EDITOR KNOWHOW What does an editor do?

In our new Editor KnowHow series, Kesia Lupo, Senior Editor at Chicken House Books answers that writers often wonder - what does an editor do?

When people who aren’t in the book industry hear I’m an editor, I’ve found there are a few common assumptions. The main one is that I’m a red-pen-wielding word dictator primarily involved with spelling and grammar or correcting errors – but this is very far from the truth.

"Edit, edit. editing away..."

Reading... and so much more

Firstly there’s the fact I don’t spend all of my time editing. Reading submissions, for instance, is a big part of my job – but that’s often done outside of work, or in snatched days or hours between editorial projects. Sometimes, I will offer and negotiate for a new book, which is always exciting. But, perhaps as a result of working for a small publisher, my job description includes a lot more than you might expect! For instance, I also currently draft contracts, handle permissions (when other publishers request permission to quote from our books) and run the annual Times/Chicken House Competition.

The Editing Journey

When it comes to editing, every journey is different but the process always follows a similar pattern – and I have very little to do with the spelling and grammar stages. I start with the big stuff (structural edits) – which could be anything from changing plots to removing characters or tackling emotional journeys. This is then followed by edits that focus on the writing itself (line edits), which look at things like pace, clarity and flow. And at this point I hand over to an external editor for the detail-oriented copy-edit stage. That’s where the grammar and spelling comes in!

A Collaborative Process

Editors are rarely dictatorial; we don’t expect to simply tell authors how to fix their book. In reality, that would be disastrous – and wouldn’t foster a great working relationship! In fact, one of the things I enjoy most about the editorial process is how collaborative it is. My job is to ask the right questions – I can make suggestions, of course, but ultimately it is the author’s book and they must find answers they are happy with. As a writer myself, I know how important it is to feel you have ownership of your own creative work. The structural edits most often take the form of a longish email with thoughts and notes, followed by a meeting or call to talk through some possible solutions. And then, of course, a nice long deadline!

So, an editor’s job might be a little different than you think – even in its editorial aspects. I’m less a red-pen-wielding word dictator, more like a laptop-brandishing travelling companion on the writing road – or so I like to think!

  Main image by Christin Hume

Kesia Lupo is Senior Editor for Chicken House, a boutique children’s publisher based in the South West of England, acquiring and editing fiction for children aged 7 up to YA. She is also the author of two YA fantasy novels, We Are Blood and Thunder and We Are Bound by Stars, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books. She was born in Essex, grew up in Germany and lives in Bristol with her husband.


Do you have any suggestions for KnowHow? If there's something you'd like to know how to do or know more about, tell us. Email KnowHow editor, Eleanor at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

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