Internship Q&A with Naomi Gunkel

Undergrad Naomi Gunkel (B.A. in Publishing Studies and Asian Studies; Minor in Japanese; Honors College) has been interning with New York City-based literary agency, Liza Dawson Associates, and recently shared her thoughts on the experience:

How did you find out about this internship?
The publishing department at Hofstra sends email updates on publishing jobs and internships, and this was one of them. After looking at the full posting for the internship on, I thought it would be a good fit for me and applied.

What was the application process like?
The initial application required a cover letter, resume, and writing sample. I then answered a few follow-up questions via email, and was contacted to set up an interview. After the interview, I was given a partial manuscript to read and create a reader’s report for. Then, I was accepted!

What was your experience before doing this internship?
I am a fourth year student with a double major in Publishing Studies and Asian Studies. I had taken classes like Grammar, Book Promotion, Book Editing, History of the Book, and Book Design, Desktop Publishing, and Production. I had also taken a myriad of literature courses. These classes helped to establish a lot of basic publishing skills that helped me once I started interning at Liza Dawson Associates. I had also had two previous internships – neither one was in the publishing field, but they both helped me get accustomed to working in a professional environment.

What sort of things did your internship involve?
I started out going through unsolicited queries in our inbox and either rejecting them or requesting partial and full manuscripts. I also wrote a lot of reader’s reports assessing what I read.  I did research on things like book plate estimates and competition for potential books. I did some office work as well, like making copies, answering the phone, and putting together packages for winners of our giveaways. I also got to use my social media skills to strengthen our agency’s presence on Twitter and Tumblr.

How has your internship helped you professionally?
Most importantly, I have been able to develop skills applicable to the publishing industry (I am now extremely familiar with what good and bad queries look like). I have also made professional connections with the agents in our office, and my supervisor even helped to arrange an informational interview for me with an editor at a large publishing house.

What were your favorite parts of working at Liza Dawson Associates?
I especially enjoyed being able to utilize my knowledge with social media to come up with creative tweets and Tumblr ideas. I enjoyed improving and developing my writing and critiquing skills. Having access to free books was a nice perk too!

What was the hardest part of the internship?
The most challenging part for me was learning how to be critical of the queries and manuscripts I was reading. Thanks to suggestions from my supervisor, I was able to develop these skills, and I am now much more confident in my ability to critique and pick out what manuscripts have the potential to be successful in today’s market.

Do you have any advice on applying to an internship with a publisher or literary agent?
Definitely know what genres you enjoy most, and look for publishers and agents that specialize in these genres. However, don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone, and always try to expand your reading repertoire. Make sure you are up-to-date with publishing news and current events in general. Finally, research the company before you apply, and have questions prepared to ask them during the interview.

What would you say are some dos and don’ts for students who want to make a good impression?
Once you are there, don’t be afraid to ask questions – you are there to learn, after all. When doing your work, it is important to stay focused. It is okay to be polite and talk with the people you are working with, but interning is often very self-driven, so you have to be responsible for your own time and complete your assignments efficiently. Of course, be responsible and professional – you will be needing references for job applications and you want to leave a good impression!


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