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Posted on Apr 06, 2020

Finding Editorial Assistant Jobs in New York City

Landing an editorial assistant job in NYC is the logical first step on a career path that leads you to become an editor. If your final goal is to become an executive editor at Penguin Random House who plucks new authors from obscurity and turns their books into New York Times #1 bestsellers, then you’re going to have to start somewhere… and as with most industries, this entry point will involve making copies and fixing coffees.

In this post, we will attempt to cut through the BS and answer your most pressing questions about becoming an editorial assistant in America’s publishing capital.

Where can you find editorial assistant jobs in NYC?

Before we get into any other details, let’s cover the most important ground: how do you find a job as an editorial assistant?

The good news is that New York publishers tend to advertise their jobs in all the expected places, so signing up to a few job sites is always a solid way to start your search. You can try some of the big job listing websites, such as:

As with most parts of the creative sector, there are also a few industry-specific job boards which you’ll want to keep your eye on:

Of course, if you’ve got a dream publisher in mind, it never hurts to peruse their internal careers page, either.

Note: Most job sites let you save job alerts after you join, to keep up to date on particular searches. Simply save “editorial assistant jobs NYC” as an alert, and they’ll email you all the newest listings.

Okay, so now you know what getting a job the field looks like, let’s take a moment to examine whether it’s truly the best fit for you. The first thing you’ll want to know, of course, is…

What does an editorial assistant do?

Editorial assistant is an entry-level position at a publishing company. Depending on the size of the team and the nature of the position, an assistant will report to (and work directly with) a full-time editor at the press.

The key distinction to make is that the job title is not “assistant editor”. Most of your regular tasks will be for the purpose of letting an editor do their job. Or, to put a fine point on it, you’ll be doing all the stuff that isn’t worth their time (but hopefully learning a lot on the job as well).

To give you a better idea of what the job involves, we pored through dozens of job listings and have split the expected tasks into three categories:

1. Admin duties

These are the thankless jobs that need to get done if the editorial team is to remain a well-oiled machine. These may include:

  • Setting the editor’s schedule
  • Arranging travel
  • Managing expenses
  • Answering phone calls
  • Sorting mail

2. Assisting duties

These are mid-level tasks which require a bit more diplomacy, creativity, and attention to detail. They might include:

  • Communicating with authors, agents, and other departments on behalf of your team
  • Compiling sales reports
  • Maintaining any number of acquisitions documents.
  • Directing manuscripts through the production process
  • Keeping track of every project currently in production.

You could also work on writing tasks that will have a direct impact on how well a book sells, including:

  • Cover/flap copy — the words that actually go on the book!
  • Catalog copy — which will go into the publisher’s catalog that gets sent to buyers.
  • Tip sheets — which reps will use to sell the book.

3. Editorial duties

While editorial assistants don’t usually “edit” in the traditional sense, they may use their taste and judgment to help the editor in acquiring new titles. This might mean:

  • Evaluating proposals and pitches — determining whether it’s worth the editor’s attention.
  • Writing reader’s reports — which usually involves reading a full manuscript and summarizing it for an editor who won’t have time to read everything from cover to cover.

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How much does the job pay?

According to ZipRecruiter’s stats, the average salary for this position in NYC is $39,949 as of April 2020. Opening salaries for this position can be a lot lower... but will rarely go any higher. First-time assistants are rarely in a position to negotiate: it’s an entry-level job in a highly competitive industry (there are a lot of people who want to work in publishing)

Note: Bear in mind that if you’re offered less than $32,000 for a full-time position, this is less than NYC’s new $15 minimum wage.

What skills and experience do you need?

The important thing to note is that most editors will prize the “assistant” part of the job over the “editorial” part. Most of the time, they seem to be looking for candidates with admin experience in a busy office. This tracks, as editors would much rather train you up in the editing side of the job than run you through how to manage a budget sheet or change the toner cartridge.

Publishing experience seems to be a bonus (a previous internship will likely tick this box). But by the looks of it, their unicorn applicant is someone with a track record of being super-organized and efficient in a busy office — who also wants to break into publishing (and therefore will be willing to work for less than they were making before).

From most examples we’ve seen, a bachelor’s degree is a big plus but not always a requirement.

How can you beat out the other candidates?

As we’ve mentioned before, these are highly coveted positions. If you’re struggling to land any interviews with your applications, our advice would be to get yourself an admin job for a year at a busy office and use that time to:

  • Become intimate with the Chicago Manual of Style;
  • Read voraciously;
  • Regularly read Publisher’s Weekly to better understand industry news and trends.

And there you have it. Hopefully, you’ll now have a better idea whether the life of an editorial assistant in New York, NY is right for you. Work hard, work smart, and we’ll see you in the acknowledgments pages!

If you have any questions about finding editing work, just drop a message in the comments below.