So, You Want to Be a Managing Editor

Longtime readers might recall a series I ran back in 2012/2013 called, “So, You Want to Work in Publishing,” interviewing entry-level book publishing folks across a variety of companies and departments about their professional experiences. I’d like to think many people found it useful, but I know for a fact it helped at least one reader. An interviewee brought it up once, after I’d introduced myself, squinting to recollect where they already knew me from. “Did you have a blog? About publishing?” I admitted I had, mentioning the series. I was tickled pink by their response: “I read all those posts during my job search!”

You can still read those interviews in the archive, my own self-interview among them. My original post features an adorably starry-eyed assistant editor in her first year at her first job at the now defunct Transaction Publishers. I still stand by the advice I offered back then: publishing opportunities certainly do exist outside NYC. Academic presses on university campuses, journals publishing is scattered in a variety of areas, remote freelancing, several literary agencies, are based elsewhere, and I’m lucky enough to work at one of the two trade book publishers in Philadelphia, even luckier to work from home during this pandemic. Publishing jobs outside of NYC might be even truer in the near future: there’s been some really interesting discussion about how this pandemic might change and expand remote opportunities in the industry.

But as I’ve had eight more years of experience since that post, including positions at two Big 5 companies in two different departments, and a rotation of freelance jobs, I figured the post deserved an update.

Nowadays, if I were to only give a single kernel of advice to brand new publishing wannabes, it would be this:

Learn Chicago Manual of Style

Why? CMS is the style guide for book publishing. You’ll need to know the rules it contains to edit, proofread, index, design and layout interiors. It’s critical for freelance opportunities and in-house positions alike, dictating the order of contents in a book, how bibliographies are set up, how pages are numbered, the standard symbols for page markup, among a million other things. It is the sole thing I accredit many early professional successes and steady freelance work to. If you’re an English major you’re more likely learning the ins and outs of MLA style. If you’re in journalism you’re learning AP style. Chicago Manual of Style, as far as I’m aware, if sequestered to History departments. I cannot recommend more strongly teaching yourself CMS if your ultimate goal is to work in book publishing. It opened doors for me.

Name: Hannah Karena Jones
Current Title: Senior Managing Editor
Hometown: Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Graduated from: Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, May 2011
Where I currently work and live: I live in the Philadelphia suburbs and work in center city Philadelphia

My Path to Publishing: Again, I’d recommend the original post if you want the full, bookish elementary school kid grown into NYU Publishing Institute student backstory. But since then, my path in publishing? In 2013, HarperCollins moved some of their operations to Princeton, NJ, only a mile or two from where I lived. I’d been an assistant editor at Transaction for two and a half years with a fantastic boss, but I was eager to shift from academic to trade publishing. I worked for three years in HarperCollin’s content management department for another fantastic boss, working in InDesign to integrating interior text corrections, lay out templated design mass market and large print book interiors, generate ebooks, and manage reprint corrections. After nearly six years in New Jersey, though, I was homesick for Pennsylvania. The managing editor position at Running Press in Philadelphia, part of Hachette Book Group, offered the chance to move closer to family and to join a truly stellar, creative team. No matter where I’ve been, one thing has always been true: Book people are the best people.

How did you find out about your publishing jobs?

Every job I’ve applied to has always been posted on the Publishers Lunch Job Board. 

What does your typical day look like?

Even in the middle of a pandemic, my job is nearly the same, albeit more digital. I work 9-5, Monday through Friday and spend a good chunk of the day emailing. Responding to questions, organizing schedules for individual books, revising schedules when something is late, cleaning up metadata for the ONIX feed, reviewing interior and cover files, signing off on final files before they’re sent to press, routing reprint corrections, attending meetings about active and future books, among other things. Being a managing editor is a lot about keeping the trains running on time and following up if something derails. Despite “editor” being in the title, my position is not related to acquisitions.

I work on five imprints: Running Press Adult, Running Press Kids, Black Dog & Leventhal, RP Minis, and RP Studio. It means I get to work on a ton of different content—fiction, non-fiction, licensing, cookbooks, gift books, stationery, games, toys, highly illustrated—and all of the titles are really beautiful. A personal fave is this little Phrenology Cat mini, an idea I brainstormed. It turned out cuter than I imagined!

Connect with her: Of course, you can follow the blog itself, but I’m also on Twitter and Instagram where I mostly talk about writing, gardening, dogs, and cooking.



Published by hannahkarena

author & book publishing person.

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