment, provide excellent networking opportunities, allow them to develop a specific skill set for and knowledge about their intended career and provide them with an excellent academic experience—something that I personally think is important and essential. Building one’s resume while an undergraduate or graduate student is a very smart thing to do and a lot of companies out there are looking for qualified interns.

My time working with both students and employers has shown me just how rewarding and valuable the experience can be for all parties. As a Professor, I love to see my students embarking upon their internships as novices and emerging at the end of the semester with the wisdom that can only come from applying all of that textbook knowledge they have worked so hard at, in the real world. From employers, I am often pleased to hear about the wonderful contributions an intern has made to an organization and how much they enjoyed mentoring and working with them. I always tell my students to look around the office at the people they are working with as many of them just might be colleagues of theirs in the not too distant future.

In order to make the internship experience a valuable one, I have some advice to offer up to both students and employers. I hope you find it helpful!


1.)  Make sure your internship (or at least one of them) is tied to an academic experience and that you receive credit for the experience. Most departments have a course in the curriculum that allow students to intern for credit and if they don’t, see if you can work with a Professor you admire to act as your advisor in an independent study course. Working with a Professor will allow you to maximize the experience and provide you with someone to turn to if you need help with any aspect of your internship (for instance, you spend most of your time getting coffee for your boss—not acceptable). In addition, your Professor will most likely require you to write some kind of paper about the experience or some aspect of the field you are interning in. If you want to keep building your resume and gain even more experience, you can always do more than one internship —they don’t all have to be tied to an academic course.

2.)  Have a great resume and write an excellent cover letter. Read internship descriptions and postings carefully and prepare your resume and cover letter accordingly. Use key words and phrases from the description—tell employers that you have what they are looking for. Be sure to take advantage of any advice and assistance you can get from your university. Go to workshops offered by your career services office, ask professors with whom you have good relationships to review your resume and cover letter and ask your friends to proof your resume. You should also have more than one version of your resume—one size does not fit all. You can have all of the basic information organized in a standard format but if you are applying for a design position for example, you might want to showcase your design skills in your actual resume (be careful to not go too overboard with this however). In addition, employers are starting to ask for more than just a resume, so look for tools and services that your university might provide (Pace provides ePortfolios for all students and faculty).

3.)  Once you secure an internship, give it your absolute best. Remember that you are an intern and there to learn—not to run the company. What this means is that your internship might start out a little slow—your employer might want to familiarize you with the office, the job, procedure and forms, your boss. Filing, photo-copying, and answering phones are all part of internships (and all entry level jobs) so do your best to maximize the experience. Take a look at the documents you are filing, take note of who is calling and act professionally at all times. While you absolutely should not be getting coffee or picking up your employers dry cleaning, don’t act like packing boxes for shipment is beneath you—it’s not. That said, you need to communicate with your employer, and they with you, throughout the experience. In your interview and initial meetings once you are hired, ask what type of projects you can expect to be working on and be proactive. If you have finished all the work they have assigned you, let them know you are available. It is also important to find out (during your interview) if they offer any “lunch and learn” type meetings for interns or any other kind of mentoring or networking opportunities.

4.)  Understand that not all, in fact very few, internships are paid. That said, it never hurts to ask in your initial interview if there might be the possibility of an hourly wage, a travel and lunch stipend or some kind of honorarium at the end of the experience. If the answer is no, be sure to focus on the internship’s benefits:  a great experience to put on your resume, a chance to network and meet key industry professionals, possibly some writing samples that are credited to you, a chance to learn about your future career from the inside and possibly entry into the company. Towards the middle of your internship, ask to meet with your supervisor to get some feedback on the work you are doing. It is also important to discuss your departure from the position (you want to do that professionally) or the possibility of staying on longer. You should also schedule a meeting with HR (if the company is big enough) to discuss possible future employment and to share your experience with them. Take full advantage of the opportunity!


