Jobs I’ve Had: Publishing Minion

by kipress

One book ate two years of my young life, and you have to look very hard to find my name in it. For a very brief time in certain publishing circles in TO I was known as “the woman who came up with the table of contents for [insert name of book that will remain nameless].” It was a cool table of contents, but mostly they just couldn’t remember my name. Because I was a minion.

If you haven’t already seen it, you might be interested in this Walrus piece by Stacey May Fowles, from earlier this year, about young women in publishing. For the record, no one ever hit on me when I was a young publishing minion, at least, no one from outside of what I’d call my immediate “peer group.” Possibly I was so naive I just didn’t notice. But probably I was just too fat. I did have an agent at a party ask me when my baby was due.

A few random things I learned:

a) Everybody in publishing works nasty amounts of (unpaid) overtime. It’s an industry of love, not money. Or at least it was ten years ago. I could not see how anyone could stick it out in the field without having another source of income. The effect was probably amplified by the Toronto-ness of the whole thing. Still, I’d recommend doing your time in the Big Smoke to ambitious little minions out there.

b) Project management is super-important. One New York graphic artist I worked with told my boss that I “could manage the Pentagon.” I still don’t know if that was entirely an insult or a compliment or a bit of each. I once stayed at the office till 8:30 on a Friday night harassing a writer at home over his dinner because he had missed a deadline that day. He eventually sent it in. The next Friday he sent a bottle of Scotch.

c) Editorial work is a great way to learn a lot of crazy facts and raise your TPQ (Trivial Pursuit Quotient). I proofed a book of hockey players’ biographies and got some creative writing gold that I’m keeping for a rainy day: how about being killed by a lightning bolt, in your bed, while your wife next to you is unharmed? I also learned to use a cheese grater for adding the butter to pastry dough, and started to have opinions about the 1896 federal election.

Minor long-term effect my time in publishing has had: the intent, and sometimes longing, way in which I read copyright and acknowledgments pages in Canadian books.

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