Page to Cover Informational Interviews
Page to Cover Informational Interview with Eric
In our last edition of Page to Cover, we sat down with Eric, a managing editor. Eric has been with Hayden-McNeil since January 2013 and comes from a journalism and marketing background. In his position, he is responsible for managing a portfolio of authors and ensuring that deadlines are met, manuscripts are prepped and ready for press and the books arrive to campus on time.
What does a managing editor do?
At HM the job is a mix of managing projects and building and maintaining relationships with authors (it involves very little “editing” per se). I oversee a portfolio of custom titles written for higher education, mostly lab manuals, workbooks, and readers, which are typically revised yearly or every other year.
In most cases, the managing editor is the sole point of contact here for our authors. It’s our job to convey the author’s needs for their book to the resources we have here – design, illustration, digital media, content services, proofing, production, etc. – and also help keep the project organized and on time for our team, so they can focus on their jobs, and we can get the books to press and ready to ship in time for classes to start.
Short answer: Managing editors help guide each project through every step of the publishing process. They are also the face of the company to our authors and the voice of our authors to the company.
Tell me about your background? What did you do prior to coming to Hayden-McNeil?
I received my bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2004 and worked at newspapers out of college, first as an editorial assistant at a large daily newspaper in Grand Rapids, Mich., and then as an editor at an independent weekly paper in Lansing, Mich. In 2010, I took a job in online marketing for a family-owned, international manufacturing company, where I worked until coming here.
What kind of education or training does someone need to become a managing editor?
I don’t think there is one set track, but a background in wrangling deadlines, solving problems on the fly, and managing people all helps. Being able to prioritize tasks and keep on top of schedules is essential, but so is being flexible and working around issues as they come up. Just being a curious person who likes to ask questions, listen and learn what makes people tick goes a long way, too.
Describe a typical work day.
During production season I can be working on any number of things for several projects all at once. Answering emails from authors and colleagues, reminding authors of upcoming due dates and proofing schedules, reviewing manuscripts and preparing them for the design team, shipping proofs to authors or letting them know they are posted online, updating royalty paperwork, giving the projects a final review before press, evaluating pricing and adjusting as needed, checking over proofs from print vendors, and finally approving the finished book as being ready to ship.
In the off season it’s a lot of planning and organizing, making sure our records are accurate and any needed preparatory work is being done. I check in with authors to make sure they have what they need from me in terms of desk copies or what their plans are for their next editions. We also talk about process and workflow a lot here, evaluating what worked and what didn’t, so there’s that going on as well.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Our production seasons mirror the academic calendar, because that’s the timeline our authors are on. There’s only so much time in the day for them to write and edit on top of teaching and all the other jobs that come with that. Not to mention much-needed summer vacations, etc. That means we squeeze an awful lot of work out of a pretty small window between roughly April and July to make sure books are ready to go in August. It can get hectic, but it’s also really rewarding to see it all come together in the end.
The other challenge is keeping up with everything in the off season, staying in touch with busy people, and doing whatever prep work is possible before the manuscripts start coming in.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I like working with and getting to know our authors. They come from interesting backgrounds and many are working with limited resources. If I can make this part of their job any easier, it feels like I’m doing something right.
Solving new and unexpected problems as they come up – especially during production season, when everything is happening at once – can also be fun. It’s a little like playing old school video games, where objects are falling from above, and there’s a big stack of blocks or multi-colored pills in front of you and you have to figure out how to clear them because more are coming at a faster rate.
It’s nice to see a really challenging project come together. Working with a great group of people whose first thought is, “How do we get this done for the author?” makes that easier than it seems like it should be, of course.
When authors email or call to say how much they love their new lab manual or how grateful they are for an easy experience, that’s okay too.
Did you always want to work in publishing?
I always figured I would work with words in some way but not necessarily in publishing; that or open a music venue.
How did you get your job at Hayden-McNeil?
I was looking for something in the writing or editing field and came across a job posting for “managing editor.” The job wasn’t exactly what I imagined when applying, but through the interview process, it became clear this place was a good fit for me. Luckily they offered me a job.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to work as a managing editor?
Try and be as helpful as you can to your authors and your colleagues, and don’t be afraid to ask when you really need something – that goes for questions or help from a colleague; or a hard deadline from an author; or an unexpected, last-minute permission from a rights holder. People will surprise you all the time.Over a year ago