1.)  While the internship does not have to be tied directly to an academic experience, it is a great idea to seek out students from universities that offer programs and degrees that relate to your specific business. Students look for internships all year long – fall, spring and summer. Universities can be great feeders for you and serve as a filter in terms of the quality of the candidates you consider. Go to university webpages and look to see if they have a career services office – typically they serve the needs of the entire student population in terms of resume writing, interviewing and job boards. If you are interested in posting a position, this is a great place to start. Another way to reach out is to look at the webpage of a specific degree and see if they offer an internship course, have someone who directs an internship program or to get the name of the Chair of the department. Send out an email and inquire if they would like to place students with your company.

2.)  Write and post excellent descriptions of the positions you are looking to fill. This will help you filter candidates even before you receive any applications—for example if you need your candidate to be proficient with In-Design or Excel Spreadsheets, list that as one of your hiring criteria. Look for well written resumes and cover letters. These documents are your initial introduction to your intern and can tell you a lot about the candidate you are considering interviewing. Is it well-organized? Well written? Well designed? Does is showcase the skills and accomplishments of the candidate and does his or her skill set match your needs? Is the cover letter good? This is especially important if part of your intern’s responsibilities include writing letters and company documents.

3.)  Treat your internship with respect and remember that this is a learning opportunity (see link above to government guidelines) for the student. If possible, meet with your intern(s) on a regular basis, invite them to sit in on important meetings, talk to them about specific projects and answer questions they might have. Be a good mentor and try to fully utilize the talents that the intern has to offer. Have them assist other employees with key tasks so that they are exposed to the talents of your other employees—this is the best way to learn. Let them work independently once they develop an understanding of the procedures and goals of your company. While they are not to be used in positions that would displace regular employees, they can absolutely be of assistance on important work. Just remember that it requires you to supervise them closely and that they might make mistakes.

4.)  Most students understand that internships these days are typically unpaid. If that is the case with your company, make that clear but be sure to let the student know what they will be getting from the experience: an opportunity to network with key industry professionals, to learn a new computer program, to get their name on some piece of writing, to assist in a project that is directly related to their career goals, an opportunity to attend meetings, conferences, lunches, and direct guidance from their supervisor. If their internship is tied to an academic experience, find out if they have to write a paper about some aspect of the business and offer to serve as a source for them. If you can offer some sort of stipend for lunch or travel expenses, that is always a nice thing to do. Also be up front with them about potential employment opportunities—if that is a possibility, let them know, if you are not planning on or are not in a position to expand your staff in the near future, let them know that too. Lastly, be sure to communicate with your intern on a regular basis—they might want to stay on for a second semester or might be able to recommend one of their classmates. Lastly, embrace the chance to impact these young lives as others have yours, it is very rewarding to guide and mentor bright, aspiring students.

In closing, I am a big believer that an internship can be a rewarding experience for both students and employers. My final words of advice would be for employers to take their role in training interns and as mentors seriously and for students to give their absolute best to their employers. The benefits for all are far reaching and rewarding.

Photography provided by Stock.xchng.

Alumni in the Spotlight – December 2011

Janet Behning is a 1999 graduate of the MS in Publishing program at Pace University. After working for a few years in administration at Routledge/Taylor&Francis, in 2001, Ms. Behning was hired as a production manager at Princeton Architectural Press, a publisher of books on architecture, landscape, design, photography and visual culture. There, her primary responsibility is book manufacturing. In 2007, she was promoted to Production Director and now oversees an expanded staff that includes an assistant production/reprint manager, digital prepress manager, and long-term intern. In this interview, Ms. Behning will share with us her insight on the state of book production and manufacturing today and the impact that new technologies are having on these processes.

Prof. Denning: Hi Janet, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 12 years since you graduated from the MS in Publishing program.  What have you been doing with yourself since then?

JB: When I graduated, I was working as the assistant to the president and HR director of Routledge, an academic publisher. For years, I had thought I wanted to work in editorial, but I figured out while at Routledge that production would be a better fit. I found out about the position at Princeton Architectural Press through a Pace job posting, and I knew their sales director, an ex-colleague at Routledge. I was fortunate that despite my very limited experience in production, but certainly with my ex-colleague’s recommendation, they were willing to hire me. There was a lot of on-the-job learning. About six or seven years ago, I joined the Book Industry Guild of New York, to meet and learn from other professionals in book production and manufacturing.

