Written by Brandon Murakami, outreach assistant, Summer 2021
This internship was offered in partnership with the University of Florida Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere as part of the Center’s 2021 Public Humanities Internship Program for Graduate Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Aloha! My name is Brandon Murakami and I am going into my fourth year as a PhD student in the English department at the University of Florida. During the first half of this summer, I was fortunate enough to be selected as the outreach assistant at the University Press of Florida, primarily working in the marketing department to promote a highly anticipated anthology (Home in Florida). Needless to say, the six weeks flew by and I came away from this experience with a greater appreciation and much fuller understanding of what it is like to work in the publishing industry, at an academic press, and the role that University Press of Florida plays in fostering the relationship between the academy and the ever-curious public sphere.
Although most would assume that someone pursuing their PhD in English would know about publishing, the truth is, we graduate students—and a lot of times even the faculty who have published multiple books—really don’t know that much. For me, as someone who also got their BA in English, I was vaguely aware of the pipeline: pitch –> edit –> production –> book. Beyond that, most of us (and probably the public at large) don’t really know the intricacies of the publishing process nor the specific challenges that a university press faces as it balances between producing both scholarly and trade books.
But this opportunity allowed me to see the full depth and inner workings of a press as I got to experience time with the acquisitions team and the editorial, design, and production teams; attend subcommittees and watercoolers as well as a webinar on digital publishing initiatives (featuring Furnace and Fugue); sit in on sessions of the Association of University Presses 2021 Annual Meeting; and gain access to more resources about jobs in publishing. In other words, I learned a lot about the publishing world at the same time that I worked closely with Rachel, the marketing manager, to learn the ins-and-outs of promoting a unique collection.
From researching media outlets and possible event venues for publicity to creating digital assets and promotional materials, I have a greater understanding and appreciation for an aspect of business that I (as someone who was in business management for years!) had very little expertise in, beyond posting pre-made images to social media. But the past few weeks have really given me the freedom to learn and practice new skills in content creation and a cache of strategies in how to circulate marketing materials to a wide and varied audience.
Watch the book trailer Brandon created for Home in Florida, to be published October 2021 by UF Press:
Admittedly, I have always been curious about a career in publishing. But for one reason or another, I’ve never had the chance to pursue an internship at a publishing house during my undergraduate years or during my PhD. Nor have I had the chance to work in the industry (though this was probably because I had no experience and felt highly unqualified if I ever saw a listing). However, coming away from this all-too-brief experience here at the University Press of Florida, I feel much more confident in potentially pursuing a career at an academic press (and all the avenues available!), whose existence wholly embodies the idea of the public humanities and indeed, doing good for the public. I have also gained tremendous insight in how I can better orient my own academic work to be more public-facing and accessible.
For any graduate students (or even undergraduates) I highly recommend pursuing an internship with an academic publishing house broadly—but for fellow Gators, specifically with University Press of Florida. Not only will you find a warm welcome and highly motivated, enthusiastic colleagues committed to printing spectacular work across interesting disciplines and subject areas, but you too will come away with a wonderful experience and an even greater (I’d hope!) appreciation for books and knowledge.
I’d also like to extend special thanks to the following staff at University Press of Florida: Rachel, Romi, Stephanye, Sian, Eleanor, Jackie, and Milo!
Brandon Murakami is a PhD student at the University of Florida whose research focuses on the circulation and production history of imagetexts, with a particular emphasis on manga and picture books. Brandon serves as one of the book reviews editors for the English department’s visual rhetoric/comics journal, ImageTexT.