A Day in the Life: Book Editor

A Day in the Life: Book Editor was originally published on Vault.

Name: Russell Davis
Title: Editor
Company: Five Star Authors (Waterville, ME) [a division of International Thomson]
Age: 32


B.A. in English from University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, with an emphasis in creative writing, and minors in humanistic studies and American Indian studies. I also worked with the student literary magazine in the roles of fiction editor, business manager, and managing editor and was also heavily involved in the writing community as a whole – organizing public readings, working with established authors to have them come in for guest lectures, etc.

Professional History

By the time I finished college, I’d already begun selling my short fiction and working as a freelance editor. I co-edited (with Martin H. Greenberg) anthology titles for Cumberland House and DAW Books, and continued to write and sell my short fiction. I co-wrote a young adult novel with John Helfers. Shortly after, I was asked to come to Maine and start a publishing company for a private investor. This turned out to be a double-edged sword: The job only lasted a year, but I learned a great deal about how to run a publishing company – and what it’s like to edit novels every day. When that job ended, I landed at Five Star Publishing (an imprint of Gale). I now oversee the romance and women’s fiction line, as well as the speculative fiction lines. Additionally, I’ve continued to write and publish my own work, as well as do the occasional bit of freelance editing.

Job Description

Basically, it’s my job to review both solicited and unsolicited manuscripts and acquire those that meet the needs of the house. After that, I work with the author to edit the book, and this includes both story editing as well as line editing. I also shepherd the book throughout the production process. Beyond that, I promote the house by making public appearances at conferences and conventions, writing articles, etc.

Describe Your Day Today

Usually, I arrive at the office around 9:00 a.m. and stay until 6:00 p.m., sometimes later. Throughout the course of the day, I’ll receive (on average) more than 100 e-mails, and get between 15 and 25 phone calls. I’ll review production proofs, answer correspondence from writers, draft editorial letters. I may write cover or catalog copy, work with an artist on the cover art, a designer on the cover design, and negotiate a book contract. I rarely read at the office, especially full manuscripts. Usually, I read at home, a few hours on a week night, quite a bit more on the weekend.

Favorite Part of Job

The best part of the job is seeing an idea develop into a manuscript, then into a polished manuscript, and finally into an actual book. It’s a huge rush to see what was once words on paper in a finished format. Also, calling a new writer, who’s never been published before, and saying you’d like to make an offer on their book. That’s a very cool thing.

Least Favorite Part of Job

I rarely read for pleasure anymore – when you edit books all the time, it’s difficult to turn that side of yourself off and just enjoy it. I miss sitting down with a good book for company. I still read an average of a book a week, just for myself, but it’s not the same.


Read anything and everything – in all sorts of genres, in fiction or non-fiction, in newspapers, books, or magazines – as often as you can. Get an education from a good school in English or literature or a related field. Ask questions of people in the field: writers, editors, journalists, whomever. You’d be surprised how happy they’ll be to talk about their work. Go to conferences and conventions in the field of your interest – meet people, talk with them about what and how they do what they do. Always be willing to learn about the business side as well as the art side of publishing; explore the craft of the field at the same time as you experience the art of it.

And, above all things, you must love the well-written word.