Prof. Denning: How has the industry changed since you began your career?  What was the work environment like then (in terms of job opportunities) as opposed to now?

JB: My publishing career had an aborted start about 30 years ago when I was hired as an assistant editor for the publishing program of a nonprofit located in central Indiana. We had a typesetting machine and a paste-up clerk, and I was first introduced to the Chicago Manual of Style, which was right next to my IBM Selectric. After a year, I moved to New York, hoping to find another job in publishing. I discovered that a year’s experience outside of New York didn’t count; contacts did, and the financial industry paid better. I took an administrative support job in a trading operation. So while the tools have changed dramatically, the importance of contacts (and the salaries) have not. Both of my publishing jobs in New York came through contacts, and many of our hires have some existing connection with PAPress or the staff. Certainly with the relatively small size of our company, it’s a fairly successful way to hire.

Prof. Denning:  Please tell me a bit about how our educational experience at Pace prepared you for your publishing career.

JB: I’m probably not a typical student because before I enrolled, I had worked for a metal-forming factory, a nonprofit, a securities trading company, a start-up litigation firm, and a niche retailer. So I chose the Pace program because it clearly was focused on finding a job or advancing in publishing. And I had a varied experience as foundation for the coursework. But the internet had happened during the ten years I had been out of the professional workplace. I remember struggling with just typing the internet addresses correctly for technology class assignments. But it was better to struggle for a class assignment than for a work task. And the internship program was a big selling point for the program.

Prof. Denning: Do you remember the topic of your thesis paper? What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers? What do you think the value of writing a thesis is?

JB: Since I was working for an academic publisher at the time, my thesis was on recent developments in academic and university publishing. I discovered while I was writing it that I would rather clean my house than write. So, just do it—procrastinating isn’t going to make the thesis any better. My only other advice is to be sure you backup your work. A member of my family erased my hard drive mid-thesis. They survived.

I think that like many people, I do a lot of writing in my work. It tends to be relatively short—no longer than one page or a screen. A thesis a rarer type of writing discipline, taking sometimes disparate information and experiences and shaping them into a narrative that shows mastery of the material. I have no plans to write another, but I’m glad I was required to write a thesis. I’m also glad that I was not required to defend it.

Prof. Denning: Have you always been interested publishing? Where did that passion come from?

JB: I’ve always carried books around with me and would read whenever I could. At one point, I was walking to work and reading as I walked. So what could be better than working in publishing? It just took me a while to get the timing right.

Prof. Denning:  What were some of the highlights of your graduate experience?

JB: One of my first classes was with Berenice Hoffman, a Literary Agent teaching at Pace. She knew the business, and while we were students, she expected professionalism from us as well. She also had some amazing stories. The right faculty is key to the experience. I only had one professor that I thought was weak, and [he or she wasn’t] in the program long.

I ended up as a marketing intern at an academic publisher. Marketing would not have been my first choice, but it was a book publisher, and I was paid, which was important to me. I was not going to work for free at this point in my life. As I remember, there weren’t that many internships available that fit my criteria. One company was on the internship director’s blacklist because of how they treated a previous Pace intern. I appreciated that the school kept track of how the employers performed as much as the students. After six months, I was offered a full-time job in administration, which was a better fit for me than marketing. I certainly consider the internship a success.

Prof. Denning: How have you been involved in the program since graduating?

JB: It’s been a fairly low-level involvement. When I graduated, Professor Raskin asked me to join the Advisory Board. I attend the luncheons, which keeps me up to date on the program, and I attend some of the lectures depending on the topic.

Prof Denning:  Can you tell us a bit about Princeton Architectural Press and what it is like working there?

JB: PAPress started when an architect student at Princeton University wanted to own copies of some classic architectural books that were no longer available. He persuaded the library to let him photograph the books. The film was imposed for printing, and he was hooked. Thirty years later, the press still uses good will and limited resources to publish amazing books on architecture, design, and visual culture. The staff has grown in the 11 years that I’ve been there; we’re now at 25 with two resident golden labradors. The offices moved from Princeton to a rowhouse in the East Village about 25 years ago, and it’s certainly a non-corporate environment, both in and out of the building. Between a staff of this size and the type of books we publish, there is a lot of interaction between the staff.

