Being a Design Intern with a Niche Book Publisher

I’ve always been a bookworm. When I was a girl, books kept me company. I can vividly remember that for my family, Sundays were our day to go to Borders Book Store. We’d spend all day perusing — discovering new stories.

When I was looking for internships on Handshake, my heart leapt at the idea of interning with a book publisher, and sure enough, Quarto Publishing Group was looking for a design intern for its New York office. I spent the subsequent day perfecting my cover letter and portfolio, and sent it off.

While the interview was a bit intimidating (a meeting with the creative director and three art directors), I received my offer about two weeks later, and have been working since the end of January.

My first day was overwhelming. After several back-to-back meetings, I was given multiple assignments to start immediately. I asked myself “am I going to be able to do this?” and “do I deserve this position?” But I gave myself the grace to be a beginner. I couldn’t expect myself to immediately and perfectly understand everything. After all, internships are meant for learning. Asking lots of questions, in my opinion, is a sign of perseverance and willingness to grow.

It’s hard to describe what I do in a typical work day. I’ve worked on a variety of design materials for a variety of books. Of course, the most obvious is book covers, known as mechanicals.

I’ve also worked on edits for book interiors, postcards, social posts, bookplates (stickers that go in the front of a book for the author to sign), sticker sheets, art sourcing, and more. Each assignment truly teaches me something new. While this is intimidating, it’s also an incredible learning experience. In the three months I’ve been interning, I feel like my skillset has greatly increased (especially in InDesign, where most book publishing pieces live).

I’m the only intern for the New York design team. It feels like I’m the only kid sitting at the adult’s table — a bit of a double-edged sword! I get all of the TLC and focus that I need to succeed in my projects, but it does feel intimidating to be the only intern at times.

I work twenty hours a week, which has certainly felt like a significant time commitment these past few months. On Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, I get into my rhythm of five hours each day. During this time, I work independently on my projects, but am in constant communication with my creative director and the art director who supervises me.

I think what I find most unique about the internship is the work’s content itself. I’ve designed for books in genres like self-care, spirituality, drawing & art, horror, and more. There’s always a new title I’m assigned that piques my interest, and it feels kind of neat to have a sneak peak of works before they are released. The coolest feeling has been walking in to Barnes & Noble and seeing titles that I’ve worked on.

I’m so grateful that I was given this opportunity. While it hasn’t been easy whatsoever, it has taught me a great deal. It’s also given me thought as to what I want my next step to be, as I get ready to graduate in three weeks. I would recommend to anyone curious about book publishing or design to give it a shot.


  1. Hi Juliana! It’s so cool to hear about the behind the scenes of getting your internship and I love that you get to see your work in Barnes & Noble! I’m sure you’re getting some great portfolio pieces from working in all those differing book genres too. I can easily relate to that feeling of imposter syndrome starting at an internship, especially since I am also the only intern in my department, but I agree that asking plenty of questions and being open to learning new things is key to getting the most out of your experience.

  2. Wow Juliana! I am floored with how cool your internship seems. The opportunity to work in an industry that I don’t think a lot of people know exists is so unique. I hear you on the “only kid at the table” comment though. Compared to my coworkers, I feel like I know so little about the ins and outs of the advertising industry, but then I remember they know that about me too. They have grace for the interns who are figuring it all out. The pressure to ask questions is always alleviated when I think about that, and then I open up doors to learn more each day.

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