Sarah from London sent in the following question to Words with JAM e-zine: People keep referring to ‘editors’, but I’m confused as to what an ‘editor’ actually is. Are there different types of editors and what do they do?
The answer is that there are many categories of editor and each of them has a different job within the publishing industry. The answer below has been taken from The Writer’s ABC Checklist.
In magazine publishing, the commissioning editor will assign writers to produce non-fiction articles and features. In book publishing, the commissioning (or acquisitions) editor has a major role in developing the publisher's book list by identifying current trends and spotting gaps in the market. The commissioning editor will be involved with a book and its author every step of the way, from assessing the initial proposal and manuscript, to issuing the author contract and dealing with publication.
A copy editor, whether working on magazines or books, ensures work due for publication is error free. Some copy editors form part of the publishers’ staff, and others are employed on a freelance basis. Their role can involve a variety of things, which might include:
• Ensuring continuity of presentation
• Checking consistency of style, particularly where co-authorship is involved
• Correcting spelling, grammatical and typographical errors
• Making sure that captions match illustrations
• Checking cross-references
• Querying inconsistency in plot and character traits
• Highlights conflicting statements
• Spotting over-writing
• Flagging up anything potentially libellous
Larger magazines often have dedicated editors who are responsible for different kinds of non-fiction content. For example, some of the glossies will have a fashion editor, a beauty editor, travel editor, and so on. More modest-sized publications might have one feature editor with a wider role who is in charge of all lifestyle content. This editor will decide which work will appear in each issue and commission a freelance, use an in-house writer, or write the features themselves.
The fiction editor is responsible for reading submissions, and for deciding on a magazine’s fictional content. It is a good idea to write to a magazine’s fiction editor asking for their style guide. These useful guides will outline the kind of stories which are not acceptable. For instance, some publications will not print stories that involve crime or violence, ghosts, horror, religion, or stories with twist endings.
A managing editor is in charge of all editorial decisions regarding a magazine or newspaper. He or she will manage the editorial team, organise the publication schedule, ensure the work is meeting deadlines, and liaise with printers and distributors.
These editors track down suitable images for use in books, magazines, newspapers, television, advertising, and so on. They are responsible for negotiating the fee with the copyright holder, archive, or picture library, for using the image, and for commissioning photographers to provide new ones.