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!