The role of the book editor needs to change

Editors need still need to champion books in the digital world, but they also need to have a "vision" of how the content can be used beyond the traditional book, otherwise they risk losing control of the book to the "digital department".

This was the view from a panel discussion held at Publishers Launch London today. During a discussion on "New Skill Sets: Capabilities Publishers don't Have and How They're Developing Them", Charlie Redmayne, executive vice president and chief digital officer at HarperCollins Publishers, stressed that editors needed to look beyond the book. "Editors need to become not just editors of books, but people with the content vision, and there are not enough editors in the industry who have those skills."

Redmayne warned that it editors did not take these new skills they would lose control of the content when it moves into the digital world: "The person who really understands how to tell that story in the app environment is the one who should take if forward, otherwise you end up with an app that is a book, and it should be different."

Pearson director of digital product and consumer technology Juan Lopez-Valcarel said that book publishing was "the most insular industry I have ever worked in". "We should cherish this, but every now and then you need to get off your island." He said that bringing outside talent into the business was positive since it cold create "friction". He said: "If you have cultural friction, that means you are on to something, if everyone agrees you have an echo chamber, embrace friction." But he stressed that the best products still needed a singular champion. "If you have large groups of people coming up woth products, you end up with a product without a soul."

Redmayne said the key was to make sure the new digital people were properly integrated within the traditional business. "If you bring new people in, you need to make sure they are integrated into the rest of the business, otherwise you end up with digital departments, and all the power stays with the imprints."

Jack Thomas, chief executive of Midas PR, argued that this should go both ways. "Often we recruit from the outside but then fail to explain what the industry does."

Comments

Is this work for the editor or the publisher?

Timo Boezeman's picture

Interesting thought. I agree on what your point is, but I am not sure if that is the role of the editor. But maybe that's the difference between the UK (and maybe US) and The Netherlands. Because my opinion is, that this should be part of the tasks of the publisher. It is necessary to overthink these things when you are still in the phase of creating the work. Better yet, in the phase of thinking about the concept of the new title. When the editor comes into play, the entire process is already set in motion and changes or additions like this feel more like add-ons than that they are a real and genuine part of the concept.

But again, if the creation of the concept and the deliberation with the author is part of the work of the editor over here, than I totally agree.

Hmmm, somebody needs an editor

Though I agree with my editor from Pearson, I wish he would have gone over your article before you posted this one. What irony that this article is about editing, and the writing is riddled with mistakes? hmmm...

Well, no harm no foul, but just for future reference you might want to make sure that you run these things through a grammar checker or something, as we, your readers are relying on you for information. And there is nothing worse than trying to find someone credible who is a terrible writer - not that you're terrible, just a few errors - but, you get my drift.

Well, I'm looking forward to working my way around the site.

Happy Bloggin!

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