INDUSTRY KNOWHOW Who's who in publishing? Part one: editorial

A publishing house can seem like a confusing mess of titles and roles that don't really mean anything to anyone. Co-editor, Ellie Brough, sheds a little light on who's who in a publishing house and how they can help you get that book deal. Part one: editorial. 

For the author or illustrator trying to get past those big, imposing gates to the world of publishing, it can seem like an impossible task. Can you just walk straight up and knock? Who should you be talking to? Is there a chain of command you should be following? Or an elusive back door that you haven’t heard of? Surely there must be some trick to getting someone to unlock that gate?

One trick is knowing who is who, what they do and how they can help you. In this post I'll reveal who's who in the editorial department.... 
An editor's kit: notebook, red pen, something pretty to look at, box full of chocolate (essential).

The Editorial Department

The commissioning editor in an editorial team manages the commissioning of new texts. This means that they have final say, but they’re not the only person involved in commissioning. Typically, any editor, from assistant to director can present new ideas and texts to be considered, but the commissioning editor holds the red and green stamps. 

The Editorial Director has the same power as a commissioning editor - they have final say on texts which are commissioned. They also run the imprint, managing editor's workloads and overseeing everything that the imprint produces.

Senior Editor / Desk editor / Editor: don't let the slight differences in the titles confuse you - essentially all of the people do the same thing. They project manage titles from manuscript to print. They are the ones that take your precious story and guide through the publishing process. These people will be your main point of contact when you slip past those gates.

Editorial assistant / Assistant editor: an editor in training. The assistants help with the admin of the department, helping the other editors manage their workloads. They also might manage their own titles, learning the tricks of the trade. All editors have done their stint as the assistant.  

Editorial teams are a tight knit group,  everyone helps everyone and everyone has a say. So if you happen across any editor, don’t be scared to do a quick elevator pitch.

Tips for success:

  • ·      Check their mood. Do they look harassed? They probably are, approach with food or wine to soften them up.
  • ·      Are they relevant? There’s no point pitching your picture book to a YA editor, instead fish for info and get the name of the correct editor for later use.
  • ·      Follow up. If you get a business card don’t be scared to send a friendly email to remind them of your meeting, you never know what might happen.
*Featured Image: Book wall inside HarperCollins London offices. Photo by Ellie Brough.

Ellie Brough is the co-editor of Words & Pictures and an Editor at Quarto for its children's imprints QED and Words and Pictures (not even kidding).
Twitter: @elliebrough

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