Prof. Denning:  Tell us a bit about what your job entails.

JB: Several years before I joined the company, the schedules were lengthened so that we could take advantage of the lower 4C printing costs in China. A large part of my job is being the liaison with the printers, whether it is quoting and re-quoting a project, trafficking the proofs, sorting out manufacturing issues, writing purchase orders, and approving invoices. In 2006, I went to Hong Kong at the printers’ invitation to meet their local staff and to visit the printing plants in China. There used to be a significant number of printers in Hong Kong, but as real estate has become more expensive, they moved to China. Now I only print in Hong Kong if the book’s content (political or sexual) will not make it past the Chinese censors. I visited five plants in China, and each of a different size and layout. It was eye-opening to see the handwork facilities—large open spaces—with table after table of young workers, many working on projects that quite clearly were intended for a western market. But the greatest pleasure was when I saw one of our books on press or forms waiting for folding and binding.

Prof. Denning: How does technology/social media fit into your current job?

JB:  Certainly technology, whether it’s a layout/design program, Excel, database, or a file transfer program are important tools to getting my job done. While there is a tendency to think that everyone of a certain age is computer literate, there is a big difference between using a technology for entertainment and communication and using it as a business tool. The closest I get to social media is being a very inactive member of LinkedIn. But certainly social media, including blogs and Facebook, are important tools for the publicity and marketing staff.

Prof Denning: What do you think the future holds for book publishers?  Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?

JB: Publishing was already changing before Kindle and Nook were added to the mix. We already had video games, cable TV, and the internet offering alternatives to book reading. Sales channels were changing with struggling independents, superstores, and Amazons. Self-publishing, both print and digital, continues to grow. Book publishing has always had an element of gambling. You think a book will sell, will find its audience, but there are no guarantees, so you work as smartly as you can to make that happen, knowing full well that it might not. I don’t see that changing.

Prof: Denning: What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?  The biggest challenges that publishers are facing today?

JB: I don’t think my take on the biggest trends will add much to the discussion, partly because I don’t really think in terms of trends. But I do think that publishers will need to more clearly articulate why they publish and what they bring to the process. I see how much thought and care our editors and designers put into to their books as they prepare them for printing. I can see the difference between their work—after all, we are a design press—and self-published titles. As more and more unedited content is coming across our assorted screens, I think it will be harder to persuade readers of the value of well-written and well-edited content from publishers.

Prof. Denning: What companies (apart from Princeton) do you admire or think are innovators in the industry? Does Princeton have any direct competitors?

JB: I always read what Brooklyn-based publisher, Dennis Johnson of Melville House, has to say or is doing. I also make a point of stopping by David R. Godine Publisher’s booth at BEA, just because the books are so beautiful.

Everyone has competitors or there wouldn’t be such a thing as unsold inventory and returns, would there? I just don’t recall sales talking about any particular company. We occasionally buy titles from UK-based publishers, Laurence King and Thames & Hudson, so I’m sure that when they sell directly into the US market, they are competitors.

Prof. Denning: Would you like to speculate on the future of ebooks? Books in general?  What areas do you think will be the most impacted (textbooks, children’s, trade, art books, graphic novels, romance, etc.)?

JB: We use electronics because in some way it has made part of our life easier or better. E-readers were around before Kindle and Nook, but it was their fast delivery system that made them desirable. That delivery is perfect for genre readers who devour books and for people who have trouble waiting. The lighter weight of readers compared to many individual books is a selling point for commuters and travelers. The resizable font is a gift for those who really don’t want to read a large print edition. But there are many readers who are content with books and are indifferent to e-readers. Just as some readers only buy hardcovers, not paperbacks, we’ll see similar choices between electronic and print.

