Job Description of a Commissioning Editor

Written by anne hirsh
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Job Description of a Commissioning Editor
A commissioning editor decides which articles, stories or books are published. (woman reading image by jimcox40 from Fotolia.com)

Commissioning editors are also commonly referred to as acquisitions or acquiring editors, depending on the region and publisher. Commissioning editors are responsible for selecting which works a specific magazine or publishing house will purchase for publication. The position requires knowledge and work experience within the editing field, and is generally considered a senior or management-level position.

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Process

Commissioning editors for magazines and book publishers read through the materials submitted to the company and decide which materials are best suited to the publication, and then negotiate with the authors for the purchase of these materials. Most large publishers have less experienced workers who read the general submissions, then pass along the most promising to the commissioning editor for final decisions. In many publishing houses, the commissioning editor must present the selected works to the publisher or other members of the company for approval before an offer is extended to the author. Once that offer is extended, the commissioning editor works with the author or author's agent to determine an acceptable exchange of fees and rights.

Additional Considerations

Commissioning editors for certain publishers may also seek out writers, rather than reviewing submissions. Projects that are company-generated may require authors with certain skill sets, and it is up to the commissioning editor to find these. As with other manuscripts, the commissioning editor must negotiate rights contracts with these authors.

Training

A thorough understanding of the publishing process is required, but a commissioning editor at a book publisher may be required to have training in business or legal contract negotiations. Undergraduate degrees in business, law, English or journalism are generally combined with work in the field to prepare you for a job as a commissioning editor. A graduate degree in publishing is often helpful. Typically, several years of working up from a first reader or copy editor into a general editorial position is required to gain a job as a commissioning editor, and experience in journalistic fields may not be considered qualifications for jobs in book publishing, and vice versa.

Skills

The ability to quickly read and assess a manuscript is important for a commissioning editor, as she may have several hundred to several thousand manuscripts coming in and waiting to be read, depending on the popularity of the publisher. She must be able to clearly present a persuasive argument to the publisher regarding the reason to purchase a manuscript and in some cases must convince a marketing team of a book or other manuscript's audience appeal. Organization and attention to detail are crucial to this job, as are negotiation skills and the ability to remain firm on important issues, particularly when dealing with contracts.

Work Conditions and Salary

Commissioning editors must spend a large portion of the day reading, both on paper and on the computer in many cases. Meetings, phone calls and business lunches are also frequently part of a commissioning editor's day. Those editors actively seeking manuscripts may be required to attend trade shows or conventions to meet potential authors for their projects. The average salary for a commissioning editor in New York is £29,900 annually, according to Indeed.com as of May 2010.

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