Copy Right

Still within the realm of a desk editor’s role we have copyright. Although there is usually a rights team within the publishing house, the desk editor still needs to know a little about copyright to help the author with their work. The basic rule is that if someone makes something it belongs to them. The author has the right to be identified as the writer and their name holds copyright for 70 years after their death. This means to use someone’s work you probably need to pay someone a lot of money. As the material belongs to the author it means you cannot change the content when using it in future work.

Within copyright there is a fair dealing clause. This tells you roughly how much you can quote before permission is needed. This means that for academic work, quotes can be used to back up points. A rough guide is that 400 words from one full book is around the limit for free quotes before permission is needed. Obviously, this can change dependant on how long the work is. 2 lines from a 10 line poem constitutes a large proportion of that piece of work meaning permission would be needed. If the quote is used at the beginning of the book and has no bearing on the topic of that book then permission is needed regardless of how much is quoted.

Pictures work in much the same way. Again copyright belongs to the owner until 70 years after their death. If there are people photographed in the pictures used then permission from these people is also needed before it can used in the book.  With pictures (and sometimes written) copyright can be assigned to a publisher but often only for a specified amount of time or for a specified type of book. If something is found on the internet, it generally cannot be used as you never know who the true owner is. If you are trying to get permission you have to tell the author/publishing house where you are publishing (ie country) and what you are publishing (ie what type of book – academic/fiction). Unless the author has given copyright, the publisher never automatically owns copyright.

Within copyright, liable is included. Anything said disparagingly should be used with caution by author and publisher as you could be liable meaning the person who the remarks are about can sue for defamation.

That is the end of the editing section of this module. After Christmas we shall be looking at the production side of publishing with the cover designer for JK Rowling! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!



Desk Editor Part two

So last time, I left you on what a desk editor does. Following that we had an exam in copy editing (results to be handed out later). We continued with what a Desk Editor would do in their role within the publishing house.

Generally, author’s would proofread their own work just to make sure the copy-editor and typesetter hadn’t altered their work too much that it had lost its integrity. The proofreading marks are used mainly for the typesetter so that they know where things need to go on the page. I discovered that proofreading isn’t really my forte in the publishing world after a little exercise where Andrew showed us mistake by the author and I seemed to miss quite a few. However, if when you are proofreading, there are many mistakes per page it suggests your copy-editor is not very good and you would probably not use them again. Good copy editors are hard to get and even harder to get cheaply.

Traditionally, the author proof reads via blue/black ink, the typesetter with red and designer with green. The typesetter will charge you for any blue-black ink rectifications that are needed.

Multi-author books can lead to issues on copy editing due to the differences in writing, style and format of the pages. This has to be taken into consideration when giving a copy editor such a manuscript.


Desk Editor

A desk editor is a copy editor who is employed by a publishing house. Although they are copy editors by nature, the main role is to read manuscripts and decide which freelance editor would be the best person to edit the text. They have to proof read the text, leaving the standard marks so that the freelancer knows what the publishing house wants in terms of English vs American spellings, heading formats etc. As a desk editor, you would change certain parts of the manuscript before you gave it to the freelance editor. Mainly the complicated stuff so you know its done to your standard and specification and it would be cheaper, more complicated changes means you have to pay the freelancer more.

Once the manuscript comes back from the freelancer, you have to check it against your original notes to make sure that the freelancer has done as you asked and fully edited the piece. As soon as you are happy with everything and the layout of the manuscript is ok, you then send the text to the typesetter. Here you need to tell them font, spacing, book size,how many blank pages etc. Sending them a previous book that you want this one to look like often helps as you usually use the same typesetter’s so they would know what design that book was. Most importantly, you need to inform the typesetter of the date you want the proofs back. The typesetter also needs to know how you want the proofs sent back. Whether that be via pdf or hardcopy, how many you want sending out, if you want them sent to you or the author and how much the entire text will cost when bound. Once all this has been decided, you then need to check the proofs. Have the typesetter set it to you specifications? Is it the right font, is it set right? The author also needs to check this proof to make sure that they are happy for their work to be published as it is.

The next thing is the design of the front cover. In trade, this is usually handled by the marketing team as the cover is usually the best way to sell a book. However, in academic, the cover is usually just something that covers the book, the title is the important thing. Either way, if the desk editor has to do the cover, then it is sent to the in-house design team or another freelancer. Whichever way, marketing team or desk editor, the cover does have to pass the desk editor at some point for approval.

If there are no delays whatsoever, then the book could be published in 3 weeks. This never happens though as everyone usually has other projects that they also need to do, so often there is  a queue per stage. The copy editor will have 5 manuscripts to look at meaning it might be 5 weeks before you receive it back from them, it might take the typesetter’s 3 weeks to get your proofs to you and then you have to wait for the author to approve the proofs. All these things take time so a few months is normal even a year.

