My current job at Pocket came with a lot of benefits--a chance to work on a wide variety of books, greater acquisition opportunities, a nice office...and best of all: an assistant. This was the first time I'd have help with all the day-to-day chores that keep me from completely dropping the ball.
So consider, for a moment, what the shiny new would-be editors throughout do on a daily basis. They begin with a boundless enthusiasm for books and a willingness to work in a seriously underpaid job while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Then we sit them in a tiny cube and ask them...to photocopy. And file. And answer the phone. And open the mail. And photocopy some more.
If we haven't broken their spirits by then, they may get to answer the slush mail...or better yet, the slush phone calls! (The best/worst ones? When writers call back to say, "I got a form letter, and I was just wondering if you could tell me why I was rejected? I submitted about ten months ago, do you remember me?") Or maybe they get to rewrite some cover copy--at last! actual editorial work!--all while still covering the aforementioned phones/filing/copying.
At this point, we're depending on the assistants to be completely familiar with our lists--even when I can't remember in which month I'm pubbing that new author, I expect my assistant to back me up--and to answer basic questions so we don't have to. He or she is probably doing some of my submission reading for me at this point. Finally, they might get a chance to do some first-round editorial work on an actual manuscript.
The rewards of an editorial career are many, but they require serious perseverance, and quite a bit of good humor. Finding the right person to support you is invaluable...and hard. And how do I know this? Because my own wonderful, brilliant assistant is leaving--and now I need a new one. Anyone know a brilliant English major with a willingness to live on ramen and PB&J in exchange for free books?