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BK Blog Post
Posted by Grace Ellen Miller, Sales and Marketing Assistant, Berrett-Koehler Publisher.
Raised in Seattle, Grace learned the love of reading with at least one cat and always a cup of coffee nearby. Grace is usually in a bookstore spending way too much money, on a hike with her dog, or homebrewing with her boyfriend.
It’s the last day of my internship with Berrett-Koehler Publishers this summer and I can’t believe it’s already time to say goodbye. This summer I have had the chance to work with an incredible group of people—staff, authors, consultants, distributors—and hear BK’s praises sung daily. And the truth is, BK has earned all of that praise.
When I first started my search for a summer internship in publishing, my goals were limited; get an editorial internship—something that looks pretty on my resume. My expectations for really learning anything meaningful or having any kind of creative influence were, shall we say, limited. After all, I was only going to be an intern. A series of (apparently) more illustrious opportunities fell through, and so I sent my resume to the small independent publisher I had never heard of—for a sales and marketing internship no less—and was simply grateful for an interview.
But the more I heard and read about BK, the more intrigued I was. A family friend who used to work in publishing and now owns an independent Bay Area bookstore (check out A Great Good Place for Books the next time you are in Montclair) has hosted a few authors whom I’ve had the chance to pester with questions, and I was mortified to hear their horror stories of working with publishers who bullied and manipulated authors to no end. This wasn’t my vision of publishing. I am passionate about stories and the people behind them—at the core of this is a firm belief in the dignity of all human beings. So to imagine wrestling a manuscript away from an author with sneaky contracts and flat out lies, arbitrarily cutting and pasting content, and forcing authors into cover designs they loathe is the complete opposite of my I want to be in publishing. BK’s mission of “creating a world that works for all” through values like stewardship sounded exactly like what I wanted.
Berrett-Koehler Publishers immediately began to stand out from the crowd once I did my research—and my instinct to run with the offer they made me two days after interviewing me (with a longshot editorial internship still in the pipeline) has more than paid off. I have had the summer of a lifetime with BK! In the spirit of gratitude, I wish to share ten things that make BK a great place for interns.
1. Free Books
I was always encouraged to take home copies of BK titles that excited me, and reading BK books has made clear the standard of quality and content that BK upholds. Obviously, this is a privilege that requires integrity in return, but being offered the chance to dive into the content BK publishes without limitation immediately made me feel welcome and sparked my excitement for the content I was working to market. I immediately became a shameless promoter of BK books through social media and word-of-mouth—it made me feel like I have a meaningful stake in this company!
2. Questions Are Always Welcome
My first day as a BK intern was an author day (which was only slightly intimidating). Right off the bat I was invited into every meeting, asked for my questions and opinions, and thanked for my thoughtful participation. Everyone encouraged me, “We don’t expect you to know everything. We know you are here to learn, so tell us what you want to learn!” And the greatest part was that I was inspired to rise to the occasion. My questions were welcome, so I wanted to ask my most thoughtful or complicated questions—questions I otherwise might have feared would be received as ‘too much to bother with’.
3. Transparent Business Practices
BK values honesty in business, so as an intern, I had full access to everything that goes into publishing a book. I was never made to feel like something was too secret for me to handle, or that I couldn't share my experiences with my friends. BK is so welcoming that I was able to invite my dad to an Author Day lunch and show my mom around the office!
4. Author Days
Author Days encapsulate everything that is magical and special about Berrett-Koehler Publishers. They highlight the value BK places in the author and they are a brilliant, one day, crash-course in what it takes to get a book from proposal into the hands of readers. And because they usually happen at least twice a month, interns have the chance to see the various departments approach many kinds of content, markets and author personalities. Any student interested in publishing could benefit greatly from spending just one day at BK during an Author Day.
5. Rub Shoulders with Smart People
There is a standard at BK that attracts a lot of brilliant people. Proving the idea that “if you build it, they will come,” BK only publishes content it can get behind, both in terms of quality and the core message, and the result is that smart, influential, driven people make up the wonderful BK Community of authors, staff and partners. I’ve had great one-on-one conversations with authors like Jennifer Kahnweiler and publicity gurus like Becky Robinson—not to mention all of the talented staff at BK who have tirelessly helped me grow this summer! I was even invited to attend Berrett-Koehler’s strategic planning event, “BK Makes the Future”, where I met dozens of industry experts who I could never have otherwise been introduced to.
6. Lunch Time Conversations
Some of my favorite memories from my internship this summer are the conversations that sprung up over lunch in the tiny BK dining room. Everyone here was so genuinely interested in getting to know me and letting me get to know them. BK really exemplifies hospitality to everyone who walks through the door—not just ‘special guests’.
7. Interns Are Valuable
I was given real responsibility this summer. I wasn’t asked to do menial tasks with little overall value—I was able to take charge of whole processes and independent projects that make a real difference in BK’s business. One of the projects I got to lead entirely on my own was a direct marketing campaign to yoga studios for Yoga Wisdom at Work; I was thrilled to work directly with the authors and be the face of the company to the yoga studios I contacted.
8. Commitment to Human Dignity
BK practices what it preaches; from Author Days to inviting stakeholder input it its strategic planning process, BK sees the value of people and consistently seeks to serve its authors, staff, partners and customers in the best way it can. In an industry that can seem unstable at times, it’s tempting to cross ethical boundaries for the sake of survival—BK takes no such shortcuts and is always committed to a higher standard than the status quo.
9. Interns Aren’t Locked In
The advantage for an intern working at a company of BK’s size is that he or she isn’t locked into one department. Sure, I was the sales and marketing intern, but I got to know everyone and had the chance to ask questions of the editors, production department, publicist and operations managers pretty much whenever I wanted. Many of my projects required collaboration with other departments. For someone not yet committed to a specific career path within publishing, my experience with BK has really helped me to solidify what kind of job I want within publishing.
10. Berrett-Koehler Is a Family
When I was interviewing with Kristen Frantz and Kylah Frazier, on thing Kristen said to me really stuck out; “At Berrett-Koehler we are a family, so if you don’t want to get to know us, you won’t have the best experience here that you could.” This is what really sold me on the internship. I knew as soon as Kristen said BK was a family that this was a place where I could really thrive; there were people here who would really invest in me and who I could continue relationships with long after the summer ended. And that is the truth—I’ve already been urged to come visit as much as possible!
I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams this summer by the Berrett-Koehler community—I know I sound a little melodramatic, but that is the best way I can say it. I look forward to seeing BK flourish and grow and publish more fantastic titles!