And that is a Desk Editor’s job in a nutshell! See you next week for the penultimate copy editing post!

Reference Editing

So last week we looked at editing the text. This week we went over this, editing another text on the history of gin. Many things we found were the preference of the copy editor. Changing the pronoun from ‘her’ to ‘its’ in relation to a country (i.e. her Empire) is the editor’s choice (though can be questioned by the author). BC and AD being BCE and CE is again, the copy editors choice. Today, our query was over whether ‘white spirit’ in relation to gin should be changed. Due to the dangerous substance white spirit, some felt that this should be changed in case of confusion, however, as a bartender, I felt it should stay as it was. Again, no right answer to this question but whatever that specific copy editor felt.

We moved swiftly on to editing referencing. As many people can remember from their university days, referencing was never the best part of writing an essay or dissertation. Andrew confirmed that out of all copy editing jobs, this would be the dullest we would have, checking references. However, this is the most important one, especially for academic monographs. So today’s task was to change references from footnotes to the Harvard referencing system. Thank-fully, all the students on this course had used the Harvard referencing system for their Undergraduate Degrees. The point of the task was just to see if we could figure out the different part of the references that needed changing.

Next week, we have to copy-edit a virgin manuscript to go towards our final mark. I shall let you know how that goes on the next post.

(Also, we found a Penguin bookchase game in the publishing house – enjoy the picture!) IMG_20141117_135653

Copy Editing

Well we have now left the world of Commissions Editing and entered into the murky world of Copy Editing. A new topic means a new lecturer and we are being taught by Andrew Kirk, a freelance copy-editor. I have always had issues with spelling and grammar so hopefully I will learn something between now and Christmas and discover that I am not as bad at it as I dreaded! (update: especially as I am now a freelance copy-editor for Lancaster BID)

IMAG0342_1_1In today’s session, we discussed the difference between proofreading and copy editing. Proofreading is where you edit a hard copy with specific proofreading marks. These change from just // to §. You hand over the proofread manuscript to the printers and they alter the marked areas for you. Each mark has their own meaning and they are seemingly universal. Copy editing relies on the computer copy (can be hard copy but not usually in this digital age) and using the ‘mark up’ section in the review of Word (both Microsoft and Apple support this feature). This is where you change the majority of the spelling, grammar and structural mistakes. We completed an assignment on copy editing, seeing how our version of editing compared to Andrew’s. Through this exercise, I discovered that things I felt needed changing didn’t. An example is where I felt the phrasing could have been done better (much like this sentence!) However, that didn’t need to be changed by the copy editor. If the sentence was wrong, then yes, it should be changed. I think that this mentality will be hard to break as anyone who has proofread a friend’s essay knows that you are there to help express their ideas better. As a copy editor you are there to check for mistakes or potential misunderstandings and correct those, not create a slightly different phrasing.

With this in mind, we shall try to copy-edit again next week and see if we have improved.


To any of you that stumble across this blog I issue a welcome. Every week I shall be posting about my Editorial and Production module within my Publishing Masters degree. Anyone who has in interest in IMAG0179_1publishing I invite you to take a look through and even to follow on to my book review blog.

This week we were introduced to our lecturer, Tony Mason, the Senior Commissioning Editor for Manchester University Press (MUP). For those that do not know, there are two types of Editors; A commissioning editor and a copy editor. Both are highly important to the publishing world. A commissioning editor commissions authors and books (shocker I know) and a copy editor proof reads the manuscripts and other related things (more to come on copy editing later in the academic year). Tony  talked us through a quick run of the life of a commissioning editor and the structure of MUP. Our exercise for the day was to contact an author already commissioned by Tony and deal with a query by that author. My group were handed Thomas Hennessey of Canterbury Christ Church University, who had a question about the stocking of his book “Britain’s Korean War” in Waterstones. Within my group, we devised three replies; one simpering to the author, one really harsh response and one in the middle. The response I devised was the medium response as shown below.

“Hi Thomas, 

                        Thanks for your email. Unfortunately, I have no control over Waterstone’s stock or knowledge of which stores stock which books due to a central ordering system by them.  I have asked one of our local MUP sales reps to look into this for you so as soon as I have any information I will let you know.

 I do know Waterstone’s work on a demand base so if you and any friends go into the store and ask for the book on multiple occasions it could be re-stocked.

 I have some good news to tell you! Your book has been earmarked for paperback release in Spring 2015. This will be at a more attractive price for high street bookstores to potentially sell more.

 I’ll email you again as soon as I have any more information.



Megan Pollard

 Editing Commissioner”    

We are waiting for the responses and we shall be going through them in the next class. Hopefully we shall be able to find out which response works the best and learn that different authors need different approaches. I feel that the really harsh response will generate a negative relationship with the author which, in the world of commissioning editing, is the last thing you need.