Tuesday, November 20, 2007

different kinds of Asses and Editors

Church Lady asked the good question--what's the difference between an Associate Editor and an Editorial Assistant? Here's the hierarchy, with some self-indulgent annotation.

Editorial Assistant: this is the entry-level position, although you probably won't get it without significant experience elsewhere. I, for example, was an unpaid intern at a literary agency for a year first. An Ed Ass is a total flunky. Chief duties include transmittals (that is, preparing edited manuscripts for production, including their horrible illustration programs) and all administrative work for their boss(es) who is/are editors, senior editors, publishers, etc. They also keep their boss's submissions log and often are the chief/sole vetter of any or all proposals that come in to their editors--they read, write reader's reports, and advise their bosses on how to act. They open the mail, take the phone calls, placate the authors when they're angry, deal with all the data that needs to be kept track of (like the specs in the catalog copy, the permissions available on published books, the authors' payment schedules, the processing of contracts) and generally run everything, ever. They are generally not allowed to edit or acquire books, but are responsible for all other details of publication. If you ever get a book deal, try to make nice with your editor's Ass, because if the Ass likes you you'll get the hinges greased to the best of his/her ability. It's an invisible position and just a little appreciation is so very appreciated.

[some companies have one or even two "in-place promotions" here, such as Senior Editorial Assistant or Editorial Assistant Coordinator or the like.]

Assistant Editor: At some companies, this is an assistant who is allowed to take on some editorial responsibilities, but in most companies, this is an editor who is still trying to shed the last vestiges of an assistant. Ass Eds usually don't have assistants themselves, and are usually responsible for training up the Ed Ass who replaces them, but they do shed the administrative duties (the mail, the note taking, etc) and are usually encouraged to acquire modestly (usually one or two titles a year) and to edit. Frequently, more senior editors will pass down projects they have acquired so the Ass Ed can cut his/her teeth on them editorially, with some supervision. Most people aren't Assistant Editors for very long--if you've made it this far, no one's going to stop you, and you'll start generating so much business that they'll promote you pretty steadily from here. Although of course this too varies from company to company.

[nb I skipped that whole position, which is why I'm such a seat-of-the-pants editor. Sigh.]

Associate Editor: this next step up is an editor who is too junior for full status. There are no assistant/administrative duties anymore (thank god) and usually an associate editor has an assistant of their own that they share with others. Associate editors are usually expected to acquire, edit, and manage their own list of titles, so it's a position where there are usually performance incentives (or at the very least, requirements).

Editor: I guess this is what you think of when you say "editor"?

Senior editor: the next promotion track after editor (usually you have to have been somewhere a certain amount of time, and need to be generating a certain amount of revenue for the company).

Executive editor: some companies have this title as further in-place promotion. (My company doesn't.) Some companies also have a "deputy publisher" position to imply that this is the editor who's second-in-command after the publisher. A deputy publisher, however (and this is often true for an executive editor), has to deal with practical/fiscal matters--budget planning etc--that editors don't have to deal with ordinarily.

Publisher: when you get to this level, you're starting to abandon your hard-won editorial privileges in favor of budget management, project flow, and big-time business. These are good and useful skills to have but unfortunately just not as much fun as editing.

Does that clear it up a little bit?


Precie said...

My ass experience wasn't even that glorious...I was really more of a data entry clerk. Sigh.

cyn said...

thanks for the post! both interesting and helpful. i know too little about the pub industry.

Lisa said...

These are great posts. It's really helpful to gain an understanding of the publishing food chain. This is probably a dumb question, but how many people with the title "Publisher" would a house have? Can there only be one, or do big publishing houses have many?

Church Lady said...

Thanks! This is quite useful.
Someone calling herself an Associate Editor has my ms and is 'considering it.' I just wanted to know more about her ass.


moonrat said...

lisa--it varies, but my small house only has one publisher (Robert). the much, much larger house i worked for before had a publisher for each imprint. the imprints varied in size, so one publisher could be the boss of 25 people and another the boss of only 3.

CL--i wonder if it's me?! that would be weird. and we'd never know.

Church Lady said...

Oh, you'd know it because it would be the finest work of literature to cross your desk in years.

If you're not feeling the love, it's not mine.


Seems like you're feeling better. Hope so!

P.S. The ass looking at my ms is in Texas. It's not you. sigh....