In this blog post, English student Brianna Lopez discusses what she got out of her internship with Penguin Random House and how it has changed her career path.
As an avid reader and lover of captivating stories, I grew up knowing I wanted to work with words. I spent time writing poetry, learning the ins and outs of journalism, and editing for academic journals. Still, it wasn’t until the first semester of my senior year of college that I discovered my true calling: production editorial.
My Production Editorial Internship at Penguin Random House gave me hands-on experience in the behind-the-scenes world of book publishing. Working alongside production editors, managing editors, and designers, I watched both fiction and nonfiction books come to life through a cycle of editing passes.
With the incredible support and confidence invested in me by my mentors, I was able to perform first, second, and third passes on real books, making grammatical edits and suggestions along the way. This kind of editing is one I hadn’t done before, but one that helped nurture the skills I already possessed to hone them for book publishing.
In a given day at the internship, I met with my supervisor to discuss the projects I was working on and met with the rest of the team for status meetings, where members from Design, Editorial, Managing Editorial, and more gave updates about what point in the process their books were at.
When I wasn’t in meetings, I spent my time doing hands-on editing work that included checking files for loose or tight lines, making sure there were no word stacks or bad breaks of words, and reading books for any grammar errors that may have been present. A lot of the work I had to do consisted of comparing two files—a more recently edited version and the previous version—to make sure that all edits were made properly with no typos introduced. While the work varied based on each book and what point in the publishing cycle it was at, the work stayed consistent in that I was always looking for grammar, punctuation, and style issues that needed to be fixed.
As a child and young adult, I would have never imagined that the books I was reading would one day be books I would have a hand in editing, and yet here I was, reading cover copies, checking eBooks for errors, and getting glimpses at some future New York Times bestsellers.
Even now, a few weeks after the internship has concluded, I am waiting patiently for the day I walk into a Barnes and Noble, see a book on the shelf, and say, “Hey, I had a hand in editing that book.”
To be a part of the incredible team at PRH was a one-of-a-kind experience. I worked day in and day out with my supervisor who never hesitated to answer my questions, hop on meetings with me, and give me more assignments. It was her trust in me that fueled my confidence in my editing skills, allowing me to catch errors on books that no one else had.
Before participating in this internship, I never knew this sector of publishing existed. Most people hear “editor” and attribute all the work Production Editors spend their days doing to the same person who copyedits a book. It wasn’t until my internship that I learned that these are, in fact, two very different jobs.
Production editors are truly the hidden heroes of book publishing. From catching the tiniest of errors to demonstrating diligence and meticulousness, production editors often go undetected by readers, who know the publishing industry in limited parts—authors, editors, publishers. What goes on between the lines, between the pages, that is the truest mystery.
“If no one knows we exist, that means we’re doing our job right.”
That’s what one of my mentors said to me in my first week. This makes me proud to have been part of the production editorial department. These are people who possess a superpower others dream of having—invisibility. And while I know the department deserves massive recognition for all that they do, there is something about working under the radar, tidying up books, and perfecting them for readers—something about this made me fall in love with production editing.
A huge part of the “something” I refer to is the people I worked with. I had tons of meetings every week with new people in the department, all of whom spent thirty minutes of their day teaching me about their jobs, giving me advice, and totally “geeking out” with me about words.
I fell in love with production editorial not only because of the importance of the work that they do, but because of the passion they possess. Everyone I worked with had the same thing in common—a love for books. This made the internship, even at its busiest moments, the best time of my life.
All the PEs at PRH have the same passion for words and reading that I have had since childhood. They are living their dreams each day by working with words. This is something I wholeheartedly hope I can say for myself post-graduation.