Occupation Explanation: Managing Editor

Alison Morris - February 26, 2008

Last Thursday "Morning Edition" did a great feature on what a script supervisor does on a movie set. The piece was interesting, insightful, and gave me a solid introduction to a profession about which I’d previously known nothing. The story got me thinking about the many jobs in the book industry about which I know the same (nothing) or at least very little. Heck, I have a career that I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled into it!

Knowing that I’m not the only one who could benefit from a larger book world education, I’m launching a recurring feature on this blog, in which people explain what it is that they actually DO. My hope is that these explanations will be enlightening for those of us who don’t have these jobs but also interesting for those who do — perhaps you’ll find that you’re in the same role but have completely different responsibilities or that you enjoy your work for very different reasons..If so, please share those observations with the rest of us by commenting on that particular post.

And now… On to this week’s feature!

In our first Occupation Explanation Cathryn McHugh, Managing Editor at Candlewick Press, reveals just what the HECK a Managing Editor actually does, or at least what a Managing Editor does at Candlewick. Cat’s first word was "hooligan" (how great is that?), she’s the mother of the world’s most mellow baby (Cian), and she’ll soon be a resident of California. (She, Cian, and her husband Josh are moving to Los Angeles in April.) Here’s what Cat has to say:

My job title is Managing Editor… and as I’ve been with the same company since I left university 9 years ago, I don’t know if this job title has the same responsibilities elsewhere, or if my job is unique…

I work with the entire company in order to oversee and manage the publishing list, both in the immediate future and the lists that are further out. I have to have an awareness and understanding of the complete list, and am specifically responsible for the schedules of about half of the list (the 4-color titles). I work up the schedules for these books based on the commitments given by the authors, illustrators, editors, and designers. Many factors play into these schedules and have to be taken into account… and it’s my job to juggle and revise schedules as events arise… and also to keep everyone appraised of these changes.

I also have responsibility for the bibliographic information of a title… the trim, the page count, the category, the Library of Congress Number, etc… I have to gather this information, enter it into our databases, and also feed it to those who need it.

I work closely with our overseas offices in order to facilitate the linked publishing programs… they publish some of our titles, and we publish some of theirs, and both have to be "translated"… materials have to get where they need to be and promptly… and then follow-up needs to happen to ensure that decisions are being made, and that actions are being taken.

I’ve described my job in the past as a professional nagger… and there is a large part of that… it’s making people do what they need to do to make sure the books are published on time, but being able to do it in a pleasant manner that allows them to feel that they are not being nagged… just gently reminded! In a highly creative environment, a little nudging is occasionally needed!

I love working with so many different people on a daily basis, and despite not being creatively inclined, being able to feel that I have had a hand in the publication of some truly fantastic books.

Do you have a title no one can remember, or perform tasks you feel that no one truly understands? Do you want a chance to explain why you enjoy the job you have, be it in a publishing house, in a library, or in some book-related place most of us know nothing about? If so, send me an e-mail (shelftalkerATgmailDOTcom), explaining what your title is, what it is that you actually DO, and what you do (or don’t) like about your current position. Please also tell me whether or not I can use your name and your employer’s name in my post. I can’t promise to use everyone’s submissions, but I can promise to read them at least! One more thing: remember that these are Occupation Explanations, not Occupation Obfuscations, so try not to use too many "industry terms" that might completely baffle outsiders.

4 thoughts on “Occupation Explanation: Managing Editor

  1. Beth350

    Thanks for the interesting job description. I heard the same story on “Morning Edition” with much the same response as you had – so I think your plan to enlighten us on “bookish” jobs is great.


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