We’ve already seen that text-only books are most in demand in digital format. It’s harder but not impossible to create a satisfactory digital book with 4C images, but it becomes a question of resources, particularly with small- and medium-sized companies. We’re slowly working to include digital editions in our print workflow, but with the variety of our books, it’s not an easy process.

Prof. Denning: What do you think the essential skills are that our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

JB: It’s critical to understand what makes a business communication different from messages to friends, including conciseness. I know I’m old school, but I hate getting solicitations from people I have never met who use my first name. I’m also a believer in developing project management skills.

Prof. Denning: Any other advice you would like to offer up to our students?

JB: My work experience has been in smallish companies, but no matter where they end up working, it’s really smart to understand how the departments support each other’s work. Ultimately, it will help them do their job better. The core requirements of Pace’s program should be to give them a good start.

Prof. Denning: To those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?

JB: It’s a cliché, but you have to want to be in publishing. There are always easier ways to make a living. And one should never discount luck.

Alumni in the Spotlight – November 2011

Meghan Stevenson is a 2007 graduate of the MS in Publishing program and is currently an Associate Editor at Hudson Street Press at Penguin Group. In this interview, in addition to offering up advice to students and alumni, Ms. Stevenson will tell us a bit about how her career has evolved and continues to grow in today’s dynamic publishing environment.

Prof. Denning:  Hi Meghan, and thank you for agreeing to do this interview.  It has been 5 years since you graduated from the M.S. in Publishing program.  What have you been doing with yourself since then?

MS:  Hi Jane! I’ve been working at major publishers since I graduated from the program—actually I started as an intern at Touchstone (Simon & Schuster) my very first semester at Pace. I got hired there as an assistant, moved up the ranks and joined Hudson Street Press/Plume at Penguin in 2008 as an Associate Editor.

Prof. Denning:  Please tell me a bit about how your educational experience  at Pace and how it  prepared you for your publishing career.

MS:  Pace helped me get my job. Not only did it put me in the right place at the right time—that is so critical—but it also made the learning curve of being an editorial assistant easier. Frankly, I had a broader concept of publishing than other assistants which gave me a boost in terms of gaining experience.

Prof. Denning:  What was the topic of your thesis paper?  What advice would you give to students who still have to write their papers?

MS:  Ironically, my thesis was on fiction, which I don’t publish anymore. But mostly it was about how editors and houses “break out” debut authors, which is still relevant in my career today. I would advise students not to get hung up on what subject is “right” but what really interests them. To me, I wanted to know why a few debut novels become bestsellers and others didn’t.

Prof. Denning:  What were some of the highlights of your Graduate experience? (Please mention your internships here.)

MS:  There are so many! I made a million friends there, which I think was the biggest perk I didn’t expect. The classmates I went to Pace with are still really good friends of mine and create an extensive network across publishing. I really enjoyed Professor Carroll’s class on copyediting, and Professor Soares is an invaluable teacher. I also have to thank you for hooking me up with the internship at S&S, because that got my career started!

Prof. Denning:  How have you been involved in the program since graduating?

MS:  I’ve been pleased to give presentations for Professor Soare’s classes, both online and in person with my fellow alums. I’ve also passed along resumes for students that professors thought had talent where appropriate.

Prof. Denning:  Have you always been interested in publishing?  Where did that passion come from?

MS:  I read tons of books but never thought of publishing as an industry. Then a undergrad friend came into an English lit class proclaiming she was going to work at Random House, and a light came on. I wanted to move to New York, and it seemed like a good fit because I’ve always loved books. In retrospect, I had been acting like an editor all my life.

Prof. Denning:  Can you tell us about Hudson Street Press and what it is like working there?

MS:  Hudson Street Press is a truly unique imprint. It’s really small—just my boss, me, and an assistant—and we publish about 10 to 15 nonfiction, hardcover books a year. I love it because I have a great boss (Caroline Sutton, of Random House, Collins, and Touchstone) and I get to work on books that change people’s lives. And, since my list is relatively small, I have enough time to help individual authors on each and every one of their projects.

Prof. Denning:  Tell us a bit about what your job entails.

