White Lies and Birthday Cake

Book Cake


OK, so I am lying about the birthday cake, but I will talk about birthday books in this post and more about what commissioning editors do.

In this lesson, I gained a better understanding about what is written in an author contract. Such details include how much royalty they will receive, rights, word count (<10%<), title, copyright information, etc. Fake deadlines might also be provided (little white lies). This is the best possible way of making sure the manuscript (MS) is handed in on time.

In academic publishing, when the MS comes in an academic is paid to read it and provide feedback. This is then sent to the author so they can make the necessary changes. If the report is negative, the MS will not be published which happens rarely.

In fiction publishing, the commissioning editor reads the MS to make sure chapters flow and they check if characters are believable, etc.

They both also make sure it adheres to company’s style guide, check page numbers, the quality of the pictures used and make sure the abstract for the meta-data is provided. Then, after all of the necessary changes are made, the cover is designed. The Commissioning Editor will then present a selection of books to the sales representative, who then presents selected one’s to the buyers in bookshops.


Lists need to be looked after once they have been created. Sometimes books need to be re-printed, a new, paperback edition or digital issue produced. You will know what to do by looking at your re-print report, which shows you when the book was first printed (it’s birthday!), how many it has sold each year, how many are in stock, what edition it is and whether it’s in paperback or not. This will also help save money on printing costs so you don’t need to pulp as many books, yay! We had to go through a report like this in class and decide what course of action to take on each book, everyone seemed to think it was easy enough to figure out. I just had to remember that figures might be low if the book has just come out, make sure to look at the dates and when the report was created. I also learnt that your backlist of books are the bestsellers, they sell each year. These look after your frontlist.

So, a typical commissioning editor’s day might include emailing authors, looking at birthday books sales, doing general list building/management. Sounds interesting to me 🙂


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