Understanding the Industry: Commissioning Editor

By   Hannah Bickerton 3 min read

Céline Hughes is Senior Commissioning Editor at Quadrille (part of Hardie Grant Publishing), where she commissions (predominantly) cookery books. Here Céline talks us through a day in the life of a Senior Commissioning Editor. You can find out more about Céline by visiting her Twitter page.

The boring story behind where I am now is that I have always loved reading, so when I was staring my career in the face at the impressionable age of 18, and trying to work out what to do with my life, my sisters suggested publishing. Like so many people, I saw publishing as glamorous, full of the sorts of authors that I fill my bookshelves with and worthy. Well, one out of three ain’t bad.

The truth is that my first job as an editorial assistant steered me towards cookery books and therefore that’s what I’ve specialised in. This has turned out to be serendipitous because, when I’m not at my desk, I cook, I bake, I eat out (not nearly as much as I aspire to) and in-between I think about what I’m going cook, bake, etc.

Sometimes I do find time to work and this is what an average day for me might look like.

  • Open inbox and groan at the big red number of unread emails.
  • Receive proposal from a literary agent, wonder if the world needs another cookbook, read proposal, fall in love with proposal, tell the editorial team about it, get sidetracked exchanging thoughts on a new restaurant opening, finish cold cup of coffee.
  • Take exciting new proposal to a proper editorial meeting where we discuss the market, the subject, the competition, the author and their profile (do significant numbers of social media followers equate to book sales?), the writing style, the recipes themselves (ooh I’ve never tried making my own ricotta – maybe I’ll do that tonight [of course I won’t; it’s Monday and I’ve got to watch Only Connect]), and what reaction our Sales Team is likely to produce when they read it.
  • Decide to take proposal to our next Acquisitions Meeting and write an accompanying note to convince our acquisitions team of its brilliance.
  • Answer ten emails simultaneously whilst having about fifteen different windows open at the same time on my computer.
  • Check the Amazon ranking of one of my books.
  • Start a costing for a proposal approved at a previous Acquisitions meeting and discuss possible photographers, food stylists, prop stylists etc. with Head of Design.
  • Answer four more emails.
  • Spend a couple of hours going through InDesign layouts for another cookbook and marvel at how great the design is, how perfect the photography and how much editing I still need to do to the text.
  • Think about the hot priest on Fleabag.
  • Check Amazon.
  • Email author to tell them we’ve sold the co-edition rights to their book and await excited response.
  • Write cover copy for another book. Rewrite seven times. Answer more emails. Go back to cover copy and start over.
  • Go back to InDesign layouts for another couple of hours and, in passing, find a recipe for tonight’s dinner.
  • Check Amazon.
  • Check a press release, new catalogue copy, Amazon blurb, an index. Drink tea.
  • Take delivery of an early advance copy of one of my books, get heart palpitations. Drink cold tea. Pluck up courage to open book and look at it. Well up just a little and smile.

I help authors get published and bring their books to life, give folks inspiration for their dinner, work with talented, creative, enthusiastic, dedicated people, go to photoshoots and eat beautiful food, make books, hold books, read books. It’s not always glamorous, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve missed my calling as a diplomat, but it’s palpably rewarding and a LOT of fun.

If you spot one of my books out in the wild and you like what you see, let me know! I love to pass on appreciative messages to my authors. Look out for these recent publications:

  • Cocoa by Sue Quinn
  • The Wisdom of Nature by Dixe Wills
  • 101 Ways to Lose Weight and Never Find It Again by Scott Baptie
  • Copenhagen Food by Trine Hahnemann
  • Pies & Tarts by Annie Rigg
  • The Yoga Kitchen Plan by Kimberly Parsons
  • Just a French Guy Cooking by Alexis Gabriel Ainouz

Céline’s wonderful piece on her role as a Senior Commissioning Editor marks the beginning of a very exciting chapter in the life of the whitefox blog. From now on our blog will feature regular articles that offer insight into the publishing industry and its many roles – from Managing Directors to Desk Editors. Look out for our next ‘Understanding the industry’ post!

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.