If you’re a bit of a bookworm and enjoy reading or maybe you’re the type of person who likes to keep a diary or writes a blog, then a career as an editorial assistant may be right up your street. Granted, the job isn’t just about reading or writing, instead it’s about playing a part in all of the stages leading up to the publication of books, magazines, journals, newspapers and other publications.
Role of the Job
An editorial assistant is the entry level for anybody wishing to get involved in publishing. The tasks can vary according to the size of the organisation and the type of publication, but in essence it is the role of the editorial assistant to help more senior staff with the administration involved in the commissioning, planning and production, seeing a job through from beginning to end. As an editorial assistant you will be liaising with other in house teams, writers, printers, designers, photographers, and production staff in order to keep everything on track and meet deadlines. You’ll also have to deal with the admin side of things connected with freelance writers, illustrators, stylists, and picture researchers, so the ability to multi task is key.
Competition is fierce in the publishing industry and prospective employers will be looking for candidates who show evidence of the following qualities
Enthusiasm, self motivation and good people skills
Administrative and secretarial skills, as well as good IT skills.
A high standard of written and spoken English
Ability to stay calm under pressure
Pay attention to detail
Good time management
How do I get into it?
Generally speaking most publishing houses seek graduates or diplomats, although this isn’t always the case.
The formal way
A degree or HND in the following subjects may help your chances:
Personal qualities and experience are often more important that the subject studied although, having said that, a degree in say, science or engineering, where you have gained specific knowledge, would be more useful for specialist productions. A second language could also be useful as many publications are published internationally.
Pre-entry postgraduate qualifications aren’t essential. Postgraduate courses which involve job placements and contact with people in publishing are useful as an introduction to networking and gaining professional skills. A postgraduate qualification or pre-entry certificate in journalism could also be very helpful for entry positions into trade publications and magazines. A short publishing course could also give you that much needed edge over other applicants.
Even with a degree under your belt you shouldn’t expect to walk straight into a job as an editorial assistant. Experience is preferred by most employers and if you have worked in a book shop, or a library, or at a newspaper or magazine office, then this is likely to hold you in better stead.
The informal way
If your heart is set on working as an editorial assistant with either a newspaper, or magazine then you might be able to secure a job in another capacity such as a secretary or clerk. Learn as much as you can about the relevant newspapers or magazines. Meet journalists and get to know people you admire in this field and ask them for recommendations for an editorial post. Sometimes, it’s all about who you know and being in the right place at the right time.
Starting salaries could be anywhere in the regions of £14,000 to £20,000 depending on the size of the organisation. After 10-15 years a senior editor could be earning between £23,000-£40,000 (possibly more with large publishing houses).
Hopefully this has given you a few starting points to becoming an editorial assistant. It is hard work, generally office based, and sometimes long hours when deadlines are approaching. However, there are more opportunities to work from home. These are likely to be proof reading, translation, copy-editing, copy writing and styling.