Editing Course: The World of Publishing

I’m officially a student. Instantly, images of a young girl pop into my mind, carrying an armful of books as she heads off to her next class. She’s smiling and laughing and surrounded by equally young, active people. That’s definitely not me in the crowd! The ageometre stopped pointing to “young” a couple of decades ago, so I’m trying to adjust that persistent image to something a little closer to the truth — a middle-aged, no that will never do — a mature woman carrying her stack of books to the kitchen table to study. Yes, that will do just fine.

Yesterday I read through all the course material I received — I’m doing distance learning — and discovered that there are 14 units of approximately 10 topics each. The entire course is expected to take about 600 hours to complete.

Today was my first day. This morning I put in almost three hours and completed the first topic of the first unit. There were a few practical exercises to do, but this topic was mainly theory. This is what I learned:

1: The World of Publishing, The Big Picture

75% of books are sold through bookshops (online and brick and mortar shops). The other 25% are sold through department stores, newsagents and supermarkets.

Following is a list of “positions” in the publishing industry. Some of the information given is common sense, but I’ll include it anyway, so that the big picture is clearer.

Author: the person who writes the manuscript.

Publisher: the person responsible for publishing the manuscript in print and/or digital formats.


  • Managing Editor: the person responsible and accountable for the entire publication process. This includes but is not limited to budgeting, acquiring new titles, managing projects, preparing and negotiating contracts and distribution.
  • Structural Editor: the person responsible for reviewing the manuscript and making substantive changes or suggestions. This includes the plot, changes to characters, the chapters and the overall structure of the story, including tone, pace and all other elements of a well-written book.
  • Copyeditor: this is really a sub-role of editing or a super-role of proofreading.
  • Proofreader: the person responsible for picking up errors and typos in the typeset pages. These can be spelling, grammatical, punctuation and/or layout errors.


Graphic Designer/Illustrator: the person responsible for jacket design, layout illustrations, photos, charts or tables. This person is also responsible for designing promotional material such as posters, bookmarks, etc, to be distributed to bookshops.

Desktop Publisher/Typesetter: the person responsible for typesetting the manuscript and making corrections to the typeset copy marked up by the editor, copyeditor and/or proofreader. It is their responsibility to ensure the printed product is pleasing to the eye.

Book Publicist: the person responsible for the promotion of the book and inevitably the level of sales. They liaise with the author, arrange book signings and readings, communicate with the media, write press releases, organise book tours and photo shoots and arrange any other publicity function.

What do I want from this course?

First and foremost, I want to be a successful author. I plan to couple the editing and proofreading skills I learn from the course with my writing so that my finished manuscripts will be of a higher quality. By doing this, I believe my goal will be easier to achieve (and I realise there will be nothing easy about the journey).

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