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Career profile: Editorial assistant

editorial assistant booksBonkers about books? Check out this starting job for working in an editorial department of a publishing company.

A what?

One of the most highly competitive strands of publishing, Editorial is the department that many aspire to work in. As an assistant you will be helping the editorial staff with the commissioning, planning and producing books.

On the job

Most editorial staff begin their career by doing administration work in the editorial department; maintaining company databases, researching on the internet, arranging meetings and taking minutes for the more experienced members of the editorial team. However, as the role progresses, there is more editorial responsibility, with the chance to sub-edit books, and eventually work on titles and commissions.

Course entry requirements

Although some universities offer specific degrees in publishing, most companies do not require that you have a publishing degree. Generally you will have to have achieved a 2:1 in any degree, usually an arts subject. If you want to work for a specialist publishing company, such as a company producing academic science publications, then it will help to have a relevant science degree.

It will also be useful if you have some experience, so a couple of weeks’ work experience or an internship during the holidays could stand you in good stead for the future. Many people who want to work in editorial take jobs in other departments first (sales, rights, production) and then transfer later on. It is worth considering this as editorial is the most competitive area of publishing.

What does the training involve?

Most of your training will be done on the job, although you may be required to take external top-up courses in core skills. Some companies require you to take a sub-editing or proofreading course, but if this is the case they will generally send you on the course as part of your work.

The job itself involves a lot of reading, both of published and potential manuscripts. You will also be shadowing editors, acting as a point of contact for writers, and doing administrative tasks for the editors themselves.

The average starting salary for an editorial assistant is around £18,000 in a London-based company, and £12 - £15,000 for those outside of London.

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