What is an Editorial Assistant?

By December 16, 2019Editorial

What is an Editorial Assistant?

Whether you’re trying to begin a career in publishing, or starting your own magazine, you should know what an editorial assistant is. This entry-level position is the glue that keeps the team together. Everyone from the editor-in-chief to freelance writers will be interacting with you. So, read on for job description and tips for breaking into this exciting publishing role.

What does an editorial assistant do?

An editorial assistant’s job is different everyday. If you like being able to explore all sides of an industry this is the perfect starting role for you. Primarily, you will be author’s first point of contact. They will call you first for questions, concerns, and updates on progress [1]. You will provide information about their marketing plan, cover choice, and sales figures. You will also check-in with writers or photographers about their progress. Outreach is a large function of this role. Other editorial assistants agree that workshopping with amazingly talented writers and artists is the most rewarding part of the job [2].

man at work behind computer

In addition to being there for contributors, you will support the entire editorial process. You will pitch and research stories, write articles and promos, write copy, design covers, and manage social media. Sometimes you might be asked to fact check, pull social data, research photos, or even assist in photoshoots. Representing your publication at events and conferences is common–which can be a lot of fun meeting industry influencers! [1]

On the more administrative side, you are also likely to be asked to transcribe, submit invoices, fulfill check requests, schedule meetings, and track submissions. Editorial assistant Molly Walker-Sharp claims the toughest part of the job is scheduling on a short time frame [2]. Yes, this is the tedious side of the work. However, without it you will never get to discover and pitch the next great story or contributor to your team.

What skills do I need?

Clearly this position requires a wide skill set since expectations are changing everyday. First and foremost is writing. You must be a competent writer that can get ideas across clearly and with sophistication.  Your grammar should be on point. You must talk across hierarchies and communicate accordingly. Also, be sure to review AP and Chicago citation styles.

Editorial assistants must also have strong interpersonal and organizational skills. You must take many variables, prioritize them, and then work from many angles at once. You must be adaptable, because there’s always new stories breaking and new talent emerging. Your first hunch may not be the lead you end up following. And that’s okay!

Also, basic skills in HTML, CMS, InDesign, and Photoshop are a big plus. [1]

How do I get there?

Those who have experience in the field say that being thoughtful and accurate is far more important that being first. In this industry a lot of people fall into the trap that breaking the story first is best. However, this is not the case, according to Erika Ostroff [1]. With so much misinformation in print and online it is your responsibility as the editorial assistant to filter through all of that, not make the process more confusing for consumers.

More: How to Organize your Editorial Team

If you’re starting your own publication, you would recognize how much work is necessary. As for the application process, we can’t lie here, it’s tough. No matter what breaking into your career and landing your first entry-level position is challenging. However, professionals say those who keep up with industry developments are at a huge advantage. Follow blogs, Twitters, and reports of people already in the industry. Keep up with trends, figures, and bestseller lists. It’s always a good idea when applying to demonstrate that you actually know what you’re getting into.

The position of editorial assistant is a rich and rewarding opportunity that will allow you to explore all corners of the publishing industry.

[1] What does an editorial assistant do?

[2] A Day in the Life of an Editorial Assistant

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