A manifesto for editors

A manifesto for editors

Today's manifesto comes from publishing veteran John Pettigrew, the founding c.e.o. of We Are Futureproofs. In sounding a rallying cry to "keep editors central to publishing," he offers some wry comfort. While editors may not know what their jobs will be in five years, "our employers don't know what they'll be doing then, either." — Porter Anderson


Be confident

Editors are often diffident, but I say: be confident in what you do! We are the one function that is incontrovertibly unique to publishing. Sales and Finance are skilled and dedicated, but their jobs are much the same from industry to industry.

So we must stand up for ourselves. We know our products better than anyone else: their strengths and weaknesses, where we can do better and where we must not compromise. We know how to turn a bad book into a good one, and a good book into a great one.

For publishers to succeed, editors must speak confidently - and the business must listen.

Learn all you can

The biggest mistake I see publishers making is firing editors and hiring "digital people". The problem is, "digital" is easy but being a good editor is hard. You need to be the right sort of person to cut it. "Anally retentive", "control freak" and "pedant" might be insults to some people but they're part of the spec for editors.

However, we editors certainly need to learn about new formats and tools that are emerging. You probably already know a lot about the digital world. Focus on this and be conscious of it.

Be familiar with the the web. Learn its forms, what draws you in, what turns you off, and how this differs from traditional books. Do the same for your phone, your tablet. And talk to other editors, so everyone benefits.

Get the right tools

As those great new product types arrive, editors need the right tools to keep doing our jobs. Don't get fobbed off with something just because it's free. There's always a cost — and it'll probably be you doing the overtime.

Learn the new formats and the workflows, then confidently assert your needs. The potential gains are enormous — for the business, and for our own stress levels.

Push back

None of us can assume we'll be doing the same job five years from now. And this is a good thing. Because our employers don't know what they'll be doing then, either.

If you act confidently and learn about products and tools, then not only will you do your job better — and so create better books — but you'll also be the ideal employee. Hard to get rid of and easy to hire.

So, please, for the love of commas, let's keep editors central to publishing. Or there'll be no "publishing" left.


We're interested in having your "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article, Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones renews his call for the FutureBook audience to reflect on five years of digital "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response is so robust that I've extended our deadline for submissions of manifestos to Monday (7th September). See below for details and a list of those published to date. Your statement, preferably no more than 500 words, should be sent to Porter.Anderson@theBookseller.com by 7th September. Please send along a headshot and short bio, as well.

And mark your diary for The FutureBook Conference, 4th December, The Mermaid, London. More details are coming Monday 7th September.

#FutureBook15 manifestos:

Main image - iStockphoto: Violet Kaipa