The changing, consolidating nature of publishing staff today is that everyone, even assistants in various departments, are taking on more and more responsibility. In the past, where the job of ‘assistant’ use to mean mainly administrative tasks, today the position comes with more and more duties and responsibilities. That said, there are basically three entry level jobs in book publishing. The first one is:
An editorial assistant, in addition to performing the universal assistant-duties mentioned above, might be called upon to review incoming manuscripts and provide reports to his/her boss; to go through the “slush” pile of unsolicited queries from hopeful authors, and bring anything worth a look to the editor’s attention’ and to work with agents and authors to ensure that contracts are handled and processed correctly. Today, many Editorial Assistants will have their own authors and projects, and participate in editorial meeting where books are presented by other editors seeking to buy them for the company. Editorial Assistants also make luncheon reservations for the editor and handle special request. For example, my wife’s first assistant in publishing, when she was a young editor, had the job of getting her a Coke every afternoon (to be fair, she also bought him one!).
Editorial assistants often go on to become assistant or associate editors, and then senior editors. Each position brings with it more direct responsibility for the overall concept behind, and presentation of, a new book. The pinnacle of any editor’s career is to have his or her own ‘imprint’ –a line of books to be determined completely by the editor’s own tastes.
Often, and I am seeing more and more of this lately, as the book industry is shrinking, editors are leaving (i.e., getting fired) book companies, they are becoming literary agents and free- lance editors.
Remember that former editorial assistant for my wife who got her Cokes? Well, today he has his own imprint and is incredibility successful in book publishing. Now someone else is getting him his afternoon Cokes!