For our Princeternship, my classmate Rose and I were lucky enough to have the opportunity to shadow Mr. Dana Dreibelbis ‘78, an editor at Rutgers University Press. Only a short drive away from Princeton, the Press is also located conveniently close to the New Brunswick train station. Our host welcomed us warmly and offered us tea and coffee, apologizing for the fact that the office was undergoing some repairs, a fact that in no way hampered the enriching nature of our experience.
Mr. Dreibelbis began by explaining his job and giving us a comprehensive overview of university press publishing. We flipped through the catalog for the Press, noting the wide array of books published on a variety of academic topics. As an acquisition editor, Mr. Dreibelbis both receives and solicits proposals for academic manuscripts, specifically clinical and medical topics. These types of books, we learned, are fairly unique among academic publishing, as a large part of medical publishing occurs in journals, in addition to the fact that they often pose a greater design challenge, requiring detailed images. This, however, makes for a very cool finished product – later, he took us downstairs to the Rutgers bookstore and showed us some miniature, pocket-sized spiral-bound reference books for medical students with illustrated step-by-step instructions.
Next, we met with a production manager who laid out in detail the various steps that a manuscript goes through to become an actual, physical book. I was impressed both by the number of decisions that are made for every book’s production – whether to make it hardback or paperback, whether to use offset or digital printing – as well as by the high level of communication with the author. In particular, we learned that authors are very involved in the design of their book and often have a specific image that they provide for the cover, which I found interesting in comparison to trade publishing, where authors often have no say in their book’s cover.
The second day, we sat in on a staff meeting, in which the various departments all reported on their current projects and activities. Before this Princeternship, I definitely had not been aware of how many different dimensions there are in the publishing process, and it was especially interesting to hear how important marketing was. We learned about the various ways the books are marketed – through social media, book fairs, and more. Another key aspect is the season in which books are published. The biggest season is the spring, so ideally books are published in May. This is so that review copies can be sent out in June to professors around the country, who will then hopefully purchase the book to use in a class. However, the winter season is important in publishing as well due to the holidays! Again, this was something I hadn’t even considered as being a part of the publishing process, and I was intrigued to learn how important it was.
Overall, Mr. Dreibelbis emphasized the open aspect of the publishing industry, and the fact that one can really have any background to get involved in the field. He also spoke positively of the benefits of a smaller press such as this one, in which everyone is aware of their roles and eager to help junior staff learn. From my few short days there, it seemed as though the staff was very friendly and close-knit. Another aspect that I particularly liked was the fact that multiple professionals at the Press cited the rewarding nature of their work, and how they felt involved and well-read due to the many fascinating authors and topics that they engage with. For me, this Princeternship definitely solidified publishing as a potential career option, and I would absolutely recommend the Princeternship Program to other students – it really does offer an invaluable first-hand experience.