Top Secret Job of Being the Editor of the Harry Potter Books
There are certain jobs that are so memorable that they supply a lifetime’s worth of stories to tell…
Susan Jeffers had a job like that. She was the copy editor for a few books you may have heard of: “Order of the Phoenix,” “Half-Blood Prince,” and “Deathly Hallows.” Each title, in case you just got back from Mars, begins with the words “Harry Potter and the …”
“It was an incredible honor for me,” says Susan, who lives in Riverton. “I love these books so much.”
Actually, the only book in the series Susan had nothing to do with was book four, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” For books one through three, she was a proofreader. The copy editor works on the manuscript before the proofreader gets it.
She remembers that when the first Potter book arrived, nobody foresaw what it would become. The printing for the book, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,” was only 50,000.
The print run for the final book, “Deathly Hallows,” was about 13 million.
As the magnitude of the series grew, Scholastic began instituting greater security measures for the books. About the time Susan got the job of copy-editing book five, things had gotten very tight.
“We had a secret location in which we would work on the book,” she says. “Several people had access to that room. Nobody else knew where we were or who was involved.”
Did people who knew that she worked for Scholastic bug her about plot details? “You have no idea,” she says.
But she couldn’t talk to anyone about what she was doing. When people asked the inevitable questions her answer was along the lines of “Harry who?” It had to be.
None of the people at Scholastic who handled a Potter manuscript kept it in their possession very long. Each manuscript was more than 1,000 pages long. It had to be copy-edited in two weeks and moved on to the next step. The editing and proofreading was never done by computer – it would be too easy to copy or forward an electronic version.
There were many who would have loved to leak the plot before the book was published. Some websites even made up the plot of the next books and tried to pass them off as authentic. Susan says she felt an obligation to kids all over the world to keep things quiet.
“The kids were waiting so anxiously for each one,” she says. “I just felt that there was no way this could be spoiled for them.”
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