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The editor’s role

30 July 2018

‘Publishing is all about taste. You have other things, but at the centre of everything you do is your taste - and your trust in your taste and your judgement...

It's such a difficult job - you need to have the big picture and the detail. An editor who is just an editor thinks only about the text and creating a marvellous book and handing it over - whereas one who is also a publisher has a 360 degree view on a book and they are the engine that drives a book and they get involved in all aspects, particularly publicity. So you have to have skills in every bit of a book's life and be there for the author as well.

You have to be prepared to watch and listen and read and get involved and learn. You have to be very patient because it takes a long time to learn it all. The tortoises rather than the hares of the world make the best editors.

I sometimes feel that too much is expected of younger people too quickly and that is why you get some of them burn out. Commissioning editors carry a great load. It induces neuroses in the sanest people because you feel the responsibility for whether a book works or doesn't. Yes, there is a collective responsibility with the company, but in the end it's you as the editor who has said: ‘I love this book and I want to publish it, I want us to publish it.'

Alexandra Pringle, editor-in-chief, Bloomsbury Publishing, in Bookbrunch