Since September, Michele Spinicci and Laura Garcia Rodriguez have been interning at Welbeck Publishing, in preparation for the Frankfurt Book Fair. I chatted with them about their experiences—read on for helpful insight into what it’s like to work in a busy publishing house, and for advice on securing an internship in publishing!
To start with, tell me a bit about Welbeck. What size publisher are they? What kinds of books do they publish?
LGR: Welbeck is a medium to large sized publishing house.
MS: About 60 people work there.
LGR: They’re an independent publishing house, and they mainly publish non-fiction and children’s books. For non-fiction, there are many categories. They publish history and reference, art and lifestyle, music and entertainment, sport…
MS: Puzzles. A lot of books on video games.
LGR: They also work with a lot of licensors, like Disney and FIFA.
Any notable authors we would know, off the top of your head?
MS: I don’t think the author is the most appealing or attractive element. Usually the books are highly illustrated, and often they’re books made for big brands like Disney and FIFA. Usually in the book presentations the author isn’t really emphasised.
LGR: They mainly commission authors. For example, this year, it was the anniversary of the Second World War, so they asked someone to write a book about this. They told us that there are people whose job it is to think of ideas. If we had ideas for new books, we could always send them in.
What was your role at Welbeck? What were your day-to-day activities?
MS: We worked mainly in the context of the Frankfurt Fair, so I sent a lot of emails to potential customers or people interested in acquiring the rights of our books. The very interesting thing is that you talk to a lot of customers from all over the world, so Asia, Eastern Europe, South America, and Northern Europe.
LGR: Apart from sending emails, I also sent physical copies of the books. I also made a sales sheet, which is a sheet they send to customers on all books of the same type. For example, I would put all the FIFA book covers on a sheet, as well as basic information like how many pages it has and the format, and I made it beautiful with a background of a football stadium. I did that for FIFA, puzzles, and Mensa, which are crosswords.
MS: I also did a lot of research into potential customers. For example, I researched which kinds of publishers publish football books in Eastern Europe because they could be interested in buying the rights to our books.
LGR: Yes, or now that it’s the Guadalajara Book Fair, the woman in charge of Spanish and South American rights has a book of all the publishing houses who attended Guadalajara Book Fair last year, and I had to go website by website to see what they publish and whether they would be interested in our books. It was a lot of research and sending emails to everyone saying, ‘This is our catalogue. Have a look, and let us know if you see something interesting.’
MS: There are also websites in which a country’s main publishing houses are listed, and you have to check all of them to see who is publishing books that are similar to Welbeck’s, and therefore could be suitable customers.
Can you tell me about the application process? How did you find it? Do you have any tips?
LGR: We were asked to send a CV, and then had a phone interview. Be authentic. I felt I was being very ‘me’ in the interview. It’s mainly you telling them that what you want to do is learn, and it doesn’t matter the job they have for you. I remember telling them, ‘I don’t mind. Even if you want me to move boxes, I’ll be there.’
MS: This is absolutely true. You have to really show you want that job and you’re ready to do a little bit of everything. You also have to try and stand out a little bit, so show something original. In my interview, we spoke about my volunteering activities and some works in theatre I did, and she was very interested. Half of the phone call was about it. Even outside publishing, your experience can be valuable.
LGR: Also I would say because this was a phone call, try to be in a place where there isn’t a lot of noise. Our boss interviewed someone before Michele who was on the street and didn’t have a lot of signal, so she couldn’t consider her because she couldn’t understand anything she was saying.
MS: Yes, this is quite trivial, but it’s absolutely true. Be at ease in a place where you’re confident.
What do you think has been the most challenging part of the internship?
MS: I’m slow, so I really had to speed up. The first two or three days were very challenging because I couldn’t stay in the timetable they wanted. The Frankfurt Fair was upcoming, so they had a lot of pressure to do things fast. Even doing trivial things, like sending emails, you have to be faster.
LGR: I would say doing the sales sheet. I don’t know exactly what they want or what I’m doing is what the publishing house wants. It’s something they’re going to send and people are going to see.
Conversely, what’s been the most positive or rewarding part of the internship so far?
LGR: Also doing the sales sheet. Everyone congratulated me and told me they loved it. I was only supposed to do one for FIFA, but since they liked it they asked me to do one for all the books they had. It was rewarding. It was something they liked and they trusted me to do something more than just tidying the shelves. They trust you. It’s great.
MS: I would say doing the marketing research for the same reason, because you’re looking for potential customers and you’re developing your own ideas. It’s beautiful if they consider it valuable. You feel valued.
Finally, do you have any lessons learned from the internship or any words of wisdom for our fellow publishers-to-be?
LGR: I would say always ask questions. For me, it’s sometimes hard because they’re working all day and they’re very busy, so you have to interrupt them. They’re doing something that’s way more important than what you’re doing, and you’re going to ask them a question about how to send an email, maybe, which is a bit pathetic. Still, they’re there for this. Also, if you mess up an email, it’s still important, so ask them as many questions as you have.
MS: It can be embarrassing, but you definitely have to do it.
LGR: Yes, and always ask if there’s anything else you can do once you’re finished. Ask if you can do something valuable or you think would be appreciated.
MS: I would say be very careful with details, also with the most trivial things. Show that you really care for what you’re doing. If you’re writing an email, for example, use the proper font that the publishing house uses. Try to do everything as best as you can, because in the end after quite a lot of time it’s clearly appreciated because it shows you care for what you’re doing.
Massive thanks to Michele and Laura for sharing their experiences! If you’re doing something publishing-related and would like to be featured in the Blog (or would like to recommend someone else who should be), please contact me by email, or on Facebook or Twitter.
By Charlotte Webster