Publishing is fascinating. As you’ll see in this series, it’s a business much like any other. But it’s the business of creativity, literature, education, and culture. It’s where dreams are realized and crushed every day. I know I’m part of something special. Be sure to see my first post: The Publishing Process.
I’m an Associate Editor.
How many questions just popped into your head? What do you think that means?
When I say that I work in publishing, one of the first comments I get is usually something to the effect of: “So do you sit in a cubicle with a red pen fixing grammar mistakes? Do you just read books all day?”
Some days, I am simply reading manuscripts. But most days, my job looks more like a project manager, shepherding several books through the publishing process, communicating with stakeholders (authors and internal team members), problem solving on the fly, and evaluating goals and KPIs. The truth is, “Associate Editor” looks different for each person who holds that title. It changes from company to company and department to department. It depends on the type of books you’re working on, and what needs that list of books has. Associate Editor is a support role, and at my company it means I’m supporting an Acquisitions Editor.
And that’s how it is for the many different “editor” roles that exist in publishing, as I’m sure it is for many other different types of jobs. There are also “editors” in other industries—film, photography, journalism—and I have no idea what those editors do.
But there are some general definitions for the different types of editors (in publishing) that exist.
This Editor is responsible for finding new great books. This is the person that authors submit their proposals to and have to persuade that their book is wonderful and going to sell well.
This Editor works closely with the author on the content of his/her manuscript. She doesn’t worry so much about the author’s grammar, spelling, or punctuation, but focuses more on the narrative. Are there gaps in the story? Does the organization make sense? Sometimes the changes a DE recommends are big (delete this chapter), and sometimes they are more subtle (be careful with your tone here).
Once a book contract has been signed and the book has been written, this Editor takes the Word docs (or, nowadays, Google docs) and oversees the process of copyediting, typesetting, and proofreading. By the time the Production Editor is done with the book, it has been transformed to print-ready PDFs, or page proofs.
This is the Editor that everyone imagines. This person may sit in a cubicle at an office, but often copy editors are freelancers who work from home. He or she reads through the manuscript and corrects for style, grammar, and punctuation.
In my next post in the Publishing 101 series, we’ll talk about Editing vs. Proofreading.