A Day in the Life of an Assistant Editor: Guest post by Bella Whittington
I am hugely excited to welcome the delightful Bella Whittington to my blog. She joined Transworld Publishers a few months ago as an Assistant Editor working on the Women’s Fiction list and has already added an extra sparkle to Ivy Lane! She also reviews fiction, short stories and films online, studied Modern Languages and spent a year living in Spain.
So, Bella, over to you, what do you do all day?!
When people ask me what I do, I never know where to begin. Well, I assist an editor would be the most accurate (if tautological . . .) answer – but that never seems to actually say very much about the amazingly fun, varied and endlessly interesting job I have.
So, I’m afraid I have to start with a cliché, but a very true one: every day is different. Being an incredibly disorganized person, I write a list of things to do at the end of every day so that when I arrive the next morning I’m not completely lost (it is quite possible that without my list I would spend three hours clutching a mug of tea and staring at my computer screen, panicked).
On my list yesterday were: write cover copy, deliver editorial notes to an author, post a competition on our Facebook page, send out a bundle of books to an author, buy biscuits for our Women’s Fiction Book Group, email an edited manuscript to our Rights Director for a possible US deal, proofread two covers, gather together sales figures for a recently published title, start my edits on another novel, write a couple of submission reports and talk to our Art department about tweaking an existing author’s cover look. Phewf.
I am very lucky to have the best boss imaginable in Harriet Bourton, a Senior Commissioning Editor, whom I assist in nearly every aspect of finding, acquiring, publishing, developing and building brilliant Women’s Fiction authors. One of the comments I often read on Twitter or in newspaper articles is that editors don’t edit any more, that we just chuck a cover on a book and throw it out into the world. I shall take this opportunity to say this is Just. Not. True. We spend an enormous amount of time editing – this can range from writing extensive structural notes that consider the plot, pace and ‘feel’ of a novel, to detailed and intricate line editing that involves tightening and polishing an author’s writing, line by line, so it shines.
And in order to edit, we have to read. A lot. Every spare moment is stuffed with reading – whether submissions, delivered manuscripts or second, third or fourth drafts. Only last week, I spent an entire day at my desk reading a new novel from one of our authors. What a treat! How many people can say that they are paid to read all day?
I am lucky that my job segues neatly into my normal life – I love reading in my spare time, so it has never felt like a chore to have a couple of manuscripts on the go at the weekend. And nothing, absolutely nothing, beats the thrill of reading something you know is good, that you want other people to discover, that makes the hair on the back of your neck tingle and makes you sit up straight. You might have to read one hundred lacklustre – or just downright bad – submissions before you get this feeling, but it’s worth it.
Actually, something might beat that feeling. Seeing a book you love gain the readership and recognition it deserves is one of my favourite parts of the day. In the first few weeks after Ivy LaneSpring came out, Harriet and I emailed each other non-stop with sales updates, getting more and more excited as they grew and grew.
So, a day in the life of an assistant editor is many things but never dull. Now, where did I put that to-do list?