An editor’s role is to prepare someone else’s work for publication. Newspaper editors are responsible for editing a number of individual stories or articles produced by different journalists or contributors, while book editors typically work with one or several authors who contribute all the content for a single book. Both types of editors carry out similar copy-editing duties, but their responsibilities differ in terms of the scope, extent and deadlines they face.
One of the most obvious differences between newspaper and book editors is the length of copy they work on. Individual newspaper reports and feature articles typically run from a couple hundred words to 3,000 words or so. Book manuscripts range from 30,000 words to several hundred thousand words. Newspaper editors might work on many different stories to produce each issue. Book editors work on a single manuscript for each publication, although the text may include material from a number of authors.
The time available to edit material is significantly different for the two types of editor jobs. Newspaper editors must edit their copy ready for publication within a very short time frame. On daily papers, for example, the time between assigning a story and approving it for publication might be as little as an hour or two. Book editors work on publication schedules that might be months or even years away. Certain books, such as those aimed at the Christmas gift market or topical books about recent events, may have shorter deadlines.
The different deadlines create another important difference between the two roles. Newspaper editors must ensure that their reports reflect the latest developments in a story. Events may change during the hours leading up to publication deadline, or contributors may provide important new background information. Editors must therefore monitor stories and make changes as they occur. They might also have to reduce articles in length or drop them altogether if other important stories break during the day. Book editors typically work on the same basic manuscript throughout the editing and production process.
Editors may have specialist roles in both book and newspaper publishing. A large book publishing house may appoint editors to take responsibility for specific genres such as adult fiction, children’s fiction, textbooks, biographies and general non-fiction works. In a smaller publishing house, editors might work on both fiction and non-fiction titles. Newspaper editors may take overall responsibility for all the contents of an issue, or they may work on specific sections such as business, sports, local news or entertainment.
The scope of editing varies by job. Newspaper editors must check spelling, punctuation and grammar in each article. They must also check stories to ensure they are clear, accurate, balanced and well-sourced. Book editors also carry out detailed editing of manuscripts, but they also consult with authors to ensure they present information in a clear, logical way.
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