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How do you become an Editor?: An interview with the Salariya Book Publishing Company’s Editor

by Jeannie Brown

Do you want to work in publishing? Do you have dreams of designing, writing and or editing books? Book publishing is an exciting and creative world and there are many different career paths within it, so much so that it may be difficult to figure out which is the right role for you. This month we will be exploring the life of our editor, Nick Pierce, who will be answering questions about what it is like to have this type of career. 

Could you give an overview of the duties/responsibilities of your role?

As editor at The Salariya Book Company, I’m involved in almost every aspect of the development of a new book, from the moment of its conception to the time when it goes to print. I commission authors and artists to work on new projects, checking and providing feedback on the manuscripts and artwork that they deliver. My role includes copy-editing, fact-checking and proofreading the text.

Alongside my editorial duties, I also produce many of the marketing materials necessary for our sales team to sell the books, such as AI sheets and press releases. Administrative duties include updating the Booksonix data dissemination system with our new titles, as well as monitoring our company website.

What does an average day look like in the life of an editor, from morning until home time? 

One of the good things about this job is the variety; every day can be different, depending on whether I’m working on books in their early stages of development or putting the finishing touches to a project that is almost finished. However, typical tasks include reading and providing comments on newly submitted text and artwork from our collaborators, editing books using InDesign, and proofreading for errors and omissions. 

What has your career path been?

I guess my career path is a fairly common one for an editor: I studied English Language and Literature at university, then did some work experience placements and was lucky enough to be offered an entry-level role at Salariya. A higher education qualification related to English is probably a good asset for pursuing a career in editing, and also, of course, an enthusiasm for books! 

In your opinion, what are the key skills you need to be a successful editor? 

It’s a fairly obvious one, but you definitely need to have a very good grasp of written English – or whatever language it is in which you’re editing! You need to be confident in your understanding of grammar, spelling and punctuation. 

It’s also important to have a good understanding of the different reading comprehension levels of children at different ages, to ensure that a particular book is tailored to its potential audience.

Attention to detail is also very important: you have to check each book thoroughly for factual mistakes, typos, consistency and clarity.

What has been your favourite project to work on and why?

I have particularly enjoyed working on the latest titles in our You Wouldn’t Want To Be… series, in which we have partnered with the Mary Rose Museum, the Tank Museum and Historic Royal Palaces to produce books about the Mary Rose ship, tanks in WWII and the Tower of London, respectively. It has been great fun and very rewarding to collaborate with the experts at these organisations to produce books that are as accurate and up to date in their information as possible. I think these are three of the best books we have produced recently!

What is the most rewarding thing about this type of role?

The opportunity to learn about new subjects and collaborate with talented authors and illustrators to produce terrific children’s books and books for all ages.

What is the most challenging thing about this type of role?

There are a lot of moving parts involved in preparing a book to go to print, so my job involves managing multiple book projects at different stages of their development, which can be a challenge and requires good organisational skills.

How has the industry changed since you started?

I haven’t been working in the industry for a very long time, so it’s hard to identify any long-term changes since I began. However, the pandemic has certainly had a huge impact on the publishing sector, reducing the potential sources of revenue over the last 18 months, as book shops and museums have been closed for long stretches of time. Reaching audiences via the new social media platforms, as opposed to more traditional methods of promoting and selling books, is a key challenge for publishers now and in the future.

What drew you to this field of work? 

I have always loved reading, so publishing seemed like a natural and obvious career choice. I’m glad of the opportunity to create appealing books that will hopefully stimulate a similar appetite for the written word in new generations of children.

How has the pandemic affected the way you do your job?

Well, the biggest change is that I have been working from home over the past 18 months, instead of in our office. Some adjustments had to be made, but I haven’t encountered many problems: using file sharing software, it is pretty easy to continue to work on new projects with the rest of the team, and email, telephone and regular Zoom meetings allow us to keep in touch and answer each other’s questions.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an editor?

Try to get work experience where you can, and don’t be afraid to send polite emails to publishers that you like to inquire about opportunities. You never know, someone might’ve just left a job or been promoted, and the company might be looking for someone new to fill their place at the moment when your email drops into their inbox!

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