One for the Books: Exploring Publishing with Penguin Random House
As book lovers, Michelle Chung ’20 and Maria Saenz ’19 know the value of a good story. This summer, they are putting their passions to good use as interns at the publishing company Penguin Random House.
Founded in 2013, Penguin Random House is one of the largest paperback publishers in the world, publishing 800 million books a year in over 14 countries.
Both students found their publishing internships with the help of the Posse Foundation. Chung is interning in the marketing and publicity department, and her internship is supported by the George & Martha Darcy Internship Support Fund. Saenz is interning in the subsidiary rights department, and her internship is supported by the Hamilton College Internship Fund.
Here’s more about their internship experiences.
What are your day to day responsibilities?
Michelle: “As an intern in both the marketing and publicity departments, my work is devoted to helping our books get noticed, discussed, and sold. I format press releases, research organizations to send our books to, mail out books, analyze the popularity of our social media ads and much more.
“After checking my email to send any books that need to be mailed, I start working on any projects I have scheduled — whether it’s reading a book to find marketing copy, researching media contacts or organizations that might like our book, or formatting press releases. Depending on the day, I listen in on department meetings or attend intern luncheons. There has never been a day that I haven’t had something to work on — which feels great.”
Maria: “In the subsidiary rights department, it’s our job to help increase revenue for books by selling rights to translate the book, turn it into an audio format, and sell it to agencies that can use the book in another way.
“As an intern, I help the coordinators with their various projects. I often write submission letters to foreign agencies and book clubs to inform them about a promising book that they can pick up the rights for. I have revised and managed hundreds of contracts in my time here, and have helped the team prepare for ‘launch.’”
Why did you decide to apply for this internship?
Michelle: “I grew up in a home with mainly Cantonese speakers, so reading was a way for me to learn English while immersing myself in a world of stories. With that love of literature and understanding how valuable it can be for people, I felt as though working in the publishing industry was naturally fitting.”
Maria: “I didn’t know a lot about publishing prior to this internship and before applying to the program, I thought publishing mostly consisted of editors and publicists. But as I researched the different internship opportunities at Penguin, I realized there was a lot more to publishing — from subsidiary rights to marketing to arts and design. As a prospective law student, I thought working for the subsidiary rights team would provide me with valuable experience working with copyrighted material and licensing.
“Moreover, I knew I would enjoy working with books. Every time I pick up a translated book as part of my work, I can see how books can have the power to connect people across the world.”
What have you learned from this experience?
Michelle: “I love working closely with such a passionate, knowledgeable, and friendly group of people because they make every day feel fun and meaningful. Chatting with the experienced professionals in my departments has taught me more than I ever knew about the industry, and it’s rewarding to see them use the projects I completed to help them with their own work.
Majors: Chinese and Literature
Hometown: Malden, Mass.
High School: Malden High School
“Having the opportunity to intern at Penguin Random House opened my eyes to the incredible world of publishing. I’ve had such a great experience with the company, the people and the work that pretty much every day, I leave the office thinking, “Wow, I really love it here.” I want to explore my interests elsewhere before I graduate, but I can see myself staying in publishing — most likely in marketing or publicity — and moving my career forward.”
Hometown: Miramar, Fla.
High School: Mater Performing Arts Academy
Maria: “Penguin Random House really encouraged interns to step out of their own departments and discover new roles and opportunities within the company. I learned extensively about the publishing industry, from the selection of manuscripts, the creation of cover art for books, to the marketing and sale of books to readers across the country and the world.
“This internship has provided valuable experience (if I go to law school). While I was not working with the legal team, I was processing, reviewing, and reading over contracts. I learned about the process of acquiring rights for copyrighted material, the legal relationship between publishers and authors, as well as the different kinds of rights for books.”