Interview in a Publishing Job

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In an interview in Image World, Gina Wright, developmental editor, nursing editorial, at the medical book publisher Mosby in St. Louis, discusses her role in the publishing process. (The role of development editor exists most often in textbook and technical publishing.)

I formulate developmental plans to ensure products meet company standards and market needs. This involves meeting with authors, analyzing the competition and market needs, and identifying market trends. I commission artists and reviewers, manage project-specific budgets, and assess content for adherence to the development plan.

I see that manuscripts or multimedia products are processed and transmitted to production to ensure a timely publication. This involves working closely with the editing, production, design, and manufacturing departments.

In addition, I act as an information resource to ensure successful marketing of products. This involves creating summaries of new product information, reviewing advertising brochures and other copy for accuracy and clarity, and assisting in preparation and presentation of product and competitive information at sales meetings.

Managing Editor: The managing editor coordinates the progress of scheduling and production in fulfillment of an overall book and project program and works with marketing and production managers on planning. This person hires and trains staff for editing services, establishes editorial guidelines, oversees procedures for hiring freelance copy editors and proofreaders, assists in preparation of the editorial director's budget and publication schedule, and develops procedures for controlling flow from the manuscript to the finished product. The salary range is from $40,000 to $67,000.

Associate Editor: The associate editor screens and recommends manuscripts; handles rewriting and revision, often working with authors; and works with production, art, and other areas. He or she makes recommendations for authors and consultants, may function as project editor, and may undertake ad hoc assignments for the managing editor/editor-in-chief. The salary range is from $30,000 to $45,000.

Copy Editor: The copy editor handles assigned manuscripts by copyediting for style consistency, spelling, grammar, and punctuation. He or she also confers with editors on manuscript matters dealing with inconsistencies in style and information, and makes sure manuscripts comply with house style. The salary range is from $30,000 to $49,000. (The entire copyediting and proofreading functions are often "farmed out" by publishers to freelancers, who can make from $10 to $18 per hour [about $500 for the average manuscript], for copyediting and developmental editing.)

Assistant Editor: The assistant editor works with the associate editor, project editor, and authors on deadlines for submissions of material, assists the project editor in various areas such as consultant acquisition, and submits regular project reports to the project editor. The assistant editor must be able to function as project editor if necessary. In the textbook field, he or she is also responsible for implementing field-test designs, whereby manuscripts for textbooks are read by academics and focus groups for their comments before publication. The salary range is from $20,000 to $32,000.

Editorial Assistant: Since many of the readers of this book will be competing for the entry-level job of editorial assistant, we will discuss its functions in greater detail than the other jobs in this article. The often overworked and always underpaid editorial assistant is at any one time engaged in the following activities:
  • Slush pile reader: We can define "slush" as unsolicited manuscripts. At publishing houses that return these manuscripts unread, it is the editorial assistant's job to send them back with the appropriate statement of the company's policy.

  • If there is time, the editorial assistant may muddy his or her hands in the pool of slush. In the unlikely event that a promising manuscript turns up (less than 1 percent), it is given to an editor for evaluation.

  • Manning the phones: Another function of the editorial assistant is answering phones for editors and shielding them from pitches by would-be authors. Rayanna Simons served a stint as a first reader at the adult trade book division of Macmillan. She recalls one memorable conversation.

Caller: Do you publish books?

Reader: Yes.

Caller: I'm a manic-depressive.

Reader: Oh. Have you written a book?

Caller: No. I've been too depressed. But they're changing my medication.

Clearly, not all would-be authors are crazies and not all raw submissions are rubbish for the slush heap.
  • Author contact: At college, when you dreamed about becoming an editor at a large publishing house, a concomitant benefit was the opportunity to develop close relationships with famous authors. At lunch at the Four Seasons with Anne Rice (you paid with your company credit card), you would exchange pungent patter while deftly probing about her next book and how many millions she was going to ask for as an advance.
Well, this may be a future reality, but as an editorial assistant your author contact could be limited to greeting Ms. Rice in the company's reception area and leading her back to your senior editor's office. If she gets to know your name, she might call you often, but only to complain about not receiving her royalty check or reviews on time.
  • " Checking the competition: When a new book is under consideration at a publisher, a basic practice is to check all books on the same subject. This is accomplished by scanning Books in Print, where books are listed by topic and author. The editorial assistant may also be asked to provide a summary of any book of a similar nature.
The editorial assistant will also visit large bookstores to check current books to see how they match up against a proposed book. One former editorial assistant was researching a proposed book on resume preparation. The author had hyped its uniqueness. When the editorial assistant visited the bookstores, however, he found sixty-five books on job hunting, many of which had lengthy sections on resumes.
  • Attending editorial meetings: Publishing companies have frequent meetings, and the editorial assistant is often asked to attend-usually to take notes or minutes of the meeting. Don't fret. What may seem tiresome at the time will prove to be an essential stage in the learning experience.

  • Handling department's clerical work and filing: In addition to answering the phone for an industrious senior editor, the editorial assistant is also called on to retype, sort, and log manuscripts; run off duplicate manuscripts on a high-speed copier; and type jacket and catalog copy. The editorial assistant performs all these functions for a small remuneration. The average salary is from $17,000 to $24,000, but bear in mind that it's only a starting point in the fascinating world of books.

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