About midway through the publication of my book, Mad Kestrel, my editor’s assistant accepted another job. Since he’d been my primary contact from day one, I was terrified! Who would answer my questions and keep me in the loop? I needn’t have worried – Stacy’s smart, reassuring and funny, and if she doesn’t know the answer to a question, she won’t quit until she finds it. I’ve been so lucky to work with her, and I’m delighted she agreed to pay us a visit today. Now, without further ado, let me introduce you to Stacy Hague-Hill, editorial assistant at Tor!
“I’m an Assistant Editor at Tor Books, and I love my job. But, while there’s an understanding that anyone whose title involves the word “assistant” must do a lot of scut work, not everyone knows what, in the context of a busy editorial office, being an assistant means. When Misty kindly asked me to write a guest post, I thought I’d track a regular day and see how it shook out as a way to introduce what it’s like to do my job.
The first thing people tend to say when they first visit us is, “It’s exactly like I thought it would be!” If you imagine mountains of books in front of piles of books in front of shelves of books in the Tor lobby, with boxes of galleys stowed in every available space, then…you’ve got it right.
The office I sit in is shared with two other assistants. We have a big I AM LEGEND poster on the door and a spare office chair with a worn-through seat cushion. The walls are lined with books—a portion of the Tor mass market archive resides here, along with multiple other shelves holding manuscripts and spare galleys. Visitors have described the place as cozy, and I guess it is. Right now it’s full of boxes of things going both in and out—old galleys to be donated to charity and new galleys to be sent to reviewers.
Note to Self: send new galleys to reviewers.
This is what greeted me on my desk this morning:
Some contract term amendments to get approved and signed by our publisher and then delivered to contracts, some galleys to send out (different from the ones in the boxes), some short story collections that need individual stories copied for a sales packet I’m putting together for the sub rights department, a large chunk of a manuscript being read by my boss, five submissions, (one of them mine, yay!), some paperbacks needing to be shelved, a stack of reviews to excerpt, some issues of Publishers Weekly (PWs) to skim, a revised manuscript that needs to be checked against the initial edits, a dusty old lamp, my constant clutter of water bottles (only one full), a coffee cup stuffed with pens, a rubber ducky with a pirate eye patch, a lion sticker with googley eyes, various other odds and ends.
How the heck do I get any work done?
My boss arrives, and hands me pages from a manuscript he’s been reading. My boss still works with pen and paper, (most people now use the track changes and comment functions to edit), so I’ll photocopy his marked pages and mail them later, when he’s finished the book and it’s time to send the edits.
By noon, I’ve mostly addressed my e-mail, including revising some mass market cover copy and doing some contract term research for the royalties department. The amendment terms have been signed off on and delivered to contracts, the galleys on my desk have been sent out, the reviews have (mostly) been excerpted, and the intern is copying the short stories for me. I’ve also transmitted a hardcover to production for the creation of the mass market. This includes filling in a basic form with information like the title, author and ISBN, and also sending Production the front sales copy, which is the selection of laudatory quotes and descriptive copy that appear in the first pages of mass market editions.
I also spoke with legal about a take down notice for someone who has posted an entire copy of one of our titles on the internet. There’s not much we can do about this except send a take down notice—unfortunately, the books just pop up elsewhere. Still, it’s piracy, and not the good swashbuckling kind, so we do our best to deter it. The horrific list of stuff on my desk has prompted me to pass along the PWs to an unsuspecting co-worker and shelve the books. All water bottles are now empty.
Then, lunch! I manage to spray myself with juice from my orange while somehow flipping a chunk into my lap. The ducky refrains from comment.
After I’ve cleaned the sticky spots off my glasses, I refill my water bottle and get my revised mass market cover copy approved and delivered. While I’m on a copy drafting tear, I also put together some four color galley copy and then got the approval procedure wrong. Sigh. I hate getting procedure wrong.
Anyway, four color galleys are galleys that look like trade paperbacks in that they feature the cover art, but they are actually advance uncorrected proofs. Books that we think are going to be especially big will often get four color galley covers, among other reasons.
In the meantime, a co-worker has further passed along the PWs—three desks in one day! As the day rolls on, I prepare and submit an invoice for a freelancer and organize several of the stacks of things on my desk, including weeding through my projects under consideration folder. In here are draft profit and loss statements, sales figures—all of the data we need to gather when we’re looking to acquire something. A rush proof of a cover came by which I reviewed and passed along, and Production just dropped a copyedit on my desk, which needs to be photocopied and then sent to the author for his review. Have finally prepared letters and labels for galley mailing. Mailed out a contract. Water bottle empty. Lamp still dusty. PWs mysteriously appear back on my desk. The lion googles. It’s 6 pm–I go home with some reading. There’s an epic fantasy I have on submission I would like to make progress on before I come in tomorrow.
I asked a co-worker to proof this for me and she told me she felt it represented the general chaos of my work days well. So, there you have it—another Thursday as an assistant at Tor.”