a day in the life of · editorial · jobs · publishing

A day in the life of an Editorial Assistant

This week, I am pleased to bring you a second ‘day in the life of’ post, this time featuring the lovely Molly Walker-Sharp, editorial assistant at Avon HarperCollins. Being an editorial assistant really is such a vital job – she holds our team together – and it’s the first step on the ladder for lots of people wanting to enter the publishing industry. Read on for her advice…

1. Please describe your job – what does it involve?
My role is essentially split into two parts – the editorial bit and the assistant bit. As an assistant to the team, I do a lot of admin – taking meeting minutes, organising diaries, scheduling freelancers, and generally keeping the team on track. The editorial part is where things get a little more exciting (though being an organisation enthusiast, I do have quite the soft spot for the admin too!) I am lucky enough at Avon to be very embedded in the editorial process, so I do everything from desk editing and putting books into production, to structural edits and managing and acquiring my own authors. I’ve built my way up to the latter over the course of my time at Avon, and really enjoy the challenge of taking a book from start to finish – so working on the manuscript, writing copy, coming up with a title and cover concept and brief and so on – but I still help out our editors with a lot of the less obvious editorial process on their titles too, like production checks (the last check before the text goes to print) and creating prelims and backmatter.

2. How did you get to where you are now?
My route to publishing was on the more traditional side – I basically worked my butt off and did a fair few internships. I knew when I graduated that I wanted to work in publishing and was fairly sure that editorial was where my skillset lay, though I was open to other roles too. So, that summer, I got myself a part-time job as a receptionist at a local holiday park, and set about spending the rest of my time filling out application after application for every publishing role I saw going. By September, I’d secured my first internship in a small co-edition publisher in London. Unfortunately, this was unpaid – so I spent six weeks travelling up and down the country, spending my weekdays working as an intern in London and my weekends working at the holiday park. It was stressful, but I learnt a lot and it only further cemented my feeling that publishing was the career for me! I followed that two week internship with another placement at Bloomsbury in the children’s editorial department. Then in February of the following year, I finally started securing interviews – one of which was for an editorial assistant position with Avon. Whilst the actual job went to someone else, I was lucky enough that Rachel and Helen saw potential in me and offered me a six-month internship with Avon. During that time, the editorial assistant position happened to become available again – so I applied and here I am!

3. What is your favourite part of your role?
My role is very varied and absolutely no day is the same – which I love. I’d have to say that my absolute favourite aspect of the role is editing – whether that’s structural, line or desk editing. We have some fabulous authors and it’s really great to work closely with them to make a manuscript even better. It helps that I’m a fully-fledged member of the grammar police, and love correcting errors and typos! Although, I’m also a secret lover of metadata – I have great fun playing around with it to see what effect it can have.

4. And what’s the worst part?
This is a hard one, because, without sounding too clichéd, there genuinely isn’t much I dislike. Maybe having to book a room last minute – because it can be pretty much impossible, and you end up running around like a headless chicken and begging favours from people across the company!

5. How does your role fit into the wider publishing team?
Avon is a relatively small and tight-knit team, which has the great benefit of meaning that I am involved in more than just the editorial side of things and I’m always on hand to help anyone who needs it or answer any questions. I like to think of myself as the safety net for the team – I’m there to catch anything before it falls!

6. Where do you see your career going in the next few years?
In the next few years, I’d like to keep progressing up the editorial hierarchy – so Assistant Editor and Editor, and so on. I really enjoy working directly with the authors, so commissioning and building my own list is definitely something I’m excited about.

7. What is your relationship to authors?
At the moment, I manage around five authors and have a close working relationship with them, as I’m their first port of call with any questions they may have and also communicate often with them about the progress of their book – no matter where it is in the process. This can be letting them know what cover we’d like to go with, communicating their marketing plan, updating them with sales figures, or anything else in between! I also make sure that I pop in and say hello to any other authors who come into the office as I’m often in touch with them at some point for one reason or another – Avon is very much a family environment and we like to make sure that authors know that they really do have a whole team of people on their side.

8. What advice would you give for somebody wanting to be an editorial assistant?
Try, try and try again. It can seem impossible to get a foot in the door, but as long as you are open to every and any opportunity and making sure you’re keeping engaged with the publishing industry in every way possible – reading; following publishing imprints, editors, authors and bloggers on twitter; looking at the bestseller charts; knowing what is working in the market and what isn’t – you will get there! I’d also say to not be afraid to reach out to people in the industry – we’ve all been that person who needs a helping hand at some point and so are always more than happy to be that hand for someone new to publishing.

Thank you, Molly! You can find Molly on Twitter here.

If you’re interested in getting into publishing, here’s another blog post about what you can do to help get that all-important foot in the door.

One thought on “A day in the life of an Editorial Assistant

  1. What an interesting interview….Molly you describe your work so well and with a lot of enthusiasm. I am so impressed with the commitment you showed to getting to where you are, very impressive x.


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