English Major Reflects on Internship with Publishing Co.
with additional reporting by Ashley Mantrana ’20
Hachette Book Group is the publishing house of such well-known authors as James Patterson, Stephenie Meyer, Nicholas Sparks, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, and Elin Hilderbrand. It is here that English major Jessica Day ’17 landed a competitive internship at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers – the company’s children’s and young adults division. She quickly caught the attention of upper management, including Andy Ball ’92, director, managing editorial (and fellow English major), who was impressed with her poise and how well-prepared she was for the opportunity.
News@Hofstra visited Jessica during the final week of her internship to get some insight and internship advice.
Jessica Day: I actually started at Hofstra as an international business major and then realized halfway through my sophomore year that I just loved books too much. I discovered we had a publishing major so I just decided to go for it. I immediately got an internship with Sesame Workshop and their publishing department. That just fueled my interest further in the industry.
N@H: What did you do there?
Jessica: I was writing ad copy for their marketing department, and I actually helped to publish two e-books, which was really fantastic. I was able see them through from concept to creation.
N@H: What kind of books were they?
Jessica: They were for ages 2-5, so basic learning stuff – colors, shapes and counting.
N@H: It must have been a lot of fun working for a company you probably grew up with.
Jessica: Absolutely, and you really see the impact they have on children. We went to Children’s Book Week in 2016, and you see first-hand how children interact with the characters and how they absorb information they are learning from the brand. It’s wonderful.
N@H: It sounds like they trusted you with a lot of responsibility.
Jessica: I’ve had a pretty good run with Sesame and with Hachette. They’re very hands on and are willing to walk you through different tasks and teach you how to do them correctly.
N@H: How did you get the internship with Hachette?
Jessica: I applied straight through their company website. I had an eye on them for a while, because I saw that they had a children’s division, and that’s kind of the part of publishing that I really want to go into. I had two phone interviews and got the job early April.
N@H: What kind of work have you been doing here?
Jessica: I have been working on manuscripts and page proofs. When we have just received the manuscript from the author, it’s time to start copy editing and making changes and seeing what we can do with grammar. We also check for any logic issues. For instance, if you say it’s morning on page one, is it still morning two pages later or do we need to make changes? I also work with the copyright pages in books, so I can help if someone has to apply for information through the Library of Congress. I also look at what they call cover mechanicals. That means I check the colors, text and fonts. It’s a lot of detailed work, which I like.
N@H: Many people think they have a great idea for a children’s book. It’s probably a common misconception to think that they are easy to write and simple to produce. Can you speak to that?
Jessica: It requires an entire team to publish one children’s book. They really have to speak to some aspect of a child growing up. I firmly believe that children’s books help set up the kids for where they’re going to be later in life. You have to have a sense of what is important to children today. The publisher has to ask the author: how is your story going to affect children? If it deals with some kind of problem or lesson, how is it going to help turn what they are going through into a positive experience?
N@H: What are some popular themes in children’s books?
Jessica: We are seeing more diversity, which is amazing – different backgrounds, religious beliefs, even sexual and gender orientations. We’re seeing a lot of different voices.
N@H: Can you talk about some of the different titles that you’ve worked on? So if we walk into a bookstore, we’ll know this is something Jessica Day helped bring to fruition.
Jessica: I worked with some of the licensed titles – “Thor” for example and “My Little Pony.” There’s one coming out soon called Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World [in March 2018]. It’s a beautiful story about a 12-year-old girl whose house is demolished by a tornado. Her family is trying to recover, and she is also going through the turmoil of dealing with a crush on her best friend, who is also a girl. It’s really heartwarming and beautiful and will definitely connect with a lot of kids.
N@H: Talk a little bit about your academic experiences at Hofstra. How have your classes and professors prepared you for these internships?
Jessica: I would say the Book Editing 1 and 2 courses with Professor [Barbara] Heinssen prepares every student so well. I learned a lot about copy editing and how publishing works in general. You have to go through the simulation of publishing a book. The class on book promotion really sets you up for how to market and publicize a book. Really all the professors are great. They want to see the students succeed, and I think it’s also helpful that they have their own connections to the industry. The majority of them are still working in publishing.
N@H: So now that you’re a veteran of two internships, what would you say are some dos and don’ts for interns?
Jessica: Ask as many questions as you can. If you are given something to read or review or print, look at it thoroughly and if you see something you don’t understand, ask someone to explain it to you and ask why it’s so important.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve needed help so many times, and your job becomes so much easier if you just ask.
Do set up informational interviews within the company. I’ve spoken with a few people here [at Hatchette] and they’re very willing to share their personal experiences. This will give you a good idea of what you should expect once you graduate. You’ll learn how people in management positions got to where they are and what specific skills you might need to get there yourself.
N@H: Were you ever asked to do something that you felt was beneath you? What’s your advice in a situation like that?
Jessica: I’d say it’s a team no matter what. With any team there are going to be things that you don’t want to do but you do it anyway. That’s the environment. You pitch in. It’s actually very neat here, we have an open office environment, so the CEO is at a cubicle. There are no walls or set offices. I think that’s awesome because it fosters the team setting. Don’t ever think that anything is beneath you. Everything is a learning experience.
N@H: In publishing, there’s been a lot of discussion about the future of books. What is your take on that?
Jessica: Books have been around for hundreds of years. There might be different formatting – E-books, audio books are actually on the rise right now. They’ve increased in sale by 20 percent the past couple months. E-books are actually going down in popularity, and a lot of kids in my generation and current Hofstra graduates are really buying more hardcover books and going to the library more. I would say books aren’t going anywhere.