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Thursday, July 20

How An Internship Really Works for Writers

By Jana Oliver, @crazyauthorgirl

Part of the Indie Authors Series


An author's life is full of constant demands: the need to write new books, keeping current on social media, plus the behind-the-scenes business responsibilities. One way to manage some of this workload is sharing that load with an intern.

This summer I did just that, bringing on an intern, courtesy of the Marketing Department of Kennesaw State University (Georgia). At the time Bretagne and I began working together she was in the last semester of her senior year, and has now graduated. As part of her internship with MageSpell LLC (my publishing company) Bretagne’s “assignment” was to create a marketing campaign for the upcoming release of Valiant Light, the final book in my Demon Trappers series. What she came up with has pretty much blown me away, but I’ll write about that in a future post. For this post I want to discuss the finer points of hiring your own intern.

For this partnership to be of value, the intern should gain experience working within a business setting, while acquiring new (and marketable) skills. Let’s face it, experience can make all the difference when that student is interviewing for their first job. Whether that includes creating new content for your social media platforms, or organizing your appearance schedule, having an intern can make your business run smoother while providing them real-world knowledge.

For indie authors, interns that would be most helpful fall under the following majors:
  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Public Relations
An intern from one of these disciplines should be able to assist with promotional campaigns, book releases, and blog post creation. In the case of website redesign, I'd suggest a student at a graphic design school.

Interns are “reimbursed” in a couple of ways. If you're having them do general administrative assistant work—making a run to the post office, picking up a print order, answering the phone—then you should pay them a wage equivalent to an administrative assistant. This is because those particular (mundane) tasks will most likely not gain them course credit at their college or university, and aren’t helping them build needed skill sets.

If, however, you're having them do skill-related tasks within their degree field, you may not need to pay them. This, of course, depends on your state's labor laws, so you should always check to ensure you’re hewing to the letter of those regulations. The additional benefit for students is course credit when they are gaining skills related to their major.

The deciding factor is if the intern will gain valuable job skills during their time with you.

According to Tyra Burton, senior lecturer of marketing at Kennesaw State, finding an intern requires some pre-planning on your part. Before you even begin your search, you should:

1. Determine exactly what you intend the intern to achieve during the time period they’re working with you.

2. Ascertain the results you hope to achieve by the end of the intern’s assignment.

3. Also determine how you will guide the student in order for them to achieve those goals, and help them gain experience.

In my case, I wanted a comprehensive promotional campaign for the new book, one that was laid out in such a way that I could follow the plan day-by-day over the weeks leading up to, and after that launch. In addition, I also needed the majority of the content to slot in on those days. Where I could design the campaign and then source the individual content, Bretagne was able to pull this all together for me much faster and with minimal guidance on my part. I’m now ready for when the book launch approaches, knowing that my readers will appreciate all her hard work.

Once you've determined what you hope to achieve with your intern, and how that is going to happen, contact either the Career Services division of your local college/university, or the department chair of the particular degree program that best fits your needs. Another route is to contact a faculty member who teaches a course that relates to the kind of tasks you wish the intern to perform. The instructor will mostly likely know students who would fit the internship’s parameters and can make recommendations as to who might be interested in an internship with you.

A couple things to keep in mind: it really does help if the student has held some sort of job before they intern with you. Prior employment, even if it is not in the degree field, has given the student experience in time management, which is important. Also, you need to have a realistic idea of the types of tasks this student will be performing for you. General office work isn't going to cut it. The school will want the student to have been enriched by the end of the internship, and that won't happen if you haven't carefully planned ahead.

Other questions to consider:

What would be the start and end dates of their internship?
In general, these will correspond with the start and end dates of the school’s semesters.(For those long out of college, Fall semester is mid-August to mid-December, Spring semester is the beginning of January to the beginning of May and the summer session is usually mid-late May through the end of July.)

Are there any dates that won't work due to prior commitments for either of you? How many hours of work a week?

What is their class schedule like? How much time do they realistically have to commit per week?

Is course credit involved? What sort of requirements are necessary for the student to earn those credits? How many work hours are required for them to gain that credit?

Will your intern be working remotely or in-house?
If working independently, are they self-motivating, and how will you communicate with them?

Besides actually planning the “experience” for the intern, and overseeing the work, you will be required to file certain forms and evaluations at specific times if course credit is involved. These documents will allow the school to track the intern's progress and ensure sure all is proceeding as it should.

Is being an intern of value? Bretagne thought so. As she put it, “By creating a promotional campaign from ground zero, I was able to use many of the concepts I learned in class and apply them to a real-world situation.”

That experience certainly didn’t hurt when she was interviewing for her first job, which will start later this fall at a major media company located here in Atlanta.

So, if you can set clear and definable goals, articulate those goals into expected outcomes in a way that the intern can implement them, provide backup when needed, you’ll find yourself a partner to help share the workload. We certainly enjoyed the process and hope you have as much success should you bring an intern onboard.

Have you ever worked with (or as) an intern? If so, what recommendations do you have for your fellow indie authors?

An international bestseller and the recipient of over a dozen major awards, Jana Oliver often laments that there are far too many stories inside her head at any given moment.

Best known for her young adult Demon Trappers series, she writes what intrigues her, and spends a good deal of time fretting about whether demons actually exist.

When not wandering around the internet researching exorcisms, or posting on social media (eerily similar, those two), Jana can be found in Atlanta with her very patient husband, and a rapidly dwindling collection of single malt Scotch.

Jana Oliver | Chandler Steele | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound |

About Cat's Paw

After five years in a Louisiana prison, Alex Parkin desperately wants to start over. Even more, he craves revenge against Vladimir Buryshkin, the New Orleans drug lord who framed him for cocaine possession. The second he walks out of prison, Alex is a wanted man, both by the Russian mob, and by Veritas, a private security firm that claims to be "on his side." When his sister is brutally beaten, he has to choose: Join forces with Veritas, or let Buryshkin destroy his family.

Because of the Russian mobster, Morgan Blake lost both her husband, and her career at the FBI. Now working with Veritas, she's eager to take Buryshkin down. So eager, she's willing to do anything to make that happen, even sacrificing a certain ex-con, if needed.

As a load of tainted cocaine hits New Orleans' streets, the body count quickly rises. To prevent more deaths, and a potential drug war, Morgan and Alex must learn that revenge comes at too high a price, and that love always has its own agenda.

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