A Day in the Life of an Assistant Editor

When people – be they family, friends or otherwise – ask me what I do, I never quite know where to start. Assistant Editor is the step between Editorial Assistant and Commissioning Editor; in a nutshell, it involves working more closely with typescripts and dipping my toes into commissioning, alongside general administrative tasks which enable the lists to run smoothly. Here’s a snapshot of how I spend my days . . .

07:00 My alarm trills away. I hit snooze – or rather, Laurence does, as the plug socket is on his side of the bed.

07:05 Much as I’d like to hit snooze again, it’s time to get up, get going and get out. (The first few lines of Dolly Parton’s 9 To 5 ring true.) After a bowl of Malt Wheats washed down with builder’s brew, I brush my teeth, throw on some clothes, pack my lunch and at . . .

07:50 . . . I speed-walk to the station. If it’s a good day*, there’ll be a spot on the floor for me to sit down; if it’s a bad day, there’ll be a shorter train or more stops (or both) and we’ll be squeezed down the aisle, cheek by jowl.

*On a very good day, there’ll be a seat.

Related: The 9 People You’ll Meet on Your Commute

09:15 (ish) I reach the office, say hello to those on my pod and fire up my computer. After skimming through my emails (and responding to some of them), I update my to-do list and crack on.

09:30 I’m checking a set of proofs for one of the titles in our forthcoming 50 Ways series (a small-format series with lots of icons and features, designed to provide an alternative way for students to engage in the core skills they need to succeed during and beyond their studies). I’ll spot-check chunks of text, suggest alternative icons which might work better with the content, and mark up any inconsistencies in layout and formatting.

11:00 Time for our monthly Titles in Production (TIP) catch-up: a brief run-through of all the titles on our lists currently in production. The Production Editor will let us know which stage of the production process each book is at (e.g. in copyedit, in typesetting, at revises, ready for press), flag any upcoming deadlines (for return of proofs, back cover copy, etc.) and let us know of any issues so that we can work together to resolve them.

11:30 It’s tea ‘o’ clock – and my mug even has space for a biscuit (#lifegoals). I recently handed Using Feedback to Boost Your Grades over to production, so I set aside the next half hour or so to draft the back cover copy (also known as a blurb). Writing back cover copy can go one of two ways: either my pen flies across the page or I find myself chewing the end of it and setting the task aside for another day. Fortunately, this time it’s the former.

12:00 We’ve just launched a blog, so I spend an hour before lunch brainstorming article ideas, reaching out to authors to ask if they’d like to contribute to it, reading draft articles or relaying feedback to authors.

13:00 I grab my lunchbox and water bottle, and head off for lunch with the other assistants. If it’s a rainy day, we’ll be in the bunker (so-called because it’s underground); if the currant bun is shining, we’ll take our lunch to the canalside.

14:00 Towards the end of last year, our digital team launched an interactive referencing tutorial: eleven bite-sized topics which help students understand the principles of referencing and show them how to acknowledge the sources they have used in their assignments. With digital products, small tweaks are always happening behind the scenes. I’m testing the live site – clicking and tabbing through the topics, checking the progress bar, attempting the assessments – to make sure that everything is working as it should. If I encounter any issues I’ll flag them to colleagues, so they can be picked up with the developers.

15:30 Clearing third-party permissions is no-one’s idea of fun, but it has to be done. Sometimes, I’ll clear them; mostly, authors will, and I’ll be on hand to advise them and steer them in the right direction. This afternoon, I’m skimming through some draft chapters for a linguistics title, on the lookout for any epigraphs, lengthy quotations, tables, figures or other such material still in copyright. There can be a lot of back-and-forth with rights-holders, mostly because they will rarely grant us the rights we need the first time round. Persistence is key!

17:00 I wind down with some admin: ordering books for authors, reviewers and upcoming conferences; updating the forward publishing programme; and checking our website to ensure new titles have fed out correctly.

17:30 Home time!

And there you have it, a day* – for no two days are the same, cliché as that may sound – in the life of an Assistant Editor. If you’d be interested in more posts like this, drop me a line in the comments!

*NB: This particular day was a few months ago; I’ve held off posting this until all of the projects mentioned in this post are known to the wider world (i.e. on our website).

6 thoughts on “A Day in the Life of an Assistant Editor

  1. This was SUCH an interesting post and cool way to get a glimpse into what it’s like to be an Assistant Editor (I’ve seen the title around when I’ve applied to a few jobs and always wondered what it’s REALLY like aside from the credentials mentioned under the job title). I’m sure it varies slightly among companies, but generally it was great to get somewhat of a feel for it through your post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s definitely a job that varies as much from company to company as it does from team to team within a company. I imagine my day is quite different to one of an Assistant Editor in Nature, or BMC, or Palgrave Macmillan! I really enjoy what I do, so it makes the commute worth it 🙂 If you’re trying to break into the industry, good luck with your applications!


  2. A mug with space for a biscuit, I’m jealous! If you put a choc digestive in it does it melt the chocolate though?
    Interesting insight into your work day, thanks for sharing! I’d love to do something like this. Especially if a workplace had a ‘bunker’, hahah that’s brilliant!
    Caz xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not sure how my spam filter swallowed your comment, Caz! Glad you found it interesting 🙂 Apparently before I joined, the lunch space was upstairs with lots of natural light… but then they needed space for more desks, so it moved underground! I haven’t actually tried it with a chocolate digestive. Will have to give that a go (I’m sure there were some on the shelf the other day at work…!) Enjoy the long weekend! X

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice to get a glimpse into your work day! Your job sounds similar to what I did freelancing a few years ago. Even if it can be busy at times, it seems like you enjoy it! Hope to read more about it in later posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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