A week in the life of a senior editorial manager

By Wendy Shakespeare

I’m the senior editorial manager at Penguin Random House Children’s, having joined Penguin Books as a copyeditor for Puffin in 2006. I’m in what we call the Ed2 team: it’s a term unique to Penguin Books, where the editorial teams were traditionally split into Ed1 (focusing on acquisition and development) and Ed2 (focusing on copyediting and proofreading). Decades ago, Ed2 copyedited and proofread Penguin and Puffin titles, and the marked-up manuscripts and proofs would be reviewed by a managing editor. My team manages the copyediting and proofreading stages of our children’s titles, and we also manage editorial schedules, ensuring that we meet our print deadlines. This means that we regularly liaise with Ed1 editors, Design and Production, as well as with authors and freelance copyeditors and proofreaders. We check everything from the books themselves, including the covers and ebook editions, to material like pitches, the rights catalogues for book fairs, and non-trade publishing such as special Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library editions. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working on titles by such inspirational and brilliant authors as Malorie Blackman, Jeff Kinney, Eoin Colfer, Tom Fletcher and Jill Murphy, and I’ve worked on our bestselling brands, such as our Dahl publishing, Peter Rabbit, the Very Hungry Caterpillar and Spot (yes, we’re still trying to find him!).

My role combines the functions of a desk editor and managing editor, reflecting the two key aspects to my role: editorial standards and editorial processes. I head up a Puffin Ed2 team of four (including me). We’re responsible for checking titles published by Puffin, which spans fiction and non-fiction books for children of all age groups from toddlers to young adults, as well as publishing partnerships with the BBC, V&A Museum and the Imperial War Museum. We also have Ed2 teams for our Ladybird Trade and Licensing and Ladybird educational lists. In any given week, I’ll be working on fiction and non-fiction titles, picture books, illustrated middle-grade novels and Young Adult (YA) novels, and I’ll most likely be involved with conversations for about thirty or so titles. This could include: checking copyedited manuscripts; reviewing ebook editions; completing typesetting briefs; booking copyeditors and proofreaders (and sending them feedback); collating proof corrections; proofreading picture books; checking covers; discussing schedules; liaising with authors to talk them through the editorial process for their titles and to discuss the copyedited and proof corrections; and liaising with Ed1, Design and Production to ensure that titles are running to schedule. In addition, I run a weekly report from our bibliographic system to have an overview of our publishing programme and deadlines.

Editorial standards

Not only do I copyedit and proofread text if required (and indeed if I have time to do so) but I also review text copyedited and proofread by our freelancers. However, my aim is not to pick holes in their work but to enrich my own editorial knowledge and to see whether it’s helpful to offer constructive feedback, and if any further guidance might need to be added to our house style guide. I might also see if I can resolve any queries, if appropriate, that they have raised. (While writing this, I’m reminded that I need to also give specific positive feedback more often!) When checking proof corrections, I’m always mindful about what is being corrected and always give consideration to what we might be able to do differently at the copyediting stage to minimise proof corrections. For copyeditors working on a series, I might share the proof corrections as well as the tracked copyedited manuscript (MS) as a reference for when they come to work on the next novel in the series. Thinking about grammar, spelling and punctuation is one of the things I love most about my job, and so what I miss most as a result of working remotely is that I don’t get the chance to have impromptu editorial chats with my team. However, I’m glad that we have a chance to have such conversations as part of the house-style workshops I’ve started running via Zoom.

Editorial processes

We need sensible and clear processes to ensure that everything that needs to be done is carried out correctly and to schedule. Having a strong grasp of the processes also means that we can adapt when the schedule is challenging (in other words, when it’s super tight!). It’s also essential to have this clarity when you’re juggling thirty titles! The processes are ever evolving, but the framework of the processes that we have in place is the result of years of observation and consideration of what needs to be done, and I’m always thinking about what we can do better. These processes are at the forefront of my mind when I have monthly catch-ups with publishers, art directors and the senior production manager, as I talk to them about what’s working and what can be done better or differently – by both my team and theirs. I really enjoy this aspect of my job because I love trouble-shooting and it’s gratifying when things work smoothly.

