Written by Isabelle Resnick, editorial intern at the University Press of Florida
Before I came to the University of Florida, the only thing I knew about books was that the words inside them took me on a trip. Some of these trips were free, though they had to be returned, while others came at prices that varied depending on whether they were paperback or hardcover. While on these trips, I never thought much beyond how my hand cramped when I held a particularly heavy book, or that I wished I could wallpaper my bedroom with the front cover of a beautiful book jacket.
Before I came to UF, the only thing I knew about publishing houses was that in The Proposal, Sandra Bullock’s book editor character was almost as scary as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, and that being an editor’s assistant sounded horrible—apart from the whole begrudgingly falling in love part. Then I learned that one could be paid to read while watching About Time, wherein Domhnall Gleeson makes fun of Rachel McAdams’s job as a reader at a book press. Later in the movie, the pair’s daughter destroys a manuscript she must bring to dinner with a very important client, and every nightmare I’ve ever had flashes before my eyes.
Needless to say, there was so much I did not know about what had to be done before I could browse a bookstore and run my fingers up and down the length of a pre-cracked spine. There was so much I did not know about the decisions and price points and negotiations that held together the acid-free paper of a fresh-smelling novel. I didn’t know how many times a manuscript had to be passed back and forth between the editorial department and the author. I didn’t know that text needed to be coded, or that at least three sets of eyes had to check the book’s ISBN, folios and chapter titles. I didn’t even know what a folio was! (It’s a group of pages).
Did you know that a single remaining line of text that makes its way onto a new page is called a widow, or that if one of those single lines of text sits alone at the bottom of a page after a prose extract ends, one would call it an orphan?
Did you know that even though hardcover book pages are no longer sewn together, designers still have to choose a headband (the small, colorful strip of material at the top of a book’s inner spine) for the purposes of tradition and nostalgia?
At the University Press of Florida, I have had the honor of working with the people who meticulously ensure that book manuscripts become the pieces of art that line the UPF office walls from floor to ceiling. To pick the brain of a designer or to learn the coded language of a project editor’s back-and-forth is a gift for a person who is eager to learn about the industry that will hopefully become her career. I feel lucky to sit alongside them as they perform literature’s and academia’s most important work.
Isabelle Resnick will graduate from the University of Florida with a degree in Journalism in August 2018. She’s grateful to the University Press of Florida for allowing her the opportunity to work behind the scenes with books, a privilege she has aspired to since the Harry Potter series took her on her first trip to a new world.