A Day in the Life of an Editorial Assistant

Carly Silver photoby Carly Silver


I am an editorial assistant at Harlequin Special Edition. In that capacity, I assist the senior editor of the line, which focuses on home-and family-oriented relationships. In addition, I also assist two executive editors, each of whom works with her own respective authors in a variety of lines across the publishing house.

9:30 AM-12 PM: I arrive at Harlequin’s offices in downtown New York City. After settling in to my cubicle, I check my work e-mail in Microsoft Outlook to see if I received any important notifications overnight. Seeing a few requests, I make note of them on my calendar alongside my other assignments.

At this point, one of my most urgent tasks is working on “prelims,” also called “front matter.” Prelims include the “front sales” page (the excerpt that’s featured just inside the front cover of a book), the title page, the copyright page, the author’s list of published titles, the acknowledgements, the dedication, etc. I gather all of this information and input it into a database called SMART for one of our Special Edition titles. Information about one of Special Edition’s upcoming series also needs to be updated in a Harlequin information database called HERS. I consult with our managing editorial team to do so.

Because I work directly for three supervisors, I have to juggle a lot of different responsibilities. Luckily, they are all supportive and helpful, as are my co-workers, which has been invaluable during my first few weeks at Harlequin. I’m constantly learning new things on the job, whether it’s how to work with a particular database or understanding the best way to phrase a comment on a manuscript.

12 PM-1 PM: At lunchtime, I bring food from home. With several other co-workers, I eat and chat in the break room.

1 PM-2 PM: Today is a rather special day. Our VP of Series and Subsidiary Rights is visiting the New York offices from Toronto, Canada. For this hour, I meet with her and the rest of my team to discuss our three-year plan.

2 PM-5:30 PM: The work I do in the afternoon is similar to that of the morning. In addition to the types of tasks I completed in the morning, I focus on reading a manuscript that the senior editor gave me. As I read each page, I jot down notes about theme, plot, characters, and other important elements for my reader’s report, which is due at the end of the week.

At 5:30, I pack up and head home.

Romantic Life Lessons, Writing Tips

Critique Partners

marked up paperWhenever I hear about a writer’s critique partner, I always wonder: Does that partner help or hurt? Partners tend to be/ turn into friends. Don’t you want your friends to like you? When you’re both writing, it must be rough to strike that balance between friendship and truthfulness about the person’s work. You want to be nice, but not seem mean or competitive. If you’re a writer, you need the absolute truth. You need to hear: This is fantastic, show it to an editor immediately or this is really crappy (but in a helpful way).

I really like the truth when it comes to what I write (not for this blog, though :)). It means someone’s taking me seriously. When I need an editor, I think of friends who will give it to me straight–none of this tactful “You might think about possibly doing blah, blah, blah.” Usually, my friends lie by omission or forget my request, so I turn to my mother. I know, bad idea, but she tells me a version of the truth (“This is good, but make it more positive! Can’t he just go to rehab and not shoot himself?”). My feeling is that, for my truth-seeking criticism, commerce would need to play a part.

My prayers were answered. I had an experience of penning a project proposal, something my author base does regularly. I could do it, too, right?  No problem. I read enough proposals so I can just whip one up. I did my assignment fast–because I’m naturally brilliant–and figured that was satisfactory. Fast is often acceptable and I am lazy enough to think that my version of acceptable is everyone else’s “amazing.” Then I got my proposal back with all kinds of nasty red everywhere. I mean, it was nicely put and constructive, but not the glowing praise I expected. Mommy?

For twenty-four hours, I blocked out the ego-bruising and did a puzzle. Maybe I slipped in a few Housewives and Downton Abbeys. Then I turned and faced the computer again. If I gave up or did it half-heartedly, I’d have regrets. Do I want to do things the same way? Definitely not. I needed to listen to the truth. My critic put in a lot of effort with the red ink all over my work. I revised a page, agonizing over every sentence. For hours. Days. And completely rewrote the thing, methodically addressing every single point. It made me remember Francine Prose’s excellent book  Reading Like a Writer, which inspired me as an editor, reader, and in this instance, as a writer.

Now on the sixth draft, blasting Frankie Valli as inspiration, I’m thoroughly driven to keep re-crafting and putting better words together, thinking about what a reader might like to read, the heart of what I want to say, and staying positive about it all. I’m grateful for any constructive feedback, the absolute truth. I may not dish out the truth as well as I take it, but this journey is certainly helping me as both a writer and editor.

And now, I’m going to watch a lot of television.

Romantic Life Lessons, Uncategorized

Snippets of My Reading Past…

photo (3)by Mary-Theresa Hussey

My parents aren’t readers. Multiple newspapers, sure, but I think I’ve seen my dad read about three books in the last thirty years, and all of them were about County Kerry (where he was born) or Kerry footballers (Up the Kingdom!)! My mom would go on vacation and read one-three pages a night and put the book down. It took her a year to get through most books. (On the other hand, she did finish the Fifty Shades trilogy in about three months!)

