Candidly Careering #4: The View From 6 Weeks In Publishing

In the glamorous view of my job as a literary agency assistant, my hours are consumed by thinking about words. Reading them, judging them, and then composing my own sentences of them to convey these judgments on what I read to the two agents to whom I provide support.

In reality, I spent two hours on a Friday calling florists to see what particularly beautiful or unusual potted flowers to send to one of our authors only to call back the following Monday to demand a refund when the blue hydrangeas were delivered wilted.

I was that florist’s nightmare.

But having blue hydrangeas show up in unacceptable condition to a 50+ time New York Times Bestselling author is — by all accounts — an agency’s nightmare.

Most days I fall in between these two extremes. I provide administrative support, absolutely: sorting mail, filing copyright confirmations, typing memos for project files based upon various e-mails received by the office from publishers, answering phones, the list goes on. But I also get the chances to learn about agent work through researching editorial contacts for submission, reading second round manuscripts after an unsolicited query makes it past the interns (who, quite frankly, save my sanity by handling the queries). I’m particularly grateful for the one agent in my office who has taken me under her wing as a mentee and does more than within her power to introduce me to each step of whatever task she is working on.

Whenever it gets tough, and it does because it’s still a job, I stop myself and pep talk myself to the phrase, “Yes, but you finally work in publishing.” And that still somehow holds the magic.

This is how I know that I’m still enamored with my job.

Today I was lucky enough to meet one of our authors. My big boss, the Head-Honcho, called and told me to mark this meeting two weeks in advance. I quickly did, jotting down the various other tasks for the day. “KH in office. 2:30.” And as the day drew nearer, I started to plan. I booked a hair appointment for 7:00 a.m. that day so I could look polished and primped — a master feat considering the way I had been spiraling into work of late. I laid out my clothes the night before. I asked the Head-Honcho whether she needed me to pick up refreshments for the appointment (a point she quickly dismissed, but I hope was noted). And when KH entered the office, I stood up and walked around my desk to shake her hand like the absolute clown that I am.

Yes, I fangirled at my own office for an author whose work I admire. But now I can say that I not only admire her, but I represent her — or, at the very most, support the people who represent her. That’s touching greatness, if not yet there myself.

So when the days hit where I feel very Devil Wears Prada, switching out my shoes under my desk and drafting e-mails for review rather than sitting and diving into query submissions, or the days when I’m scolding a florist for wilted blooms, there are the days when the extraordinary happens that 9-year-old Rose with her nose in a book would gape at.

And that’s pretty damn cool.

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