McRae Intern Reflects on 'Eye-opening and Rewarding' Experience

The following is a guest post from Evette Williams. Williams has been working at UPM since January as the McRae publishing intern. The McRae Publishing Internship, supported by the Richard and Selby McRae Foundation, offers a singular educational opportunity to young men and women interested in book publishing to start their careers as interns and gain valuable practical knowledge about the publishing industry.

Below, Evette talks about her interest in publishing and experiences at UPM.

I've been interested in working in publishing since I was a freshman in college, wanting to gain as much knowledge as possible about the industry. I’m also an avid reader, and a writer who aspires to have novels published one day.

That said, my interest in books is what spawned my interest in the book publishing industry. During my college career, I worked on university literary magazines and was the editor of Mississippi University for Women’s The Dilettanti for the 2012 edition. Also during my time at the W, I interned with Deborah Johnson while she was completing her manuscript, which was published as The Secret of Magic Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam in 2014. My internship with her allowed me to see the process from the a writer’s point of view.

After graduation from college, I moved away to Birmingham, Alabama for a while. When I returned to Mississippi, I started working as a copy editor at The Clarion-Ledger. Since I was already in Jackson and am still interested in publishing, I decided to apply for an internship at University Press of Mississippi to truly get experience within the halls of a publishing company.

Juggling my copy editor job in the evenings and working at University Press in the mornings and afternoons has made me learn the value of time and how to manage it wisely. I’m extremely grateful for the experience. And while I am ready to go back to a slower pace, I have really enjoyed my experience.

A an editorial intern,  I mostly worked with the editorial assistant, Katie Keene, the acquisitions editor, Vijay Shah, and Craig Gill, the assistant director/editor-in-chief.  

My responsibilities as the McRae intern included helping the other editorial interns when needed, writing rejection letters, contacting authors and readers, creating contracts, creating design lists, occasionally proofreading, printing, organizing, and mailing manuscripts. I also dealt with preparing manuscripts for board meetings, launch meetings, reader reviews, and for transmittal to the managing editor. With transmittal, I had to comb through the manuscript and any related materials that came with the manuscript (images, permissions letters, etc.) and make sure that everything was submitted by the author correctly before it could move along in the process. This often involved me contacting the author when things were missing or needed to be clarified or fixed. I also helped with indexing books and doing other tasks when needed.

The staff has been great and helpful in showing me how to handle everything. The biggest challenge I faced (other than having to get up at 7 a.m.) was prioritizing and getting a lot done in the short amount of time I had for most days. Once I fell into a routine, this became easier, and I saw it as a personal challenge to accomplish as much as possible as accurately as possible before it was time for me to leave.  Attention to detail is another thing that was immensely important during this internship, so you can’t go completely on autopilot even with menial tasks. Even the smallest mistake can throw things off if you don’t catch it fast enough, and since the process spans several weeks, you wouldn't be aware of the mistake until weeks later when it came back around.

I've really enjoyed learning about the publishing process and seeing how the life of a book happens from the author’s first submission to it finally becoming a book and being put up for sale. I've really liked being part of that process, helping out wherever I was needed. As an editorial intern, I didn't get to see much of the marketing side once the book is complete and I would learn to love more about that one day.

Publishing is an industry that is often glamorized, so it is easy to forget about the humans, beyond the author, that do hard work on these books to get them ready for an audience. It is a lot of work, juggling a lot of projects at once and trying to get them out on deadline.

Speaking of the authors, during my time here, I got to see a few of the authors walking the halls. One of my favorite experiences with an author was when Jimmi Mayes came in and happened to see me sitting at my desk. He introduced himself and told me I should read his book.  What I took away from it was his excitement about it and the smile on his face. This may not be the most eloquent way to put it, but that was pretty cool. I’m sure it is easy to get bogged down in the mundane daily tasks of all the work that has to be done on these books, but once the book is complete—that seems to be the most rewarding part.  

There is still a lot I want to know and a lot I have to learn about publishing, but my experience at University Press of Mississippi has been eye-opening and rewarding.