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What’s it like being a production editor? I’ve heard some version of this question many times over the years, but it’s a tricky one to answer.
A production editor oversees the whole publishing process, so it makes sense that it would seem a little confusing or mysterious to people. The roles and responsibilities of a production editor vary based on the type of publication, size of the publishing company, and so on.
A production editor may go by different names, too, such as editorial project manager, production coordinator, or even managing editor. Here’s what you need to know if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a production editor.
Production Editor Roles and Responsibilities
A production editor’s job is to manage the publishing process, generally from start to finish, through different levels of editing, copyediting, and proofing.
An editorial project manager works as the liaison between:
- Content editors
They ensure the highest editorial standards are met in a timely, cost-sensitive, and professional way.
Managing the Editorial Process: Production Editor’s Job
While the specific role of the production editor varies in description and responsibility, typically all production editors create and maintain editorial schedules for contract workers and editors, proofreaders, et cetera.
They make sure contract employees in the editorial department submit invoices, and they verify that the work is complete. Production editors update editorial teams on any changes to the editorial schedule.
Editorial Tasks of the Production Editor
Production editors typically work with editorial directors and subcontractors to content edit, copyedit, and proof all publications in a timely, cost-effective manner.
They review copyedited manuscripts to answer questions about style and format, and they get final approval from authors for content of copyedited material.
Editorial project managers or production editors go over proofing changes to Word documents and final typeset manuscripts, answering questions about content, style, and formatting.
Production editors sometimes create copyright pages for publications, send galley approval forms with typeset final manuscripts to authors/clients, and manage creative briefs during the editing process.
Once the book is complete, production editors sometimes proof endorsements and do a final checklist for typeset pages, reviewing hard and soft proofs from the printer.
As a production editor myself, I also managed the title creation for the editorial resources I was responsible for, and I met with the marketing team to begin promoting the book.
3 Non-Negotiable Skills of Production Editors
1. Cost Effectiveness
Sometimes, production editors manage budgets along with the timeline of a project. They are responsible for:
- Identifying any risks that may occur
- Assessing the impact
- Developing contingency plans when things don’t go according to the timeline
As an editorial project manager, you have to be constantly aware of editorial budgets. You have to consider contract employee rates and marketing budgets, too, as many of these factors will affect how you move forward with a project.
2. Time Management
Perhaps the most important skill of a production editor is time management. Every production editor is responsible for identifying priorities and dependencies, scheduling milestones, and managing a critical path.
As a production editor for a traditional publishing company, I was responsible for scheduling content editing, copyediting, proofreading, and typesetting—setting up a timeline sometimes up to fourteen months in advance.
Maintaining multiple schedules and pushing a project forward requires strong time management skills.
You have to keep all contract employees on schedule, meeting clearly communicated deadlines. You have to provide creative briefs, marketing materials, cover design material, and more, well ahead of publication.
Time management is important for any editor, especially if you work from home.
A production editor works with authors, other members of the editorial team, designers, illustrators, marketing, and accounting/administrative teams. Being communicative is a very important part of being a production editor.
Editorial project managers need to keep editorial directors, schedule managers, authors, and all teams involved in the editorial process informed of any changes and updates.
Editorial project managers or production editors need to respond to emails from project stakeholders promptly—in a professional, supportive, diplomatic, and collaborative way. Solid communication is key. These are the words you will find most frequently on production editor resumes.
Frequently Asked Questions about Production Editors
What does an editor in production do?
An editor in production manages the process of putting out a publication, from proofreading and content editing to copyediting, layout design, budgets and scheduling, and typesetting.
Is being an editor a stressful job?
Depends on who you ask and the specific type of editing! Being an editorial project manager can be a high-stress job since there are several handoffs and you’re responsible for multiple schedules and budgets. You also have to communicate when something goes wrong with the content or needs attention, which can be stressful.
Is being an editor a good job?
Being an editor is a good job and can be quite lucrative, depending on the level of editing. A production editor isn’t the most lucrative, but according to the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, you can make anywhere from $51 to $60 an hour as an editorial project manager or production editor.
Most editors I meet agree that the work is meaningful and enjoyable, too! If you’re interested in launching or growing your editorial business, I have a freelance editing course that may be perfect for you!
How hard is it to get a job as an editor?
Again, it depends on what type of editing job you pursue. If you want to become an editor for a traditional publisher, it can be quite hard to get your foot in the door.
I recommend increasing your editing skills/tool belt through education and training, specializing in the type of editing you’re most interested in to succeed in getting a job as an editor.
This post has been all about what it’s like to be a production editor, including the qualities and skills you need to succeed in the role of editorial project management. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to become an editor, don’t forget to check out my e-course, Freelance Editing 101: Launch or Grow Your Editorial Business.