Publishing, we often tell each other, is a vocation. But when you first heard the call, I’ll wager you imagined yourself poring over proofs – whether sitting at a cluttered desk, or at a laptop sipping a flat white – making nice decisions about tone of voice here, a comma splice there. Sure, perhaps you dreamt of the launch parties; but you weren’t picturing yourself coordinating an army of in-house colleagues and out-of-house freelancers.
Now that we’re doing the job, we know that the satisfaction in our work comes from the launch, whether it’s print or digital. And getting that publication right (and done) demands much more than just those skills we first think of as “editorial”.
The best editors will always pride themselves on their ability with language and their eye for detail, and their diplomacy with authors and colleagues; but they also know how important it is to manage a project, or a roster of several. Creating, controlling and revising a budget and a schedule; managing risk and finding opportunity; making the case for revisions to budgeted time and money when circumstances change.
And of course these project management skills also apply to our own work when we are engaged with content: managing our time and tasks is the only way to ensure that the job is complete and up to scratch.
Being an effective project manager means having clear vision but also a kitbag of tools to draw on for the right occasion. When we are open to learn from experience and colleagues we become better project managers; and that makes us better editors.
John Deans runs Understanding Project Management.