by James Safford
As both Emma and Jane have mentioned in previous posts, our work patterns at Singing Dragon/JKP can rarely be neatly packaged into what you might call a normal routine, and over the past few months I would say that routine has featured less for myself than any other member of staff. I have worked as a general intern here since the end of December, and because this entails assisting the full range of departments, I very rarely find myself doing the same work from one day to the next.
The day usually starts with a mug of coffee whilst I check through my e-mails. My e-mail account looks a little different to that of a full-time employee; whilst staff usually spend their time communicating with people outside the company – the freelance copyeditors and proofreaders managed by the production editorial department, the publications and journals who work closely with marketing, the printers who work with the production department, to name a few – I usually receive a steady stream of messages from people within the company. Editors may need a hand with research for a certain side of the list they wish to add to, which they will come to me for; marketing may need blog posts proofread, or copies of our books sent to reviewers; sales may ask for customer account information to be updated; or editorial assistants may ask for advance information materials, which contain blurbs, market information and author biographies, to be composed. After I’ve seen what I will be doing over the course of the day I can begin to set myself timeframes for each task.
I usually work on these tasks as and when they come in, but I also have a range of projects that I keep ticking over in the background. When I am based in the production department, there are always corrections to be made to InDesign files (the software we use to make our books look like actual books); this might include working on improving the quality of images used in the book, correcting text as marked up by proofreaders, or formatting the references. This has been particularly valuable for me, as someone who is interested in learning about editing, as it gives me a front-row seat to see how copyeditors and proofreaders work on books, how our house styles work, and what shape our commissioning editors want these books to take. Otherwise, I’ve been working with our production director, Octavia, to update a programme we use to catalogue our book data, called Biblio, and make it more user friendly. As there is no deadline for this task – the process will continue until the programme is fully tailored to what we do at Singing Dragon/JKP – we try to work on these projects whenever we have the time to spare.
When coming into publishing I had a fairly simple idea in my head as to how it all might work. I had imagined an industry which pined lethargically for its golden past, and what I found was one that is always thinking of new ways to be innovative with print, and that is trying to figure out how best to utilise digital. I enjoy the variety that being able to work across departments has afforded me, and I think that it is precisely because there isn’t, so to speak, a ‘day in the life’ of an intern here, that we are able to do so much interesting stuff. I get to see how our designers are working on the aesthetic of the Singing Dragon and JKP books, I get to see how the acquisitions department are building a diverse and award-winning list of books across the two imprints, I get to see how the company is planning to adapt to digital and how the marketing team are getting our books out.
So I suppose that’s how my day ends at 5.30, having done such a variety of stuff throughout the course of the day I spend the last few minutes summarising what I have done – I try to think, more precisely, about how I might do it better and quicker next time. Before arriving, I had been interested in experiencing the full spectrum of opportunities that this industry can offer, and to try and see what form those opportunities might take in ten years. This internship has given me the freedom to spend my days learning about the industry as a whole, and ensures that two days very rarely resemble one another. There are great opportunities to learn a large amount in a short space of time in publishing – I’m lucky enough to be able to spend my days asking people with big brains lots of questions and not be made to feel silly for it.