This current lockdown situation has its ups and downs. Being able to work quietly at home is obviously a bonus. However, this situation has highlighted how important communication is to what we do, because you can no longer pop over to someone’s desk to discuss a project, so it’s necessary to have regular catch-ups over Zoom. I could have between three and fifteen meetings in a week. Here’s a summary of the meetings that I have:

  • Weekly: Puffin Ed2 team (where we run through our workload over the coming week); the wider Children’s Ed2 team (so that we can check in on how everyone is doing, so no one feels isolated); editor and designer for one of our key brands; up to two start-up meetings for new acquisitions, in which key stakeholders from Ed1, Design, Production, Sales, PR, Marketing and Rights discuss what is required for the new title.
  • Fortnightly: direct reports (to check on their wellbeing and to discuss any work issues); WIP (work-in-progress) meeting (Ed1, Design and Production meet to check that everything is running to schedule). Our MD and CEO are also endeavouring to keep us all connected by having regular briefings, to share news and information about the Children’s division and the company.
  • Monthly: line manager; publisher; art director; senior production manager (all catch-ups to discuss any top-line issues that relate to our editorial processes and workflows). I’ve also recently started to run Zoom workshops with the Children’s Ed2 team, to discuss specifics such as queries about house style and editorial processes.

One week

To give you an idea of what I do in a typical week, here’s a snapshot of the first week of June.

  • Assisted an editor by converting a PDF from the 1990s to recognise the text and then exporting it to a Word document so that we can use the text to create a revised edition for younger readers.
  • For a particular frontlist non-fiction title, I had a Zoom call with Ed1 and Design to talk through a tight schedule and to agree what needs to be done; sent MS out for educational and fact checks. I also looked at the proposed text design guide for this title and offered feedback.
  • Had 13 meetings ranging from individual, team and project catch-ups to a briefing from our CEO.
  • Led a one-hour workshop on our house style for our Children’s Ed2 team (so it included Ladybird Ed2). We discussed chapter headings (spelt out or numerals), widows and orphans (when to fix and when to stet), hyphenation, capitalisation and numbers. Essentially we follow New Hart’s Rules, but there are always going to be grey areas and it’s great to have a space and time to discuss these details, and share our thoughts and experiences in order to strengthen our own editorial knowledge. There will be further workshops as we work our way through our house style guide, with the aim of having an updated guide later this year.
  • Liaised with a US editor to approve text changes for the UK edition.
  • Liaised with editors for 16 different titles. Tasks included: confirming schedule dates; checking proofreading deadlines for picture books; suggesting the ideal editorial process for new titles; reviewing illustration briefs and layouts for illustrated titles.
  • Liaised with three different authors to talk through key dates and the editorial process for the titles.
  • Proofread a 176-page non-fiction title and sent a summary of my notes to the editor for review (to decide whether anything needs to be stetted).
  • Reviewed invoices from freelance copyeditors and proofreaders.
  • Reviewed an editorial process for marketing proofs.
  • Sent proofs for five titles to respective authors and proofreaders.

The variety of the books that I work on and the different tasks that need to be done mean that my working week is never dull. I’m generally rather busy, but I love all the books we publish and I couldn’t ask for better colleagues and authors.

Wendy Shakespeare is a senior editorial manager at Penguin Random House Children’s. She works on Puffin titles, which range from short picture books to YA novels. She has been in the industry since 2001, and joined Penguin in 2006 as a copyeditor for Puffin Books, which became part of Penguin Random House Children’s seven years later.

 


Earlier in the year, Lorraine Beck shared a week in her life as a picture researcher.


Proofread by Joanne Heath, Entry-Level Member.
Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

 

 

 

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