Hopping on a bus to Oxford in the snow, I (carefully) made my way each morning to their little offices on Beaumont Street. This being my first official internship, I was somewhat nervous. However the welcoming warm library in the reception, filled with recognisable and well loved titles, instantly put me at ease. DFB is a small imprint of Random House and their offices are home to the editorial staff and of course David Fickling himself.
I'd spoked to Matilda Johnson, who manages David's office as well as submissions and editorial responsibilities, both via twitter and when arranging my internship. She was the first person I met in the office on Monday. She showed me around and made me feel at home (leading me to the all important coffee making facilities - although rather than the usual cliche of the interns making the rounds I was generously offered drinks throughout the day, how lovely!) and set me to work reading manuscripts submitted into the slush pile that week.
The author's work came with a cover letter and a couple of chapters, or a full picture book text often accompanied by a doodled idea of illustration potential. These texts came from authors without literary agents, as DFB is open to finding the diamond in the rough and allows open submissions. Some of these were very rough, not in keeping with the DFB line, or simply needed more work before becoming ready for a publisher to take it on. I did find one chapter book for 8-12s that looked like it had potential. As well as a few barmy ideas that made me smile. On Friday I had the responsibility of sending out rejection letters, something that seemed strange at first, but you soon realise that for a small publisher which accepts 12-20 titles a year, this is a key component of the job.
Throughout the week I was asked to read a manuscript of a book currently going through the editorial process, an upcoming novel entitled The Waking World by Tom Huddleston, and the chapter summaries for the sequel. A fantasy, post-apocalyptic, Arthurian adventure, I found the book incredibly enjoyable and look forward to seeing what becomes of it once it is published in October 2013.
I did this again for a chapter book for younger readers. Throughout both readings, I found the best way to absorb the story was to read it carefully and jot down notes in my notebook as I went along. It was important to not be afraid of being critical, or saying what changes I believed would be appropriate. Once finished reading, I looked over my notes, considered the overall arch of the story and wrote a document on the changes I would make for review by the editors. On Thursday I had a meeting with David to discuss my thoughts, and he gave me the advice that my opinions were valid, as I am a reader, and that an editor must establish a friendly but firm rapport with their authors and have mutual trust that the comments provided intend to produce the best piece of work possible. The chapter book would need more work, and it was very interesting to hear the editorial comments that showed why it would not be chosen for publication yet.
Matilda also showed me through the process of selecting potential cover designs, and the stages of development and approval. The editorial team works with the author's vision and works with sales to settle on the final cover. Issues such as font, shadows, cropping, colours and design all come in to play when trying to create an eye catching and appropriate design.
I very much enjoyed my week interning at David Fickling Books, and would love to return in the future.
Best of luck to the team and especially to Mr Huddleston with his The Waking World.
P.S. thank you for my beautiful copy of The Feathered Man, I look forward to reading it!