Being a Managing Editor: Responsibilities, Skills, and Salary
You’ve become an editor (or are looking to become one), and you want to know what’s in store for you down this career path. Managing editor is a senior role that professionals usually aim for, and we’re here to give you a quick breakdown of what the job entails, what skills it requires, and how well it pays.
What is a managing editor?
As the title suggests, a managing editor’s main job is to manage a publication’s overall production process. If a regular editor is primarily responsible for checking and improving a piece of content, then a managing editor’s role is to make day-to-day operational decisions and ensure that every piece of content produced meets the publication’s goals and standards.
You can find this position in publishing houses, magazines, and newspapers; it’s also sometimes seen as the equivalent of a content manager in marketing.
In the publishing industry
Within publishing, a managing editor (sometimes referred to as executive editor) schedules upcoming book releases and overlooks the production of all of these titles so that everything is delivered on time and up to standard. They will also work closely with the publisher’s important authors on what are oftentimes lead titles.
As you can guess, it’s a lot of project management, which is why many editors who enjoy the literary and creative aspects of their job tend to have a go at freelance editing instead of staying in management as their career progresses.
In the news industry
In journalism, managing editors oversee the publication’s staff, assign articles, and proofread every single piece due to be published. They have the power to hire and fire editors and reporters, and they decide whether to publish controversial pieces. Since news managing editors have their background in reporting, they’ll sometimes write a column for the paper, too.
Managing editor vs. editor-in-chief
In newspapers and magazines, you may find there's another management position an editor can take on, and that's the position of the editor-in-chief. Is managing editor the same as editor-in-chief? The answer is no: unlike a managing editor, who is mostly concerned with day-to-day operations, the editor-in-chief works primarily on long-term strategy and direction by collaborating with the company’s executive board and being present in things like partnership meetings. In other words, the chief is higher up the command chain than the managing editor.
Note, however, that in some small publications, these two roles are merged into one.
In a marketing context, a managing editor determines marketing strategies, plans and assigns work, and again is the final proofreader for all content produced. Oftentimes, this also involves coordination with the design and sales teams. Content produced may take the form of blog posts, advertising copy, or even videos.
What skills are needed to become a managing editor?
What makes a good managing editor? Beyond being great at checking and improving text, some other things that are expected of a managing editor are leadership and the ability to strategize for the long term. And though getting there often requires a lot of patience (especially in the book and news industry), waiting for the right vacancy to pop up, working on the following skills can give you an edge when you apply for that coveted position!
1. Interpersonal skills
Management is all about coordinating and working with a team, so one of the most important skill sets for a senior-level editor is that of interpersonal skills. A managing editor delegates and communicates feedback to their team members so that every aspect of the publishing process is done well and done punctually.
That doesn’t just include checking deadlines and exercising quality control — it also means having a good grasp of your team members’ strengths, their fluctuating workloads, and balancing everything out so that everyone functions together as one unit. On top of that, you’ll be the intermediary between your team and other departments in the company, sometimes including logistics and finance. All of this involves a lot of communication, oversight, and organization.
What you can do to hone your skills is to be mindful of your colleagues within and without your department, be open and respectfully curious about their job so as to familiarize yourself with different communication channels earlier on.
Want to make it big time in the book industry? Get tips from senior editors at Big 5 publishers from our interview with them on what it’s like to work in publishing.
2. Creative vision
It might sound vague, but having a creative vision is a very crucial thing employers look for in a managing editor. As someone in charge of leading the editing team, you’re expected to contribute to the long-term goals of the publication by identifying new ideas to try out.
This doesn’t mean that you have to individually come up with ground-breaking projects — it might just involve being up to date with the latest topics of interest in your field and brainstorming with your team to find the best course of action. Especially for managing editors in the newsroom who get a big say in who to hire and fire, it’s as much about assembling the right creative team to work with as it is about having a lightbulb moment on your own.
How much does a managing editor make?
As with all discussions on the topic of editor salaries, the amount a managing editor is paid really depends on the type and size of the publication. Needless to say, the bigger the company, the higher the salary. Another factor that might affect salary range is location — pay is often higher on the East and West coasts than it is in other regions in America, for instance.
In book publishing, a managing editor salary usually falls between $50,000 and $90,000. Working for an educational imprint like Pearson tends to pay more than a trade publisher, though the difference isn’t drastic.
Managers in the media and marketing worlds enjoy slightly higher pay, falling in the $70,000-$110,000 range.
It’s worth reiterating that these are just averages that may or may not reflect your own experience. At the end of the day, salary is also affected by your level of experience and how you negotiate this with your employer. If you’ve honed your expertise and you have a strong drive to lead a creative team towards producing high-quality content, there will be good opportunities waiting for you.
Hopefully we've answered some of your pressing questions about what it's like being a managing editor. For more tips about getting into the publishing industry, head over to our post on how to become a book editor!