An editorial assistant is a professional who works for a magazine, newspaper or book publishing company, usually in the acquisitions department. He is responsible for proofing articles or books, communicating with writers, helping the editor to determine which pieces to purchase and other administrative tasks. The job description for an editorial assistant can vary widely, and often depends on the size of the publishing company. For example, a small operation might hire such a professional to act as both an assistant editor and as an administrative assistant.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Degree in journalism, communications or related field
- Experience with writing and editing
- Excellent spelling and grammar skills
Learn everything you can about newspaper publishing. An editorial assistant is usually expected to know how a newspaper runs before she is hired for the job, so you might want to gain experience by working for the newspaper in another capacity, such as a secretary or clerk.
Memorise the AP Stylebook. This is the reference that you will use most often as an editorial assistant at a newspaper, and you should be as familiar with it as possible. A new edition of the AP Stylebook is issued every year, so make sure you have a current copy, as trends change on a regular basis.
Meet journalists. The newspaper industry, as with other publishing industries, is based almost as much on who you know as what you know. Get to know people you admire in this field, then ask for recommendations for an editorial position. This is sometimes the best way to get your foot in the door.
Apply to at least three newspapers that are currently looking for an editorial assistant. If possible, include at least two published clips, preferably from a newspaper. If you don't have any clips, prepare two samples of your writing that demonstrate your ability to write according to AP Style and your command of the English language.
Study the newspaper at which you are applying before you go to your interview. Be prepared to talk specifically about that publication's key demographics, its editorial slant and its most recent headlines.
Find out which magazines are headquartered in your area. Many national magazines have offices in New York City and in Los Angeles, but more localised publications will have offices in your major metropolitan area. Unless you are willing to relocate, this is the best place to start.
Determine how you can best be off assistance to a magazine. An editorial assistant must be familiar with the subject matter of the material he will be editing. For example, if you don't know anything about hunting or fishing, you would probably not be a good candidate for "Field & Stream."
Read several of the most recent issues of the magazine for which you would like to work. Get a feel for the types of stories they publish, the styles of the writers and the general voice of the publication. For example, are the writers straightforward and informative, or do they have an edgier voice? You should be able to work with that style as an editorial assistant.
Find the contact information for the editor-in-chief of the magazine. This information is generally located in the masthead of the magazine, which should directly precede or follow the table of contents. This is the person you will likely need to contact about a position as an editorial assistant.
Submit a resume and cover letter to the appropriate editor. Include your reasons for wanting to join their publication, your previous experience as an editor, your education and any published clips.
Realise that most book publishers hire only experience editorial assistants. You might need to "pay your dues" with a magazine or newspaper before you target this higher-end market.
Understand that a great number of book publishers are located in New York City and Los Angeles. This isn't true of all publishing houses, and you'll find smaller companies scattered throughout the United States, but location might be an issue.
Read several of the latest titles that the publisher has released. Get a feel for what they choose to represent. Fiction or non-fiction? Mysteries or romance novels? Self-help volumes or medical texts? This will help you target your resumes more accurately, and will give you an idea for what it would be like to work for them as an editorial assistant.
Choose a publisher your skills will complement. For example, if you are an ordained minister with a long history of youth ministry, you might find a job as an editorial assistant at a Christian publishing company. Aligning your skills with the subject matter they represent, other than just writing and editing, will give you a leg-up against the competition.
Submit your resume, cover letter and published clips to the publisher(s) of your choosing. Request an interview at their earliest convenience, and include at least a few paragraphs in your cover letter about why you would be well-suited for the position. This is the time that it is most important to demonstrate your familiarity with what that house tends to publish.
Tips and warnings
- The publishing industry is highly competitive. Make sure you find a way to stand out among everyone else who has applied for the editorial assistant position, such as previous experience or an exemplary education.
- Dress well for the interview. Even if "business casual" is suggested, the dressier the better.
- You might want to consider starting out in a lesser position, then working your way up through the company. This is especially true if you lack experience or a degree.
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