Why We Need to Support Junior Editors and Agents

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 19 2022

When I was a junior editor, an editorial assistant to be exact, a huge part of my job was answering the phone and handling agent questions. It meant pulling forgotten submissions out of the pile and placing them on top for my boss, tracking down payments, and contracts, and giving updates on the progress of editorial notes. I was the frontline for my bosses.

During one of those phone calls an agent, Irene Kraas who has since retired, said words I’ll never forget. She wanted to learn more about what I wanted to edit and always liked to connect with the assistants. She said, “someday they will be the editors I sell to.” And she was right. One of my first deals was with Irene.

I’ve kept that in mind for all the years and repeated it to every agent who has worked at BookEnds. Probably multiple times.

Supporting Junior Editors and Agents

More than just “because they will be the editors I sell to,” junior editors and agents are the change publishing needs. Every day I review deals on Publishers Marketplace and there’s often a noticeable trend, especially in the world of business books. Old-timey editors buy old-timey books…by white men. I suppose some might call me old-timey (I’ll try not to get offended), but there is a certain consistency with editors of a certain age and the books they keep buying. Not all the time of course. I don’t want to generalize. Okay, truth, this is actually based on one imprint I’ve been watching in particular, especially one editor. I’ve paid attention to what he’s passed on from me, and what he’s buying. And it looks a lot like the same stuff he’s always done. Mostly, it looks like a lot of men in a world I’m trying to open to women and people of color.

As time goes on a lot of us tend to stick with what works. It’s easy. We make the same chocolate chip cookie recipe everyone always likes and shop at the same grocery store where we know the layout. The same happens at work, no matter what you do. You do what works and what has always worked, what built your career in the first place. This is why we need people who are still figuring out what works for them. Because they aren’t looking to compete with other editors by doing the same things, they are looking to compete by finding new things, different things. They are doing things that are changing publishing.

One of the things I love most about the junior staff at BookEnds are the ideas they bring to me. Not just the books, but the ideas for how we can do things better and how publishing can do things differently.

What Does Support Look Like

So what does support look like? What can we do to give junior editors and agents the start they deserve? First off, we can submit to them. Agents can reach out to people beyond those editors they’ve worked with for years and send projects to their assistants. We can watch when we read about promotions and get to know the new editor and we can share that information with our team.

Authors can do the same. You don’t always have to reach for the top agents at an agency. Look for those junior agents. You know, the ones building a list. The agents who are hungry and want to build a list. The ones who have all the support and connections of the rest of the agency.

All companies can pay editors and agents better and take time to understand their workload. Do they have the time to both assist and build a list? if not, how can we support them to make that happen?

We need junior agents and editors to help us reshape publishing. They’re already doing it, let’s give them the support to continue.





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