_what does it mean to be an editor?

Being an editor

1. Flatplanning
Pretty much a piece of piss. You just mess around with an InDesign document until it looks about right. A few points to keep in mind though:

a) Keeping the same basic structure each time is important – readers need to get a feel for where things are and get comfortable with the mag – but don’t keep things too similar. If everything is starting on exactly the same page, and has exactly the same page count, month in, month out, chances are the mag will start to feel stale and samey.
b) Err on the side of giving things a page more than you think they might need, where possible – that way you can accommodate copy that’s too long (often) and allow for big headlines and interesting visuals. There’s nothing worse than a feature where they’ve tried to cram too much text into too small a space.
c) Try and be flexible. You won’t know the final ad count until very late in the schedule, so see if you can build in features you can save over until next month if necessary.
d) Don’t flatplan ads opposite other ads or house ads. Don’t create little ad ghettos for no real reason. People who do this are simply being crap. Where possible, use ads to break up the flow of the mag in a natural sort of fashion, so put them between features rather than in the middle of them, where possible.
e) Think about how the mag feels. If you want the reviews section to feel like it’s really big then spread out the reviews. When a reader gets to the Reviews section he will have to keep turning lots of pages until it’s over, giving the impression that the section is big.

2. Planning the issue
Ideally, you’ll be commissioning stuff for the next issue and the issue after that while you’re still working on the current one. Think in terms of the whole issue, rather than just individual articles – strike a balance between stuff for newcomers and stuff for long-term readers.

3. Make everyone else do all the work
What you should be doing, except with writers you really trust (or really simple pieces) is sub them yourself before they go to Production. This will take up loads of time, but is well worth it – it’s your job to establish a consistent tone for the magazine, make everything make sense and so on. You’re the one who understands the subject, and so will make a much, much better job of it than Production could ever be expected to. Similarly, make sure you write the vast majority of headlines, intros, standfirsts etc. That way you’ll be able to ensure a consistent tone to the magazine. These bits are, after all, the only parts of the mag your publisher will ever read, so you’d better make sure they’re good!

4. Have ideas, and act on them
Nothing is worse than a magazine that stays exactly the same for too long, or fails to surprise each issue. You should aim to have at least one thing you’re really proud of each time – something you can hold up to your rivals and go ‘Fuck you. This is how it should be done.’ By all means rip off ideas from other mags, books etc – just make sure they’re interesting, stylish magazines! You also need to continue to have bloody great covers, so give them a LOT of thought.

5. Always have an idea what you want, but be flexible
Nobody else can be expected to know what you want out of a feature. Make it clear to whoever you’re getting to write it exactly what you want, then talk it through with Art before it gets laid out – perhaps with little thumbnail sketches to show exactly what you mean. That said, don’t be too rigid or dictatorial – often Art will have a better idea of what will work on the page than you, and the writer might know what the feature should be like better than you do. Like making a movie or something, this is a collaborative medium – you need to know what you want, but you’ve got to listen to the cameraman (Art) and the actors (your writers) along the way.

6. Listen to the readers
Believe it or not, but readers often come up with some good ideas. Always try and keep an eye on reader feedback. On ESCAPE I used to capture all the email addresses from anyone who wrote in and then use this list to mailshot readers with details of what’s in upcoming issues and fill them in on any behind-the-scenes dealings. It makes them feel involved. Also, once you’ve got these addresses you can mailshot them and ask them for their votes for ‘Most Wanted’, their opinions on the Chart line-up and anything else that’s useful – if it’s written in the right way then they won’t complain about being spammed because they’ll enjoy being involved in their favourite mag.

7. Make sure you check everything
As Editor, everything that goes in the mag is ultimately down to you. If you don’t like something, get it changed – you’re the one in the best position to tell if a bit of design, say, is confusing, or if a headline doesn’t work. Check every page and every piece of film carefully too – if a mistake goes in the mag, it’s your fault. Harsh, but that’s the way it is.

 

 

A junior editor's job description

It’s all about perfectionism tempered with pragmatism - a good Editor should be happy with nothing less than the best in terms of words and pictures, yet always be aware that mags are periodicals that have to hit the shops on time. A good Editor should know corners have to be cut but in ways that don’t compromise the product. He should have enough imagination to be able to surprise and delight the reader with interesting ideas and to keep coming up with new ideas to keep the magazine fresh. He should lead by example, have a hand in everything yet know when and what to delegate. He should be willing to trust his staff. He should have an intimate understanding of the magazine, the market it operates in and the needs of the reader.

• The Editor is responsible for a healthy, happy and hard-working office. Delegate and lead your team to ensure that they produce the magazine you want to the best possible standard. Look after the needs of your team and encourage constant communication.

• Get the magazine to the printers on time, without the need to work excessive late nights or weekends.

• Develop close links with readers and the industry.

• Have a vision for the magazine, communicate that vision and keep the magazine on track strategically.

• Ensure the magazine is represented in the industry and has a presence. It’s your responsibility to regularly act as a front man for the mag, presenting the magazine’s public face to the press and readership.

• Plan and manage the flatplan every issue.

• Source new freelancers and educate them to become proficient and dependable writers. Manage and lead existing freelancers.

• Read all copy before it goes to Production and Art – this will ensure that you maintain a consistent tone and style for the magazine, and it will help ensure that problem copy is dealt with early in the cycle.

• Read and sign out every page in magazine.

• Recruit new staff as appropriate.

• Reply to reader letters in print (or delegate this task).

• Source the best cover disk demos and cover exclusives. Negotiate to ensure that the best stuff comes to your magazine first.

• Look after the training requirements of the team. You should consider it a big part of your job to train staff members and to arrange external training as required.

• Carry out formal team appraisals for each team member at least once a year - though you should see appraisals as an on-going thing and you should constantly appraise the work of your team. Remember to sandwich criticism between praise – ‘praise, criticism, praise’ should be the rule.

• Meet the needs of your readers. Tailor the magazine to produce a product which pulls in the maximum number of readers.

• Monitor holiday, sick and days out of the office.

• Manage budgets and payments.

-MARK HIGHAM