Days in the Life of a Workman Intern: Part 3

Hi again! It’s Jennifer, friendly intern and your eyes-and-ears into the Workman office. By now you’ve heard about my time in sales and at Algonquin Books. My next stop was the Workman editorial department.

I’ve had a great time sifting through “slush,” which is a colloquial publishing term for the unsolicited proposals sent in by people without agents. At first, I was armed with just the guideline that Workman does not accept fiction or memoirs (that’s the domain of Algonquin), so my “Maybe” pile soon towered above the “Yes” and “No” piles. However, after sitting down with one of the editors, who patiently pointed out the reasons why proposals would or would not be accepted, I gained a better understanding of what it takes to be published. It isn’t often that a proposal from slush is actually realized as a published title, and there are several reasons for that. For example, calendars, which I saw a lot of, usually do best when they already have a brand or book behind them. My Gift Sales boss has been talking about how popular LEGO: The Calendar is going to be; its success will be based on the timeless appeal of LEGOs.

That model of the Taj Mahal is made entirely of LEGO bricks.

The proposal also has to be well researched and backed with the proper credentials. Perhaps more importantly, the idea has to be original and innovative, and should not be too similar to titles Workman already publishes or is thinking about producing. There were some picture book proposals in the pile, but generally, the children’s books that Workman publishes are more than just picture books—they are machine-washable and “indestructible,” or interactive, or fun to touch; they are more than just a story. Submitters should take heart in knowing, however, that their proposals are not left to languish in a corner. Every proposal is looked at by a real person (and, no worries, not just an intern—proposals are screened after I look at them, too).

I’ve also done some fact-checking for 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and The Obits: The New York Times Annual 2012. For 1,000 Places, fact-checking has involved determining hotel rates with more calling (but fewer abrupt farewells, because hotel staff can’t really hang up on someone who might be a customer). Most people seemed unfazed by or indifferent to the fact that the hotels they work at are being featured in a well-regarded travel book, but it was nice when people, such as one woman at a hotel in the South, maybe one of the Carolinas, asked which book I was fact-checking for and expressed pleasant surprise when I told her. (The woman I’m talking about answered, “Who doesn’t know about it?” when I asked if she knew of 1,000 Places.) Fact-checking for The Obits has been more computer-based, but it’s still fascinating to read these posthumous celebrations of people’s life accomplishments. I especially enjoyed reading the obituaries for the distinguished Elizabeth Taylor and for Geraldine Ferraro, the first woman to run as a Vice Presidential candidate for a major political party, about whom I learned in US History class this past year.

I can’t believe I’m nearly finished with my internship. I could work here forever and may attempt to do something like that, as my experiences so far have really piqued my interest in working in the publishing world. I would love to do this as a career, although I am a little sad that I would have to choose a department and stay there instead of floating around to different ones.

Thanks for reading!


1 Comment

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    Josefa Hummingbird
    September 24, 2012 at 5:59 am

    How come you dont have your web site viewable in mobile format? cant view anything in my phone.

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