However, they read every night to us kids. Even now at family gatherings we reminiscence  about sleepovers and which family made you eat porridge, which ones had the best play areas, and which ones made sure they read stories to us each night. 🙂

For parents who never read, they raised four active readers. All of us generally have at least one book if not two or three on the go.  Me, I generally have three or four published titles I’m actively reading, and lots more unpublished at any one time!

My first library book was Mr. Popper’s Penguins, my first Nancy Drew was The Secret of the Wooden Lady and I read my first Harlequin title (technically M&B) when I was eleven. I never stopped wanting more of any of those genres!

One of the common questions you get after they learn you’re an editor (no, I don’t want to be a writer; yes, you have to read a lot; I’ve met Fabio once) is do you still read for pleasure. And I have to say I do. I can’t imagine not reading, and I will get jumpy if I go too long without escaping into a book. Sometimes I’ll read manuscripts on the subway if it’s particularly good or I’m pressed for time, but normally the subway is my fun reading.

I probably read about fifteen-twenty Harlequin titles a month (covering most lines, though I do love Presents!) and I buy books regularly—print more than digital, though I read a lot of digital (and print) from the library as well. And yes, I have accidentally bought the same title more than once (hence a recent resolution to read the books I buy before getting more!) There are a bunch of authors I’ll happily re-read, and I like most genre fiction, and dip into non-fiction a couple of times a year (not really biography or memoir though). My office and apartment are filled with the titles I want to read, though I sometimes have to be draconian and pass on those that have sat too long.

Currently? Well, things have no doubt changed since I wrote this, but I’ve got Living with Ghosts by Kari Sperring (recommended by Laura Anne Gilman and it is great!) in my bag; Chicks Kick Ass anthology (including the fantastic Rachel Vincent!) in the bedroom; iPad for Dummies checked out from the library; Rhyannon Byrd’s Dark Wolf Rising in my pocketbook; and Seraphina by Rachel Hartmann on the iPad. So I’m prepared for every eventuality, and surely will have a different set of titles on the go by “now.”

So if you want to recommend a YA, or romance, or fantasy, or paranormal, or thriller or mystery or SF or intriguing non-fiction or just about anything else, let me know in the comments, and I’ll move it to the top of the pile…

Romantic Life Lessons, Uncategorized

Some of Us Are Just Born Romantics

stacyProfileby Stacy Boyd

Wanting heroes and heroines to get together is part of my DNA. At least it seems that way. For as long as I can remember, I’ve looked for romances everywhere.

The Evidence:

–When I first watched Peter Pan, I was sure he and Wendy were meant for each other. Tinkerbell was just getting in the way.

–During elementary school, my bus dropped me off at my house at 3:50 pm every afternoon—just in time for the last 10 minutes of Guiding Light, which I watched religiously. (Lujack, I still love you, and so does Beth.)

–I watched Jem and the Holograms not because it was a cool cartoon but because of the love triangle.

–I snuck out of bed and hid under the piano in the living room so I could watch Rhett Butler—oh, I mean Gone with the Wind, back when it played on network TV once a year.

Yep, I’m a die-hard romantic. If a story doesn’t have a romance, I’ll add one in my mind. Someone please tell me you do this too. I can’t be the only one who was born a romantic!

Romantic Life Lessons

Welcome to 2013!

734084_10151408780924973_2041214601_nFirst of all, Happy New Year! Second of all, I’m so embarrassed for not posting sooner. I got caught in an avalanche of manuscripts. Now that it’s a new year, I vow to write once a week and invite some of my colleagues to join me on this site. The people I work with have a lot of wisdom about writing romance.

I don’t know about you, but the last few months of 2012 were a mess challenging for me. I was dizzy from all the running around, the loss of sanity during Hurricane Sandy, then the elections, and the shopping for the holidays and the holidays themselves. In a sheer Calgon-take-me-away moment, I did a 500-piece cat puzzle on our rarely used exercise mat. Behold my humiliation!

Now I’m back to reading romance. The dust is clearing and I’m ready to work on good books. Here are my resolutions:

I will:

1. Read at least one proposal a day. (Oh wait, that didn’t happen the last couple of days)

2. Not get an ulcer over deadlines.

3. Stop making little charts for deadlines, then copy them over. This wastes time.

4. Do one heinous task a day — write a hard revision letter, answer an email that will take energy.

5. Not procrastinate by going down to Starbucks (Cranberry bark bar was a mistake).

6. Tweet about the books I love.

7. Watch less TV. DVR setting for The Bachelor on 1/7/13 begs to differ.

8. Remember that I work for and with human beings, i.e. make more attempts to communicate with others.

9. Not spend the whole 8 hours at my desk since this replicates experience of hangover (sensitivity to light, inability to move, screen nausea)

10. Have good editor posture.

11. Take secret chocolate stash to the kitchen and share with colleagues.

What are some of your resolutions for 2013?