What is a publisher’s assistant? It’s a vague title. Does it involve going on coffee runs and picking up dry cleaning? Do we have designer coats and handbags thrown at us like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada?
Definitely not. And certainly not with bosses as wonderful as Abbey Gaterud and Per Henningsgaard. The reason that so many people don’t know what publisher’s assistants do is because so much of the work is meant to be invisible. We work behind-the-scenes in order to facilitate the work of others. The goal of being a publisher’s assistant is to keep the press running smoothly and efficiently. Being a publisher’s assistant is being a resource for the press; we help find answers for people when they don’t know who to ask or when a question doesn’t seem to apply to any other department. We also act as the first point of contact for those interested in finding out more about Ooligan. As publisher’s assistants, we try to know as much as we can about all the current book projects, the different departments, and the press at large. Of course we can’t know everything, so knowing who to direct people to is essential.
Need to know how to mail books? We can teach you. Need to register for copyright or buy an ISBN? No problem. Can’t find some files? We can track them down. We publisher’s assistants specialize in all the small, often forgotten tasks. Our list of tasks is constantly changing, but it’s always keeping us busy. There is a constantly shifting array of work that needs to be done depending on where books are in the publishing process. For example, this week we are organizing office supplies, submitting books for awards, creating event checklists, cleaning up internal resource files, coordinating book mailings, and checking email and voice mails. And we are always, always, always taking meeting notes.
Documentation is a very important part of our job as publisher’s assistants—especially since Ooligan is a student-run press, which means half of the staff graduates from the program every year as new students filter in. Because of this continuous turnover, keeping detailed records of the publication process is essential. This is where the Ooligan Press archives project comes in. The archives is an ongoing documentation process that strives to record the best examples of work and the best resources for future students to utilize in their own efforts. Hopefully this will allow Ooligan to continue to grow more efficient and produce even greater work over time.
Sometimes, though, working behind-the-scenes is hard. People don’t recognize all that we do, and they don’t notice all the small things we accomplish. Sometimes it feels like a thankless job. But thanks isn’t why we do the work. We work to help our colleagues succeed and to help students learn. We work to share great books with the world.