Depending on the size of the publishing house, authors can come into contact with many people in the editorial department, including the publisher, managing editor and senior and junior editors. Here’s a brief outline of who’s who.
Publishers head up the publishing division of the company. In conjunction with the Sales and Marketing divisions, they are responsible for the overall publishing program, i.e. the kinds of books that are published.
They also oversee all the editorial staff and often the design and production departments as well. They are expected to come up with ideas for books, to be able to bring authors onboard and generally look after the ‘big picture’.
While they may offer general guidance on how they’d like to see books take shape, they rarely do any hands-on editing themselves. (This can vary in smaller publishing houses, however, when the editorial ‘department’ often consists of only a couple of people. Then it’s a case of all hands on the editing deck.)
Associate Publishers or Commissioning Editors work with the Publisher to commission books.
The Managing Editor works closely with the Editors on the scheduling and project management of books. They allocate workload, liaise with the publisher and design and production departments. They generally ensure the (hopefully) smooth running of the publishing program. They will probably also edit some books themselves.
Senior Editors/Editors/Junior Editors are all variously experienced levels of ‘editor’. These people are responsible for the hands-on editing of books. They work closely with authors, designers, freelance editors, proofreaders and indexers to transform raw manuscripts into finished books.
Within their ranks are Copy Editors and Structural Editors. Structural Editors with an author to shape their manuscript in broad terms, to improve plot, characterisation, structure and flow. Copy Editors add the polish. They fine-tune grammar, spelling, punctuation, style and consistency. Often both of these processes are handled by the same editor; however, in fiction it can be a good idea for fresh eyes to handle the copy editing once the structural edit is complete.