Ramona Richards

Ramona Richards started making stuff up at three, writing it down at seven, and selling it at eighteen. She’s been annoying editors ever since, which is probably why she became one. Twenty-five years later, she’s edited more than 350 publications, including novels, CD-ROMs, magazines, non-fiction, children’s books, Bibles, and study guides. Ramona has worked with such publishers as Thomas Nelson, Barbour, Howard, Harlequin, Ideals, and many others. The author of eight books, she’s now the fiction editor for Abingdon Press. An avid live music fan, Ramona loves living in the ongoing street party that is Nashville.

A Day in the Life...

The profession of book-writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business.
                                   ~John Steinbeck

As I write this, I’m standing in a Laundromat, waiting for the sheets and towels to stop tumbling, quarters at hand in case four rounds in the dryer doesn’t remove all the moisture left behind from a inadequate spin cycle. (No, I did not overload the washer.) The sun, which sets around 8:45 this time of year, vanished a while back, and my unfortunate fast-food supper is reminding me that I need to buy antacids the next time I’m at the drug store. Thank God for 24-hour Walgreens.

Meanwhile, hiding out on my computer, approximately 125 submitted manuscripts from conference goers and agents await my review. I receive about ten per week, so that number remains pretty steady, although the actual titles rotate in and out―mostly out, since we publish only twenty-five novels per year.

Why can’t I move them out faster? Why do I have manuscripts that have been on my desk six to nine months (although I do respond to most faster than that)?

Sorry, I’ll be right back. One of my authors is calling . . . and the dryer needs more quarters.

Okay, sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. Manuscripts.

Well, the hard fact of life is that I have only about ten to thirty minutes a day to look at new submissions. This is true for many editors. I’ve often heard New York colleagues talk about reading new manuscripts on the train. Or at night. I’m about to move to a location where I can take the train into work, so I may start shifting submissions to my Kindle.

So what do I do all day? Don’t editors spend their days reading?

Umm . . . no.

My day starts, as it does with most people, with e-mail. I arrive at the office with anywhere from four to forty waiting for a response. Some have little fires in them; some have big fires.

Big fires mean I just lost a day to do anything else other than putting out this fire. Examples of big fires are moved publication dates or sales presentations, which means the stuff I’d planned to do in small increments over the next few weeks suddenly have to be done now. Small fires can be such events as the arrival of a slippage report, which means stopping to research and

explain why four books from two quarters ago were two days late arriving at the warehouse. Or a frantic note from marketing, wondering why the tip sheets had apparently vanished off the server. And can I check this back cover copy?

Today’s agenda, after e-mail handling, include reviewing an edited manuscript so that I can get it to the author; reviewing a revised manuscript from an author so I can get it to the typesetter. A production meeting. A steering committee meeting. Reviewing a sales report, and discussing the business plan on a proposed product with my business manager. Reviewing the second round of cover comps. The sales research and copy development for the tip sheets on four books I want to take to the committee.

I won’t get it all done. The two reviews take about three to four hours each. But I will try. And this is a typical day. With twenty-five books to publish each year, one book or another is always on my desk, waiting for the approval of the next step. My contracted authors (and their agents) have access to me 24/7, and, yes, I’ve received author texts at 2 a.m. and calls while I’m at the laundry. I don’t always answer them, but usually I do. I also answer and receive e-mails all hours of the day and night.

I try to block time each week to look at new submissions, but it sometimes gets usurped by this fire or that.

Being an editor is not a 9-to-5 job. If I tried to set those boundaries, I’d have more than 100 e-mails full of fires, frantic authors and "quick questions," waiting for me in the morning. I’d slowly go insane.

As opposed to the fast track I’m on now . . .

Seriously, I love this job. I’m a writer and an editor, and I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. I entered college as a music major, then switched to mass communications. Then pre-med. Then theater. I have a lot of interests. But I graduated with two degrees in English. Not to teach.

To edit. To write. Which, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do now.

Oh, wait . . . I have a meeting.