Career as a publishing editor

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Anne Peele is an assistant editor with a London-based book publisher. She spots potential bestsellers among the hundreds of manuscripts submitted by authors and helps to turn them into saleable books.

Can you describe your role?

It is my job to make sure the path of a book, from manuscript to finished copy, runs smoothly. That means, I'm involved at every stage of the process. I'm often the main point of contact for the author even years after the book has been published.

What does your job involve?

I spend a lot of time reading manuscripts which are sent in by potential authors. I reject most of them for a variety of reasons – especially if I don't think the manuscript is appealing enough to sell sufficient copies to make it worth publishing. When I do think one is worth publishing, I have to persuade my company to buy the book from the author. I liaise between the company and the author while the fees are agreed.

What happens next?

The next stage is editing. It is my job to edit the book and pass on my changes to the editorial director. We discuss what changes we think need to be made and ask the author to make them. We may ask the author to rewrite or supply extra copy for some sections.

Do you have any other responsibilities?

If the book has picture sections or indexes, I make sure these are done correctly. The book cover is the first thing that potential customers look at, so it's an extremely important part of my job to make sure that covers look as tempting as possible and stand out from other books in the shop. I write a few sentences about the book and the author to go on the cover or jacket. The idea is to encourage customers to buy it.

Do you have a regular routine?

No. I can work on over thirty titles at a time. They are all at different stages; some are just ideas, but others are nearly complete. I often don't know what I will be doing from one day to the next, I'm always very busy, and I have to prioritise my workload to make sure that everything is done on time.

What qualities make a good editor?

You need an excellent eye for detail to pick up spelling and grammatical errors. You also need to be able to spot statements in a book which could cause legal problems. They could lead to a lawsuit and, sometimes, destroying all the books if they have been printed already. You also need confidence to persuade authors to make changes to their work.

What hours do you work?

I work from 9.30am until 5.30pm., but I usually arrive early. There are often launch parties and other work functions in the evening, but as they are good fun I never mind staying late.

What do you like most about your work?

I love the variety. I might spend the morning editing a crime novel, and the afternoon writing cover copy for a fashion designer's autobiography. I really respect the people I work with. I am always excited when the company decides to publish a book I have read and enjoyed.

Anne's route to her career as a publishing editor

  • A levels
  • BA degree in French/European studies
  • Work experience with present company which led to being offered a position as editorial assistant
  • Various in-house training on sub-editing, manuscript preparation and proofreading

Anne's tips

  • It's important to be able to demonstrate a real interest in reading and a knowledge of books.
  • Work experience is extremely useful in getting your first job in publishing.
  • Be persistent.

Publishing editor related jobs

  • Agent/manager
  • Author
  • Copy editor
  • Journalist
  • Proofreader
  • Publishing commissioning editor

Salary Information

  • Salaries start at around £18,000, rising to about £25,000 with experience, to a peak of £30,000 or more once well established.

Career as a publishing editor

  • Although there are no standard entry requirements, most editors are graduates.
  • Various colleges and universities offer degree and postgraduate courses in aspects of publishing.
  • Publishers of specialist titles may recruit entrants with previous qualifications and experience in particular fields such as law, science or teaching.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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