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An Ode to Publishing Assistants

In the land before time I was an editorial assistant. The lowest rung on the ladder. My job was to file, answer the phone, write rejection letters and dream of bigger things. I wasn’t the perfect assistant, although I never complained about a coffee run, but I did my job.

Back in the day, an agent said something that has stuck with me some umpteen years later. She told me how she always makes an effort to be kind to assistants and to get to know them. They are the editors she’ll be submitting to in the future. Oh how right she was.

Sometimes, without thinking, we dismiss the person who answers the phone. The gatekeeper to the person we really want to speak to. But those assistants, those people answering the phone and sending you emails and mailing off your contracts, those are the people who might one day be running this business. Most importantly, those people might one day be your agents or your editors.

Category: Blog


  1. Something I discovered long ago is that the editor’s assistant generally has a better handle on your needs as an author than the editor does. I still send cookies every Christmas to an editorial assistant who kept me sane at one of my publishers–and yes, this person is now a busy editor with an assistant, but still always has time for me whenever I have a question.

    I think it’s the cookies, but I’ll never know for sure!

  2. I love this. My day job is with a fortune 500 financial services firm. I coordinate interviews for high level executive positions on a regular basis. What candidates don’t know is that my bosses always question me about how applicants have treated me when I contact them to set up flights, accommodations, etc. If they treat me disrespectfully they are automatically disqualified, no questions asked. Regardless of qualifications.
    In the end we are all in a people business. Common decency and professionalism is always appreciated. Some of my more onerous experiences *may or may not* inform my books.

    1. Yes! Many years ago, I worked as an admin in a growing software company. Applicants didn’t realize their interviews began with the receptionist. If they treated her dismissively, they didn’t get past the lobby.

      The second interviewer was the department’s administrative assistant.

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