This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
Caroline Hogg has worked in publishing for almost ten years, at Little, Brown Book Group and more recently at Avon, HarperCollins. She's currently at Pan Macmillan as Senior Commissioning Editor for Commercial Women's Fiction. She knows her stuff!
Today's question comes from a Novelicious reader who asks:
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How did you become an editor? What was your first job in publishing?
My first job in publishing was as an editorial assistant at Little, Brown Book Group, on the Abacus imprint. I can’t stress how lucky I was: only a few months out of university, having never worked in an office before and admittedly rather clueless about publishing! My first two bosses were incredibly lovely people that took a chance on me and gave me an excellent grounding in the business. I had already had several work experience placements (which I really recommend if you want to get into publishing. You not only get a flavour of the work but you get to meet people, and so hear about job openings) which was a good introduction to the industry but only really skimmed the surface. There was so much to learn and it all seemed so glam: launch parties (where I could be found serving the wine and snaffling canapés when no one was looking), submissions to read (though I mostly read from the slush pile to start with, which was certainly interesting) and most exciting of all was meeting real authors. It took me quite a while to stop becoming completely speechless in front of them – I was a quivering wreck in front of Margaret Atwood, which still makes me cringe to this day – and I had to pinch myself that it really was my job. For an English Literature graduate, it was a dream come true.
After learning the ropes and photocopying a lot of memos, I was promoted from editorial assistant to assistant editor. I know it sounds like virtually the same thing but it was a very important distinction for me at the time! I then became a junior editor, a desk editor (where I did a lot of copyediting and preparing books for publication), then a commissioning editor (where I could start to look for my own authors to sign up for the list) over the course of about five years. Publishing is an industry where you really can’t beat learning on the job and I picked up so much from the incredibly talented bosses I’ve had along the way.One of the most important lessons I learnt in my first job, which I have taken with me through all my subsequent jobs, is that each and every author you meet has put their heart and soul into their writing. No matter how many books they’ve written or how calm they may seem on the surface, to create something from nothing, to write a book and edit it and edit it and edit it until you’re borderline certifiable, to then send your precious creative work out into the world to be read and reviewed and commentated on, it all takes an amazing amount of talent, dedication and guts. And an editor’s job is to make the process as painless as possible for the author, because they are the heart of what we do. We simply wouldn’t have a job without them.