MS:  That’s actually incredibly difficult to pin down! I do a bit of everything. I consult on jacket and interior design, I read and acquire submissions, I edit books, I advise authors on social media and marketing, I help tailor the messages publicity and advertising use, I tell authors how to handle their love lives!

To people outside the industry, I describe my job like an octopus: I’m in the center, delegating throughout Penguin to publish the book from start to finish.

Prof. Denning:  As an Associate Editor, do you prefer the acquisitions side of the job or the editorial side (manuscript development)?  Why?

MS:  Acquiring is awesome but I particularly enjoy taking a manuscript or proposal that is a bit rough and finding the right way to communicate what the author wants to say. I enjoy developmental editing the most, because I like to work with the author to tailor their overall message and delivery to the reader.

Prof. Denning:  How does technology/social media fit into your current job?

MS:  Well, I’m on twitter (@megstevenson) and I use that to bridge my personal and professional lives. I get to keep on top of news and cultural events and follow famous people I love, but I can also tell my authors bits and pieces about who I am and what’s important to me. It’s a unique way of communicating about publishing too—tons of editors and agents tweet, and we hold #askeditor sessions where random people can ask questions about what we do and how we operate. I think that’s really important because there are so many writers and so little information out there about how big publishing works.

Prof. Denning:  What influences the types of books that Hudson Street Press acquires?  Are there certain factors that would make you fight for one book over another?

MS:  I acquire a lot of narrative nonfiction, and what attracts me is the same as what attracts fiction editors: a story you can’t put down. And for the prescriptive (how-to) books on our list, I always look for a unique hook—something that other books haven’t covered, or a book that presents information in a different way—and an author we can promote, usually with academic or professional connections. If I would be the audience for the book, I typically try to acquire it as well!

Prof. Denning:  What do you think the future holds for book publishers?  Do you think the launch of designated ebook readers and the iPad (and subsequent tablets) forever changed publishing as we know it?

MS:  Personally, I think ebooks are a great new frontier. People reading is people reading. There has been research that shows people buy more titles on ereaders, whether it’s a Kindle or a Nook or an iPad. I think people buy more on ereaders because it’s easy, quick, and you don’t have to take out your wallet to do it. I suspect it will definitely change the way publishing operates, for obvious reasons, but I don’t think it’s the Armageddon some people proclaim it to be.

Prof. Denning:  What do you think the biggest trends in book publishing are today?  What are some of the biggest challenges that Publishers face?

MS:  For nonfiction, brain books are huge but I think we’re near the cusp of that now. And in terms of challenges, I think that figuring out how to make ebooks profitable and fair to everyone in the industry is a big one. I also think that physical bookstores will transition somewhat in the coming years, though your guess is as good as mine as to how. Some people think they’ll focus more on cards and gift items (like B&N) while others think hand-selling will come to be a reason consumers shop at actual stores rather than by going online.

Prof. Denning:  How has the industry changed since you began your career?  What was the work environment like (in terms of job opportunities) then as opposed to now?

MS:  It’s always hard to get a foot in the door. But today, you have the economy and the shrinking of the industry to deal with. If I were a student today, I think I’d go into the smaller businesses of publishing instead of trying to work at a house—like agencies, ghostwriting firms, copywriting firms, etc. Those places are great to intern at and help you build connections.

Prof. Denning:  Editors are always on the lookout for the next big thing.  What are some of your strategies in successfully navigating and anticipating the ever-changing market?

MS:  I think it’s crucial to think like a reader. Where do you buy books? What is your natural behavior in a bookstore? What do your friends do? What are your buying habits? I like asking people who don’t work in the industry how they feel about ebooks, or what reader they are using, or which books are their favorites. I think this helps you figure out what sells and what doesn’t on a very basic level. It can also help you spot holes in the market.

Prof. Denning:  What companies (apart from Penguin) do you admire or think are innovators in the industry?

MS:  Obviously, what Larry Kirshbaum is doing with Amazon Publishing should be interesting to see, and I applaud both Simon & Schuster and Random House for doing some amazing promotions and having huge bestsellers this year. But I also think Penguin is doing interesting things online, including BookCountry (an independent site for writers.) But overall, I’m impressed by Harper Perennial because I buy their books more often than other imprints and they’ve done some great promotions with ebooks on twitter that promote the imprint as a brand.

