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.
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
Meanwhile, hiding out on my
computer, approximately 125 submitted manuscripts from
conference goers and agents await my review. I receive about ten per
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,
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.
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
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
I try to block time each week to
look at new submissions, but it sometimes gets usurped by this fire or
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.