A commissioning editor is responsible for identifying new authors, books and other media products to be published.
You could be:
carrying out research to identify new market trends
reading manuscripts and deciding which to publish and which to reject
negotiating payment and contract terms with the writer or literary agent
monitoring the progress of publishing schedules to make sure that deadlines are met
deciding which existing publications, known as the back-list, should be reprinted, revised or put out of print
dealing with outside agencies and specialists, for example illustrators, printers and bookbinders
preparing costings, projected sales and income for each publication
organising book launches and signings
liaising with marketing and sales departments for the promotion of publications.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual salaries may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Generally salaries in publishing at entry level can be around £20,000 a year, but improve as you progress. With a number of years experience, salaries can rise to around £40,000, sometimes more. This can depend on the size of the company and how profitable it is.
Some publishers are self-employed and their pay is profit-related.
You will work in an office, but will have to travel to attend meetings with a range of business associates.
You might sometimes travel abroad, for example to attend international book fairs.
You will work office hours, but in reality you may have to work outwith these hours on a regular basis.
Coming up to a deadline, your hours may be particularly long and irregular.
You may have to meet targets, commissioning a certain number of titles each year.
Although there are no set entry requirements for this career, most commissioning editors have a degree.
Entry to a degree course (SCQF Levels 9-10) usually requires 4-5 Highers and some subjects at National 5, normally including a pass in English. Many courses ask for qualifications above the minimum.
Increasingly, it has become more common for people with postgraduate qualifications in publishing to enter the industry. Postgraduate courses (SQCF Level 11) in publishing are available at Edinburgh Napier and Stirling Universities.
You would usually start as an editorial assistant or other junior position. With experience you could progress to copy editor and then commissioning editor.
Having contacts in the industry, for example by doing work placements, is an advantage.
If you have a qualification or professional experience in a particular field such as law, science, technology or business you might get a job with a specialist trade journal.
If you are managing a budget, you need good financial skills.
What Does it Take?
You need to have:
a good command of English
excellent spoken and written communication skills
good commercial judgement
knowledge of copyright and contract law
You need to be able to:
manage and motivate staff
manage several projects at the same time
spot potential and new opportunities
work to deadlines.
You would attend a variety of in-house and external training designed to develop your skills.
Publishing Scotland and the Publishing Training Centre offer a variety of courses, both classroom based and by distance learning.
Vacancies can initially be part time and temporary.
If you have a permanent contract you could move from a junior position to management.
You could move from working on smaller publications to larger ones.
You could start up your own publishing business.
Whilst the majority of opportunities are in London and the south east of England there are a number of publishers in Scotland. These include larger educational and smaller independent publishers, some of which specialise in Gaelic language. Publishing Scotland lists some of these on their website.
The Society of Young Publishers (SYP) is open to anyone working, or considering working, in the publication trade. They organise a range of events, publish a quarterly magazine and provide a jobs database for members. There is a branch in Scotland.