The Worries of a Lit Assistant

Writers become quickly accustomed to the sting of rejection. But they aren’t the only ones who worry about it. Editors also worry about how authors will respond to their edits. Literary assistants and agents deal with losing a possible client to other agents and getting told no from publishers. Or at least I think I’m not the only one who worries about these things. Ever wonder what worries a lit assistant? Now’s your chance to find out.

I work in publishing because I love books. I wanted to help authors share their books with the world. In fact, my love of working directly with authors is what made me want to switch from editing to the literary agency side. Sure, I work with authors during edits. But sometimes not so much during proofreads, especially if I’m the second round proofreader at a Big 5 or proofreading translated manga. But as an agent I can help authors in more ways than just editing.

Something that’s been on my mind ever since becoming a literary assistant is how hard it will be to get my own clients when the time comes. A lot of the manuscripts I fall in love with will likely get other offers, and I completely understand why an author would want to go with a more experienced agent. At the same time all agents start somewhere and the new ones have plenty of reason to be the hungriest agents for clients and sales. Without a packed client list, we also have the time to give our clients the time they deserve without wearing ourselves thin. I may only be a lit assistant, but at least I’m coming in with several years of publishing experience already. To be honest, I wouldn’t change the way I came into the literary agency side. It takes time to build good editing skills, and with editing being such an important part of selling books I’m glad I have plenty of experience under my belt. I think those years spent refining my editing will be invaluable to me as an agent. My editing background also means I’d be an editorial agent. I’d work closely with my clients until their manuscript was too shiny to resist.

But that means some of the same worries I’ve had as an editor. What if an author doesn’t like my edits? I consider myself pretty easy to work with. I don’t demand authors make revisions a certain way and refuse to budge or consider other options like some book dictator. Instead I point out the issues and make suggestions. I ask questions to get them to think of possible solutions. I brainstorm with them. I remind them that they have what it takes when they feel overwhelmed by the edits needed. But being told your story needs changes and polishing can be emotional for writers, which I totally understand as someone who also writes. I still think editors and agents can’t fully understand what authors go through when they receive their edit letter until they’ve been in the same place. I think we get so used to doing edits that it’s easy to forget how emotional it can be for the author. When I send an edit letter I cross my fingers and hope it doesn’t make the author hate me for the work and emotions they are about to go through.

So to my future clients, I don’t know who you are, but I know I will likely dance when I sign you. I will give selling your book my all. I’ll squeal like a little girl when I finally hold your book in my hands and I’ll be excited to see what you write next. If I stammer on the phone during my offer call it’s just because I’m nervous. Imagine meeting the author of one of the books you love; talking to you is kind of like that.

My other current worries? I’m not entirely sure what to make for dinner tonight. Maybe salmon. I do have some leftover cheesy biscuits that’d go great with it. I’m also working on edits for my own manuscript that I’m feeling overwhelmed about. I’m debating on whether or not to shelve it and start something new, or to keep trucking. I’m also debating what kind of gingerbread house to make for the family competition. Whatever I make, it needs to be crazy cool.



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