Development editor

The story of a book – from initial idea to the bookshop shelves – is a long and complicated tale.

'It’s a collaborative process,' explains Rosie, Development Editor at a publishing house in Edinburgh, 'so communication is a huge part of the job.'

So how do you publish a book?

Head and shoulders photo of development editor Rosie at her desk in the Bright Red offices

Rosie’s job is to guide a book from idea to reality for Bright Red Publishing, a company producing study guides for Scottish school pupils.

'I am working towards becoming a commissioning editor so I do a bit of commissioning – that’s where you come up with the concept for the book.

'Then you come up with an idea of the best people to write these books, and I persuade them to spend six to nine months writing it.'

Once someone has agreed to do the writing, Rosie works closely with them. Most of the authors are teachers, either working full-time or retired. Some of them do the whole book from to start to finish then send it in. Others prefer to send chunks of text as they finish a section.

 “You’re doing a lot of plate-spinning!  People see a book... they don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that have gone on behind the scenes."

Rosie gives them the support to make sure they stay on track. 

'I take the first draft and make sure the text runs smoothly and reads well. There’s on-going development with the writer.'

The next stage is peer review where the work is checked for factual accuracy. Then it goes to copy editing: when the grammar and spelling is corrected, and the text is checked for consistency.

In the typesetting stage, the pages are designed, then the professional proofreader double-checks that everything makes sense and is properly presented.

Rosie will then meet the author again to go over the suggested changes. And finally the book is ready to be printed.

'It can take six months to a year for the writing stage and about three months for the publishing process,' says Rosie.

And that’s just for one of the 15 books that Bright Red publishes each year. And at the same time Rosie needs to plan for next year’s titles.

'You’re doing a lot of plate-spinning! People see a book, and whether it’s a study guide for education or fiction for their enjoyment, they don’t see the blood, sweat and tears that have gone on behind the scenes.'

What’s the impact of digital technology on your work?

Cover of two books book published by Bright Red

The growth of e-books has brought another aspect to publishing.

Bright Red doesn’t do e-books because its publications are so highly designed that they wouldn’t transfer well into the format. But Rosie works in partnership with Edinburgh Napier University to publish extra interactive materials online for pupils using the physical study guides.

E-book sales have slowed in recent years but Rosie thinks there are many more changes ahead.

'I think digital technology will let publishers come up with really new and enagaging products; the potential for interactivity is really exciting.'

What do you love most about your job?

'I really like working with people; it’s a people-facing role,' says Rosie.

'You are the main contact for authors and you’re also dealing with all your other suppliers and work with the marketing and sales departments.'

At the same time this can be tricky; you’re relying on other people to deliver and if things don’t go to schedule then you’re the one that has to sort it out.

'People see the book and they won’t think too much about all the processes behind it. But it’s amazing to bring a book out. It’s so exciting.'

How do you get into this job?

'I started volunteering for a day a week for a few weeks at Bright Red, and basically I just didn’t leave!'

 When she was at university Rosie didn’t know what career she wanted.

'I did English literature as an undergraduate. It was a great, fun course and I’d always loved books and reading but it’s so general that then you can do almost anything.'

After a couple of years working and travelling she decided on publishing and did a postgraduate course at Edinburgh Napier University. During the same year, she volunteered for work experience at Bright Red, did an internship at the Edinburgh University Press and worked in a bookshop which gave her a good insight in to the book trade.

'I started volunteering for a day a week for a few weeks at Bright Red, and basically I just didn’t leave!'

The work experience led to freelance work which, once she graduated, led to a full-time role as Marketing and Publishing Assistant. She then worked her way up to her current role of Development Editor.

Support for young publishers

For the past two years Rosie was also Chair of the Society of Young Publishers Scotland, an organisation for people who have less than 10 years experience in the industry or who are interested in a publishing career.

It holds monthly events and runs a mentoring scheme, as well as being a source of industry advice and contacts.

'I'd definitely recommend joining the society, or attending its events, to anyone who's interested in starting a career in publishing - it's a great way to meet friends and contacts and learn about the industry.'