Jane Buekett, Editorial Manager at Hodder Education shares her thinking on why project management is a critical skill for all editors.
Job titles across the publishing industry are notoriously inconsistent. In my department the desk editors/project editors—the people who turn what an author has written into a published product—are called Project Managers, because project management is what they do. When we recruit, the ability of a candidate to keep multiple projects, all at different stages of production, on schedule and within budget, is just as important as the eye for detail, the editorial sensibility.
Yes, spelling, consistency and clear use of language matter, but they are of little use if the project never gets published. An editor not only has to assess and create accurate budgets and schedules, but also to liaise with all the other parties involved in the project: authors, commissioning editors, designers, photo researchers, artists, typesetters, marketing executives, sales reps…. And these skills do not just apply to in-house editors — fluctuating levels of work in line with market needs mean that much project management work is outsourced to freelance editors and packagers.
One reason why the project management skills of the editor are more important today than ever is that publishing, particularly in education and academic fields, is not only about books. Almost none of the projects we work on today is 'just' a book. The most straightforward publication will have a print and an e-book version, many books have linked online resources, and an increasing number of projects are multi-component, with interrelated print materials alongside digital products containing hundreds of resources in different formats, from Word files to video. Then there is the marketing material—the samples for social media, the database that feeds information to Amazon, the advance chapter and cover.
Keeping control of each of these elements requires enormous organisational ability and forward thinking, use of tracking and budgeting systems which work, plus flexibility and resourcefulness.
In other words, all the skills of project management.
The PTC offers three project management courses, two for editors Editorial Project Management and Digital Project Management., and one for everyone Project Management Tool for All, one of them may be just the thing to take your skills to the next level.