On being an Editorial Assistant [part 2]

Editorial Assistant

Last week we interviewed Norah Myers on being an Editorial Assistant. This week she is back with some advice. Norah studied publishing in London at City University and worked for Picador and Bloomsbury before returning to Canada. She worked for a boutique literary agency before moving to an independent publisher of fiction and nonfiction. She loves yoga, books, and endless cups of tea. @bookish_norah

1. Strengthen your administrative skills

Either take a short course concerning office administration or spend some time working in an office. Be prepared to do a lot of administration; work on your efficiency and attention to detail and presentation. You have to be both fast and accurate.

2. Take criticism well

Listen, think critically, be flexible, be as positive as possible, and apply criticism to the best of your ability.

3. Be a literary omnivore

Read everything. Read across all genres, even if you aren’t working with them. Be aware of what is selling and to whom, and read as much as possible. Read things you wouldn’t think you would enjoy or be open to. You might discover something you really love in historical fiction if you’re typically a memoir reader.

4. Work across publishing sectors

Two of the best editors I know started their careers in marketing and in a literary agency, respectively. I expected to be able to work in editorial right away and only disappointed myself. I worked in journalism, marketing, and for an agency before I ‘got into’ editorial, and all of it helped me in the work I do now. Don’t turn down any opportunities.

5. Take on any available freelance work

If you work as a freelancer and people get to know you, they will think of you when they have jobs that open up and they will recommend you to their friends, colleagues, and clients. Freelancing is tough, but once you get going, things start to happen for you.

6. Remember that publishing is a people business

The agent for whom I worked told me that his best interns and employees are great writers, fast problem solvers, creative thinkers, and good with people. He said you have to have fun and have a sense of humor while you’re doing all the work. I think this applies across publishing in every job. The highest praise I have got is for resourcefulness, artistic thinking, and effervescence.

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