Prof. Denning:  Would you like to speculate on the future of ebooks? Books in general?  What areas do you think will be the most impacted (textbooks, children’s, trade, graphic novels, romance, etc.)?

MS:  I suspect longform journalism, novellas, and short stories through programs like Amazon Singles will become even more popular than they already are. The Vanity Fair ebook about The Art of Fielding was wonderful. It not only helped sell the book to readers but it also gave a fascinating insight into the world of publishing. I’d love to see more of that happening from the big houses. (Penguin is doing eSpecials, which are similar, e-book-only short books from established authors.) I think bookstores will continue to exist but that people will be driven to independents more often because their booksellers know exactly what you’re looking for and can hand-sell you books based on your taste. It’s a better experience for the customer—especially one that doesn’t know what he or she wants—than searching for what you want online through some kind of logarithm.

Ultimately, I think books will become like vinyl is today: a useable, but precious object. People who just want the story in their library or to read it once will buy it online as an ebook but those of us who adore it, who want to experience it over and over again, have it as a reflection of who we are on our shelves will continue to buy printed books. But as a whole, I’m betting readers will buy more eBooks than print. That’s already happening.

Prof. Denning:  What do you think are the essential skills our students need to leave the program with in order to succeed in the industry?

MS:  I think you have to be ready to take any position, even if it’s not what you originally wanted. Every position has lessons to teach. Read as much as you can—especially bestsellers, because it’s important to know why those books work even if you’re not publishing in that area. (For instance, I typically read one or two fiction bestsellers even though I don’t publish fiction, to see why readers fell in love with the book. And, admittedly, for fun.)

Prof. Denning:  What advice would you have for students specifically looking to become editors? Are there any skills or resume builders that are especially helpful to achieving an editorial career?

MS:  If you want to be an editor, the first stage is being an editorial assistant. A definite advantage is experience working in an office. You should know how to answer phones, type letters, handle minor IT travesties (so you can show your boss how to navigate common programs), and deliver refreshments like coffee, tea, and appetizers fluidly. It’s all part of making your boss look good. Otherwise, jobs related to writing and editing like working at a bookstore or volunteering at a book related charity (such as Housing Works Bookstore or the Goddard Riverside Book Fair) would also be helpful. Essentially your resume should reflect both where you’ve been and what skills you have to offer that will help you be great at the job you’re applying for.

Prof. Denning:  Any other advice you would like to offer to our students as they work towards graduation and entering the field?

MS:  A lot of people will tell you that publishing is dying, that everyone is self-publishing, or that there’s no jobs. That’s not exactly true: publishing is changing and jobs are just as hard (or as easy, for some) to come by as they ever were. Staying open to any possibility and taking advantage of every opportunity that comes along will be the best (and frankly, the only) preparation you can do. It’s especially important to network with your fellow Pacers! You never know when a graduate school friend will come through for you.

Prof. Denning:  Any advice for those looking to survive and thrive in this industry?

MS:  This is going to sound like Sesame Street, but it’s really key to be yourself. We all love books, so that’s something everyone has in common. Ask questions of your elders, whether those are fellow assistants or people above you. Be appropriate, but be curious, and whatever you do, keep reading.

Great Fall Internship Opportunity!

 MTM Publishing is an elite book producer/packager since 1992, producing high-quality innovative reference, nonfiction, and children’s books for a wide range of publishers. One of the company’s specialties is in complex, multi-contributor reference works for such publishers as CQ Press, Macmillan, Oxford University Press, Routledge, Sage, and Scribner’s. MTM Publishing is a recipient of many citations and awards, including most recently an Honorable Mention for the 2010 Dartmouth Medal for its six-volume Encyclopedia of Journalism for Sage Reference Opportunities.

MTM Publishing has an opening for an Editorial, Research, and Administrative Assistant Intern. The position requires a total of 14 hours per week. Responsibilities include:

  • Research and editorial assistance on Young Adult nonfiction and fiction series
  • General editorial assistant work, including proofreading, fact checking, inputting manuscript corrections, correspondence with authors and academic editors, tracking submissions, etc.
  • Administrative assistant work, including ordering supplies, handling mail, etc.

