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Category: Careers

A day in the life of a commissioning editor

When I was looking to get into publishing, I had only a very fuzzy notion of what you actually did when you were ‘in publishing’, let alone what more specific roles such as commissioning editors did every day. Now I know it’s mostly email – no, just kidding. There’s a fair bit of attending meetings, too! Here’s an account of a typical day.


Technical and follow-up advice for sending submissions

This post is the fourth and last part in a series about submitting unagented proposals to publishers. Start reading here!

In this part I will share a few tips for getting the technical specs of your email right. In the grand scheme of your submission, this is not as important as some of the other things I’ve talked about before, but still worth mastering. For one thing, consider that the editorial assistant who will first receive your submission is likely to be a millennial – one of those frightful creatures who learn to use an iPad before they can speak. So creating the impression that you are someone who knows their way around a computer can help distinguish yourself (most hopeful authors come across to these millennials as terminal Luddites).


Stop describing career wins as ‘luck’

Tell me if you recognise this. You go to a talk or seminar about some topic to do with succeeding in your career or getting a job. There are panelists, each more distinguished than the last and clearly chosen because their careers are somehow exemplary. Excellent, you think, these people will definitely be able to tell me how it’s done.

And then they all proceed to tell you how lucky they got, and how they owe it all to fortunate circumstances. They may have a speck of talent but mostly it was that they were in the right place at the right time. Time well spent?

Geisha playing violin
I was fortunate enough to have this violin fall into my hands.


Presentation advice for submission letters

This post is part 3 in a series of posts about submitting an unagented book proposal directly to a publisher. Start reading here!

This part is about presentation: giving your submission the best possible chance by making sure it’s straightforwardly presented and easy on the eyes. It would be nice if everyone reading submissions was able to see directly into the soul of a book just by quickly scanning your letter, but in reality they will need help in understanding why your submission is The One. You want to try and make the essential information leap at the reader with minimal effort on their part. Here are some ways to do that.


Real questions from editorial job interviews

Allen_Ludden_Jack_Klugman_Tony_Randall_Odd_Couple_1I’ve been to a fair few job interviews in the past 4 years for jobs ranging from Editorial Assistant to Commissioning Editor. Afterwards, I wrote down as many of the questions I was asked as I could remember. Some of the interviews were more conversational than others, so there were fewer questions. I haven’t included my answers, because a) I didn’t write them down at the time, and b) I didn’t get most of these jobs so they would probably not be that useful! :P

The interviews I had were all at well-known trade publishing houses in London. I hope this will be helpful for people who are preparing for similar interviews!


Publishers, graduates and the morals between them

A week ago I went to the annual Society of Young Publishers (SYP) Conference in Oxford. SYP organise a lot of interesting events aimed at people who are starting out in publishing, and the conference programme was quite heavy on employment-related seminars as well.

I happened to be part of some interesting discussions about graduates and what they can expect in the employment front. The word ‘moral’ came up twice and made me prick my ears up as it was used in a rather matter-of-course manner, whereas I rarely think of employment in terms of morality. I will try to now!


Spell-checking and other neglected submissions basics

This post is part 2 in a series of posts about submitting an unagented book proposal directly to a publisher. Start reading here!

This part is about making sure the basics of your submission are right. Some of it may seem like common sense and too obvious even to mention, but it’s worth reading through as a checklist even if that’s the case. Sending any kind of application is a tense business and it’s easy to overlook something ‘too obvious to even mention’ because you are so preoccupied – ironically – with trying to get everything just right.


How to get an editorial assistant to show your book to their boss

John C. H. Grabill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
John C. H. Grabill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This series of posts is intended for unagented authors who are thinking of submitting their book directly to a publisher, or have already done so with no success. I read submission emails and letters every day, and have noted down some common annoyances (and delights). They are based on my personal experience and may not apply to all situations, but I hope you’ll find it useful nevertheless.