Who might you meet in the publishing house? Here’s an abbreviated list (with my sincerest apologies to everyone I’ve left out!) of the kinds of people an author can work with during the long and arduous process of getting the book out.
The top dog who keeps everything running smoothly and who decides on the direction the publishing house is going to go in (“What the heck, let’s abandon genre literature and concentrate on cookery books for the next ten years.”). He or she probably won’t have much to do with the actual editing and production of an author’s book, but undoubtedly will be heavily involved with negotiating the contracts.
The Commissioning Editor:
This is the person who makes the decision (generally in concert with an editorial board) about which manuscripts to take and which to reject. While the commissioning editor is generally far too busy to take a hands on interest in the editing process of the accepted manuscripts, he or she will take a fair amount of interest in the overall inhouse progress of the manuscript, and whether or not the author is happy.
The (Senior) Editor:
This is the person who works one on one with the author in the editing process, and comprises that one person the author has most contact with. Occasionally the editor may be freelance – more publishing houses are sending their editorial work ‘out’ to freelance editors now. I don’t like it, it is always better to have someone at the other end of the phone.
The Copy Editor:
Although usually the editor does all the editorial work on a manuscript, sometimes a separate copy editor goes through the manuscript as well. This person is very often freelance. The copy editor does all the minutely detailed editorial work.
The Proof Reader:
Once a manuscript has been through several editorial stages, it goes off (or out) to a proof reader who checks for inconsistencies or mistakes.
The person who designs, or gives an artist the commission to design, the front cover of your book. Usually the author is consulted on this process, but it depends on the publishing house as to how much say the author will have in the final appearance of the book.
A slightly new group in publishing houses these days is the web design team: more and more publishing houses now have a significant presence on the web. Depending on what ‘web presence’ the publisher decides to give the author, the web designer can often be an important person in the production of a book.
The Cover Artist:
Rarely does the cover artist work within the publishing house. They’re usually freelance. They are paid to produce cover art work for the book – these pieces might be oil paintings measuring 8 foot by 4, or computer generated peices of art work. (If the art work is a ‘real’ piece of art work, the artist is usually happy to sell it to the author.) how much say the author gets in this art work varies from publishing house to publishing house.
The publicity department is responsible for letting the world know the book is out there. Weeks, if not months, before the launch or a book they’ll be discussing with the author and with their colleagues how best to promote it. Should they advertise in print or on television? Should the book have its own dump bin? Should the author’s photograph be disseminated as widely as possible or diplomatically and silently consigned to the nearest wastepaper basket? Once the book is launched they’ll arrange media interviews for the author, and perhaps also a publicity tour.
I love travelling about with my publicist – it is the only time in my life where I feel totally looked after and someone else worries over the details of how to get from A to Z. Touring is very tiring (ah, those touring days starting at 7 am as the star of a “Meet the Author” breakfast, progressing through interview after interview and book signing after book signing through the day …), but it is one of the only chances an author gets to actually meet his or her readership.
And now for the people who generally get forgotten, but who often are almost entirely responsible for whether or not your book is a success …
The Book Reps:
Every large publishing house has book representatives in every state. These reps have their own ‘patch’ of book stores that they visit every month. Their job is to convince the book sellers to stock their particular house’s books … in the end your book is not going to sell if it is not in the shops, and if the book reps can’t convince the book sellers to take a book … well …
I absolutely adore HarperCollin’s book reps here in Australia – they do a fabulous job, and the feedback I received from book sellers has convinced me that if the reps hadn’t done such a brilliant job of pushing BattleAxe when I was a totally unknown author, then neither that book, nor I, would have done well at all. I owe them a tremendous amount, so … thanks, guys.
And many more…
There are a thousand different people who I haven’t mentioned. Sorry! I am always amazed by the numbers and variety of people who turn up – there are the warehouse staff, the legal people, the web people, sundry other ‘techies’, the gofers, the marketing managers, the general ‘fixer-uppers’ … the list just goes on and on.