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Upskilling Dictionary: Editorial

By Meghan Capper, Tanvi Jaiswal and Misha Manani


Editorial is the first department that many think of when it comes to publishing. Editors tend to acquire a manuscript from a literary agent or author to publish for consumers to read. This is the second article in our dictionary series. We hope this helps you to understand the terminology used in the sector and build your commercial awareness. You can also use them in your interviews and applications, but don’t overdo them!


  • Acquisition: When a publisher "buys" the right to publish a book from an author. An acquisitions meeting is held where editors pitch the book, then sales, marketing, publicity, production and audio will share their thoughts.

  • AIs (Advance Information Sheets)/TIs (Title Information Sheets): A one-page summary of the book with important metadata. This is key information about the book such as the publisher, author name, book title, previous publication history, description, book locale, marketing reviews, sales points, illustrations, the cover image, publication date and format, price and author biography.

  • Author Care: A key priority for those in editorial is to ensure that the author is regularly updated about the publication strategy. It is essential to communicate with them and take their points on board, e.g. choosing the cover.

  • Author Endorsements: The quotes from authors you tend to receive before publication to put on the back or front cover copy of the book. This can also be inputted on AIs where the metadata is fed to retailers.

  • Backlist: A list of books older than twelve months which are still in print. A book can be on a backlist and still sell! Many popular books that were published years or decades ago continue to be bought today, just look at the resurgence of novels discovered through BookTok!

  • Commissioning Editor: They commission and buy books sent from literary agents or authors for publication. Their main aim is to build a profitable and exciting list.

  • Copyediting: This is one of the most crucial skills sought after in the editorial department. This refers to the process of "tidying up" a manuscript before it is finally sent out for publication. Making a manuscript concise and clear is a must in editorial!

  • Cover Briefs: A document detailing a book's specifications, text, images, ideas, key scenes in the plot and target readers. It also includes comparison covers from books with a similar genre, audience and description. This is given to the designer so that they can design a suitable and relevant cover for the book.

  • Desk Editing: This involves supporting the commissioning editor with the project management and sending the manuscript to external proofreaders and copyeditors. Depending on the publisher, this may involve proofreading and copyediting tasks as well.

  • Developmental editing: This is used towards the beginning of the editing process where the editors help authors map out their ideas and style of writing to better compose the work. Developmental editing focuses on primary areas such as structure, plot, characters, genre and form of a book.

  • Frontlist: These are the most recently published books in the market. If you want to be updated on your favourite genres and publishers’ works, keep track!

  • Ghost Writer: A professional writer hired to write a text credited to a different person. They are often used for celebrity-published books, working either alongside the text’s credited author or completing an entire project solo. The writers will avoid being discovered.

  • IP (Intellectual Property) Project: An editor might notice a gap in the market and come up with a book idea. They will then find someone appropriate to write it. The idea can come from anyone, e.g. the editorial assistant or someone in marketing, but there usually has to be a commissioning editor willing to take on the project.

  • Manuscript: A draft or unpublished version of a book that is submitted to agents and editors for consideration.

  • Print-On-Demand (POD): This is precisely what it sounds like! Printing books based on their demand, one at a time.

  • Project Editor: They manage a book’s schedule to ensure it is delivered on time and to specification. This includes the files such as the final manuscript and liaising with copyeditors, proofreaders and typesetters.

  • Proofreading: A process that takes place on the final manuscript prior to publication. This is used to spot and correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation and formatting. These checks happen after copyediting which is a different level of editing and not to be used interchangeably with proofreading. In contrast, copyediting focuses more on the quality of writing and makes adjustments to sentence structures, flow and clarity.

  • Proof: A version of the manuscript which is not final. This might be sent to authors to read to endorse the book before publication.


Thank you for reading Issue Sixty-Four! Join us again for Issue Sixty-Five, where we will cover Upskilling Tips for Publishing Job Searches.

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