Each summer, Penn Press welcomes interns to introduce them to the world of academic publishing, asking them to participate in the ongoing work of two of our four departments: Acquisitions, Production, Marketing, and Business. Their valuable contributions help keep us up and running, but we hope that we are also able to give them something back: knowledge, skills, and a more complete understanding of the publishing world. At the end of their time, our interns have the opportunity to look back on their experience in blog posts that we call Intern Reflections. Today, we hear from Will Digrande.
Nestled between a collection of dorms that thousands of Penn students call home, the University of Pennsylvania Press is an unassuming, modest business. How ironic that one of the nation’s oldest university presses, a hidden gem unknown to most of the student body, has been right under its nose for over a century. I’ll be honest: I had only heard of heard off the Press in passing before this year, and I had very little idea of the inner workings of business at 3905 Spruce Street.
So when I first stepped through the front doors of Penn Press about two months ago, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I knew I would spend my first five weeks with the Business department and my last five with Acquisitions, but I had little knowledge of what each of the many departments brought to the table to turn an author’s manuscript into a complete bound book. Coming in, I thought the majority of effort went in to actually copy-editing the many pages of text rather than the overall production, and I could not have been more wrong. Every week, my co-intern Sofia and I attend a seminar hosted by a different department of the company where they explain their role in the larger process. For our crash course, the department heads prepare various presentations that often include slide shows or handouts, and it shows just how much they all care about their respective niches in the business.
This has been my first taste of life at an office job, and it’s been much less intimidating than I made it out to be. Across all departments at the Press, from Acquisitions to Journals to Marketing, everyone I’ve interacted with has been welcoming and helpful to a rookie on the job like myself. Even better, I’ve had the chance to make a real impact on the production of several books. One such case involved my editing of a map to be printed in a book on a tight time deadline. Geography is one of my passions, so while my supervisors thought they were just passing on another task for me to do, I beamed at the opportunity. I ended up finding a few mistakes within the map, including one major labeling error that otherwise might have gone unnoticed and potentially included through production. A few days later, the editor in charge of the book sent me comments from the author, grateful that I caught the fixes. Through this I learned that no matter how small of a role you think you have, anyone can make a big impact when put in the right place.
I’ve come to appreciate the sheer amount of behind-the-scenes work it takes for a book to turn out perfectly, as every step of the process must be completed meticulously and as efficiently as possible to meet the set deadlines. From the initial submission to when the copies are shipped out to the warehouse, nearly everyone in the Press has the chance to play a role in some way. The amount of teamwork that is required proves how close the staff is to one another, especially since consistently putting out so many impactful books every year is no easy task.
Thanks to my time with the Press, academic publishing is a career path I can easily see myself joining after college, even as a Political Science major. The multidisciplinary nature of the industry makes it ideal for people from a wide variety of backgrounds. No matter what you study or what prior experience you have, the people at Penn Press make your time on the job a constant learning experience, and an enjoyable one at that.