What an Editor Actually Does

Neil Nyron

Neil Nyron, who recently retired from being the Executive Vice President, Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons, gave the welcoming talk Thursday afternoon at the Florida Mystery Writers’ of America 24th annual Sleuthfest in Boca Raton. He’s given 3 other similar talks over the previous three years, each on an element of writing and getting published. This year’s talk was about “What an Editor Actually Does.”

  • Neil said his first job, as an editor, was to look at a manuscript and ask, “What does this ms want to be?”
    If it needed a lot of work, he would work with the author to get the story in the best shape possible. If it was already in good shape, he would simply makes sure everything was as perfect as can be.
  • His next job was to make certain the book would be released at the best possible time.

When is that?

Not in the Fall.
He said, fall is the worse time to release a book unless you happen to be a big-name NYT bestseller because September, October, and November are the months when the big publishing houses release books by their big name authors. (Christmas sales.)

If a book had a fall theme, he would place it so it would either come out in August or early September or in January.

He said fewer books are released in August, which gives those books a better chance of being reviewed.

If a book had a sports theme or sports connection, he would schedule its release a couple weeks before that particular sport’s opening or big event. So a baseball type book would be before opening season for baseball; a book related to horse racing would be before the Kentucky Derby; and so on

  • The next job for the editor was getting quotes for the cover, working with the art department for a dynamic cover, and finding ways to get the sales department excited about the book. Also, the editor looked into if there were any sub-rights possible.
  • One of the most important tasks for an editor is to get others in the publishing house excited about the book he’s promoting. He needs to know the tastes of the sales reps so he can get those he knows will like the book pushing the book to their bookstores

It’s those advanced quotes, he said, that have an influence on the sales reps

Those advanced quotes also influence the others on the editorial board.

  • On occasion editors are called upon to hold a nervous writer’s hand, or offer reassurance. He gave one example, but wouldn’t tell us who the writer was.
  • Neil said he has also been called upon to be part of a pr promotion for a book, and he’s helped plan pr promotional events.
  • Another job of the editor is to oversee or direct the packaging of an author’s books. He gave an example of Dick Francis, whose books had been doing well but not great. Neil had them enlarge the size of the book, print it on thicker paper, and create a more dramatic cover. Word count wasn’t changed but the book was bigger, and the cover now stood out. The result was sales went up.
  • Marketing is a big part of the editor’s job. It doesn’t matter how good a book is if people don’t hear about it. His example of a good marketing gimmick was with Tom Clancy’s book where Jack Ryan becomes president. This was just before the 1996 election between Clinton and Dole, so they made up campaign buttons saying Jack Ryan for President. They held a mock election between the two real candidates and Jack Ryan. Ryan won.

It also helped sell the book.

  • Part of marketing may be the decision to co-op a book. (Purchase those end caps or stand-alone displays that bookstores have near the entrance. They cost the publisher money.)

Basically, Neil’s point was that an editor (a good editor) is more than someone who corrects your spelling, grammar, and makes sure the story holds together. He (or she) is in a partnership with the author to make the book the best it can be and make sure it is presented to the buying public in the best way possible.

[Blogging about “What an”Editor Actually Does #NeilNyron #marketing” #Sleuthfest2018 ]

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10 Responses to What an Editor Actually Does

  1. I’ve never had much luck with books released in August. They tend to be ignored for reviews. But interesting about avoiding fall unless you’re with a big publisher.

  2. Melissa Keir says:

    I like the information. There’s a lot to digest. I don’t see editors doing as much of the promotion anymore and I wonder if Neil was paid a percentage of the book’s sales. It makes sense if that’s the case.

    • Maris Soule says:

      Good question, Melissa. That was never asked, that I’m aware of. He was up the chain of positions, so his salary may have been the big reason he did so much. And he did have the big name writers.

  3. Excellent post with solid information. The info about timing a release was mostly new to me.

  4. Such interesting information!
    Thanks for sharing.
    Good luck and God’s blessings

  5. paula says:

    Good job reporting what this expert has to say. It’s interesting what he said about the Dick Francis books. I recently picked one up at a thrift store (I enjoy his stories once in a while) and the first thing I noticed was the great cover and the size of the book. It was almost Stephen King-ish size. ;>)

    • Maris Soule says:

      Paula, I think, over the years, I’ve read ever Dick Francis book. I would have purchased them no matter what their size, but that was because I loved horses and horse racing. Neil’s talk definitely showed how we can be manipulated. Not all bad, but interesting.

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