Editorial tips

This post originally appeared on Book Machine.

The editorial world of a publishing house can often seem like it’s hiding behind a heavily guarded door with no sign of a key. I know that’s how it felt to me when I was looking in from the outside. But what happens when you do get inside? Here are some tips on what I’ve learned so far…

1. Check, check and check again*

Chances are, if you work in publishing or want to do so, you have a good eye for detail. It’s on your CV and you absolutely know it to be true. You’re always spotting typos – I bet you shook your head at the Wicked Bible and the pepper scenario and you loved it when this happened. To be an editor, what you actually need to know is the more pairs of eyes you have, the better. When I read our books (and I do!) I check them at every stage, and I check them again, and then I ask three other people to check them. The jacket cover copy, the advance information sheet, the insides. If it’s a cover, I go through the words sometimes letter by letter because it’s amazing how the eyes miss things, and the next minute you’ve got a delicious recipe for apple pie that contains absolutely no apples at all (yes, this happened).

*It will be beyond embarrassing if this post has a typo.

2. Know the market

At my previous company, my colleagues and l often used to go on trips to Foyles. Yes, they have good coffee but, that aside, working in editorial means you need to keep up to date with trends. Visiting a bookshop means you can see what’s on the tables and which books are dominating the shelves. I also look at the format of the books – are their spines getting lost amongst everyone else’s? Does that book look like you could carry it in a handbag (in a non-theft way)? It’s crucial to see what consumers are buying, what works and what doesn’t – to get out from behind the desk and out into the world where your readers are. Then when you’re editing text, you can keep the bookshop in the back of your mind and remember who you’re targeting.

3. Play nice and collaborate

As an editor, I work with a lot of freelancers – designers, writers, indexers, proofreaders. What I try to remember is that we’re all just people. So we talk to each other; if there’s a complication on a book then I pick up the phone, and it gets resolved a lot faster than back and forth emails. That way you can be succinct yet detailed, avoid confusion and get to know the person you’re working with too. It really helps when you’re building up relationships – as an editor you need to have a bank of reliable freelancers you can trust to help make the books the best they can be. It’s never a one-person job.

So those are my tips for working as an editor. What are yours? Do you walk around Foyles thinking about which books fit nicely in your handbag?

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