This past semester, I worked as a publicity intern at a small book publisher. The experience was extremely rewarding, and I really enjoyed going in every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from noon until three in the afternoon. I learned a lot about publishing, especially the ins-and-outs of what comes after the book is complete.
The biggest thing I learned was that going into book publishing outside of academia is a labor of love. Most people do not go into it to make money because, to be honest, it is not exactly the most lucrative business. The people I met there are all wonderful, caring people who work very hard to help authors get their books out to the public. Even working for an hour in the warehouse each week was a treat. I had a lot of fun talking with the woman who manages the warehouse and spends her days making sure all of the mailings go smoothly and all of the books arrive in perfect condition. Believe me, working in a warehouse was not something I anticipated to be enjoyable.
The woman I worked with the majority of my time is one of the best bosses I have ever encountered. She was very encouraging when I had an idea, and she was always willing to stop and help me whenever I had a question. Mailings, especially on the publicity side, are very time-consuming, and they can be rather tedious. I really did not mind them because my boss and I talked while we folded press releases and stuffed envelopes. The conversations I had in that building taught me a lot and meant just as much to me as class discussions with my favorite professors.
The one thing I find disheartening is that a good deal of people view publishers as the elite sitting up in their lofty offices coming up with new ways to put thinly-veiled condescension in their rejection letters. As a writer, I fully sympathize with how much it can sting when you receive one of those. Most publishers, however, are not sitting around a conference table mocking your manuscript or tossing it to the side because they cannot be bothered with plebeian dribble. From what I see in forums, I feel like a lot of people have that image, or one like it, in their heads. What is worse is when people allow this to affect the way they treat people in publishing.
When you do not hear back from a publisher within two months of submitting your manuscript when you sent in your submission with a stamp, self-addressed envelope, it is not because they sent it straight to the paper shredder to make scraps to scatter on the floors of the cages for their hell-hounds. A lot of publishing companies are understaffed, and they do not always have interns helping, so the submission pile can become backed up by several months, sometimes even by a year or so, depending on the amount of submissions.
These people work hard to bring well-written books out into the public for others to enjoy. Please give them the respect they deserve, and stop bashing them for rejecting a manuscript or not having gotten back to you yet. They put a lot of thought and effort into each book they handle, and they do look carefully through submissions. The next time you are on a forum, keep this in mind before you post a rant about how horrible they are. Just keep writing and submitting, and maybe you will have a chance to find out for yourself just how wonderful these people really are.