The intern will be involved with or exposed to current and future projects:

  • Research work on a historical dystopian series for Young Adults and input on first drafts
  • Development stages on a specialized history reference work for Princeton University Press
  • Development stages on Point-Counterpoint series on Immigration and Healthcare for Sage Publications
  • Development work on a middle school nonfiction series, called Chronicles of Horror, for Charlesbridge Publishing

Furthermore, as an intern, you will not be limited to clerical tasks:

  • You will be exposed to many aspects of book publishing and get hands-on experience with a variety of critical tasks in the book publishing workflow
  • You will become part of a small publishing enterprise, where most decisions are discussed freely, and planning meetings are open to all employees and interns
  • You will gain the benefit of the company president’s involvement on the board of several professional organizations, including the American Book Producers Association and the Women’s National Book Association; this extends the networking reach of all employees and interns in the company, and will expose the intern to a range of book publishing professionals

The ideal intern should be a detail-oriented individual with an ability to work independently as well as a creative and resourceful researcher, with a careful and thoughtful approach to analyzing sources. A familiarity with the MS Office suite for both Mac and PC is required, as is a familiarity with Quark and/or InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop.

Address your cover letter to:
Valerie Tomaselli
President, MTM Publishing
435 West 23rd Street, #8C
New York NY 10011

If interested, please contact Prof. Jane Denning at  Be sure to attach your resume and cover letter to the e-mail.

WNBA at the Strand: An Interview with Award-Winning Biographer Deirdre Bair

It was truly my pleasure to introduce all who attended the Strand Underground event, April 7, to Dr. Deirdre Bair, the award-winning, critically-acclaimed biographer of some of the twentieth century’s most important voices. Although I have always known Dr. Bair was an important biographer, the research I did before I interviewed her at the Strand Book Store impressed upon me just how important her work is and how lasting and impactful it will continue to be.  Her dedication to the craft of biography and to honestly and truthfully present the lives of her important cultural and literary subjects is a gift for the layperson and scholar alike.

Dr. Bair won the National Book Award for Samuel Beckett: A Biography. While still a graduate student she decided that there needed to be a comprehensive study made of the Irish avant-garde writer, poet, and dramatist, Samuel Beckett, so she wrote him a letter to ask if he would agree to meet with her. It was a very brave step for an unpublished biographer, especially given Beckett’s reputation for guarding his privacy. But Beckett responded by saying that he would “neither help nor hinder” her, and offered to introduce her to his friends; his enemies, he assured her, “you will find soon enough.” It was the beginning of a long process that produced a biography that in Beckett’s own words “got it right.”

Dr. Bair also regaled us with an account of the time she spent with the subject of her second biography, Simone De Beauvoir, the influential French existentialist philosopher, feminist and writer. The stories of her weekly meetings and conversations with De Beauvoir were fascinating to the audience, and shed some very interesting light on the personality and world of the woman who wrote the infamous, The Second Sex.

Anais Nin, whom Dr. Bair refers to as a “major-minor” writer, came next.  Perhaps best remembered for her diaries and erotic literature, Nin left behind box upon box of voluminous diaries which had been rewritten and edited many times. Getting a glimpse into the work and writing-process of the complicated double-life that Nin lived was spellbinding.

Dr. Bair’s next subject was Carl Jung, one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century and the founder of Analytical Psychology. The Jung biography won the Gradiva Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. How writing this book came to be was also a fascinating story and learning that Dr. Bair had to learn German before writing it is a true testament to her dedication to the art and craft of writing biography!

Dr. Bair’s latest biography (which will be published this fall by Random House) is about Saul Steinberg, the Romanian-born American cartoonist and illustrator best known for his work in The New Yorker. For the New York audience, this subject was particularly interesting and we are all looking forward to its publication.

It was a wonderful, thought-provoking evening and the iconic Strand Underground, with its superb staff of book-lovers, was the perfect venue for this event.