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Feature Stories

Tools of the Trade
Student interns gain publishing experience at the campus’ historic and innovative academic press
Promotions manager Karen Fisk with two interns at the historic UMass Press

"We work to make sure our interns learn what they need to be successful in an industry that requires people who are nimble, entrepreneurial, and always thinking ahead."
- Karen Fisk

The East Experiment Station stands out amid construction sites and new science buildings in the northeast corner of campus. A quaint, two-story structure built in 1890 as a science lab, the station is now home to the University of Massachusetts Press, where a team of dedicated staff publish cutting-edge scholarly works on a wide range of topics. “We are proud of the books we publish and proud to have the University of Massachusetts as part of our name,” says Karen Fisk, Press promotion manager.

Fisk (top center) directs the Press student internship program, a one- or two-semester opportunity for students to gain firsthand knowledge of the publishing industry. Like the state-of-the-art buildings being constructed around the Station, this long-established industry is rapidly changing. The Press staff approach the new demands brought on by e-books and other digital technologies with an innovative and entrepreneurial attitude: “We have to stay in touch with modern technology, to stay vital and to serve our authors and our readers effectively,” Fisk explains.

Interns actively contribute to the day-to-day work of the Press while they build their skills through internships in production, business administration, or publicity and marketing. Long before a book reaches the market, editors submit the manuscript to a rigorous process of peer evaluation and copy editors carefully read the document for style and consistency. The Production Department develops the book’s typography and cover art, while production interns create covers for reprint editions and develop flyers and advertising materials for later use.

Fisk welcomes the skills and ingenuity of business majors, who can help the Press adapt their business operations in a rapidly developing industry. Interns learn how to respond to permissions requests, communicate with authors, and develop critical budget management skills.

Marketing and publicity interns develop comprehensive marketing plans to confront the challenges of publicizing a book in the digital age. They learn to write press releases that target a specific audience. They research the best newspapers, journals, or niche publications to submit books for review and develop relationships with points of contact, which can significantly raise a book’s profile and increase sales.

Interns are encouraged to think beyond their day-to-day tasks and make unique contributions as well. Amanda Lavelle (top right), a senior English major and marketing intern, expects to become more involved with online media and promotions as she works with one of her professors to develop video spots for authors promoting their books and with Fisk to update the Press’s Facebook page.

The Press internship program is intended to be a launching pad into the publishing industry, as students learn essential skills the first semester and hone those skills in the second. Students are much more likely to break into the industry if they have had some experience, which is why Fisk wants as many interns as possible to come through the program. Past interns have gone on to positions such as assistant editor for children’s books at National Geographic, sales manager at David Godine, editorial assistant for Bedford/St. Martin’s, copy editor for the UMass Renaissance Center’s journal, professional and technical writers, and more. For Lavelle, who wants to work in a trade publishing house after graduation, her Press internship gives her experience working on a substantive publishing project while she gains valuable insight into how a small publishing house works.

 “Our interns come here extremely well-prepared to do a very good job, and we appreciate the hard work that they do for us,” Fisk says. “They all learn something different and we learn also from them. We share a mutually beneficial relationship. Most importantly, we work to make sure our interns learn what they need to be successful in an industry that requires people who are nimble, entrepreneurial, and always thinking ahead.”

Amanda Rizun '13

Photo credit: Amanda Drane, '12