Exploring Editorial Roles: Working as a Project Manager at a Hybrid Publisher

Interview conducted by Alicja Minda.

Publishing is a complex industry that continues to undergo changes. To unveil some of its mysteries, BoldFace reached out to Adrineh Der-Boghossian, the former editor-in-chief of this blog, to ask about her current role as project manager and editorial associate at Page Two Books. Page Two is a Vancouver-based professional publisher founded in 2013 that publishes leading non-fiction books. Adrineh joined Page Two in April 2021, after launching her own copy editing and proofreading business, More Than Words.

A person carrying a stack of books
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

What does your role as a project manager at Page Two involve?

A project manager’s role is not unlike that of a managing editor’s at a traditional publishing house. I hire editorial freelancers (namely, substantive editors, copy editors, proofreaders, and indexers) and develop and manage detailed schedules and deadlines for our frontlist titles.

I manage these titles through production—from editorial to design through to printing and distribution. I work with in-house staff and a core group of freelance professionals across all departments, which is one of the aspects of the job I love the most!

As Page Two is a professional publisher (otherwise known as a hybrid publisher), our authors are also our clients. A big part of the project manager role is supporting our authors, providing strategic guidance, and coaching on aspects of their publishing projects and publishing strategy.

How does the role of project manager differ from that of production editor?

I would say the big difference is that a production editor also edits, whereas a project manager does not. In October 2021, Page Two hired an in-house production editor. Her roles include proofreading and copy editing some of our titles, as well as approving printer’s proofs, proofing e-books, and editing cover copy. In a traditional publishing house, some of these tasks would fall to the production editor, while others would be assumed by the managing editor. At Page Two, the project managers are more like managing editors than production editors.

Can you describe your career path prior to joining Page Two?

I actually come from the non-profit sector, where I worked in communications. At one national Canadian organization, I managed the production of print publications (leaflets, informational booklets, and the annual report, among other materials), and this experience piqued my interest in production. I later did a three-month production internship at Penguin Random House Canada, which was really the step into the publishing industry that I needed. But I’m getting ahead of myself [laughs].

In all my communications roles, I would write and edit copy, so I started looking into editing as a full-time career. I completed the editing program at George Brown College, followed by the publishing program at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University) many years later. My studies were supplemented by internship and volunteer experiences—including here, for this blog. Joining Editors Canada as a student affiliate, then volunteering for two years on the Editors Toronto executive committee really helped propel me into working in editing and publishing.

What did you learn as a project manager at Page Two that you didn’t expect?

I have learned a lot since I started working as a project manager at Page Two! For one thing, I’ve learned more about marketing, sales, and distribution than I ever knew—especially about all the options available to authors outside of traditional publishing.

I was also interested in audiobooks, and I was thrilled that my role would include managing audiobook production. As an editor, I learned how to turn a manuscript into an audio script—something I had no experience in until I started working at Page Two.

But what was most novel to me was working within an author-service-driven model. The author is at the heart of every major publishing decision—from editorial to design to distribution—which is quite different than in traditional publishing.

What is your favourite part of the job?

This may come as a surprise, but my favourite part of the job is working with the design team. Specifically, I am awed by the work they produce and love seeing how a book cover, in particular, is developed and ultimately gets chosen. One of my titles, Andrew Kirsch’s I Was Never Here (a Toronto Star and Globe and Mail bestseller), initially had a different cover than the one that was eventually published. Both covers were created by the same designer, and both were just as compelling. It amazed me that the designer could pivot so easily from one type of design to another and produce work that not only the author and our team but also the sales reps loved (rarely an easy task)!

What are some of the challenges involved in this type of work, and how do you overcome them?

The best and yet most challenging part of the role is working with authors. I love that we get to help authors publish their books—everyone, after all, has a story. However, working with authors can be challenging, as the vast majority are first-time authors and are unfamiliar with the publishing industry. A big part of my job is explaining to authors various aspects of the publishing process and best practices in the industry.

Page Two is a service-driven company, and authors hire us to produce their work; we collaborate with them on their projects. Our job is to make authors happy and feel great about the final product while also serving the reader. Sometimes these two things (making the author happy and serving the reader) conflict. However, often just having a conversation with the author and explaining our rationale helps us overcome this tension.

What advice would you give to editors interested in a similar role?

I would advise editors interested in project management to learn more about every aspect of the publishing process. They can do this by taking a course, doing a production internship at a publishing house, or getting a job that provides project management experience. In a sense, I did all those things: I completed a publishing certificate, did a production internship with a publisher, and managed production of print publications at a legal advocacy organization. If, like me, you love both the editorial and production aspects of publishing, then roles such as project manager and production editor would interest you!

Alicja Minda is a freelance editor based in Toronto. She is the editor-in-chief of BoldFace.

This article was copy edited by Ellen Fleischer.

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