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.

Track Changes

A Day in the Life

Editing might be a bloody trade. But knives aren’t the exclusive property
of butchers. Surgeons use them, too.

                                                                         Blake Morrison

I recently tried to explain to my mother what I do for a living. She’s a voracious reader, consuming dozens of books each year. And she loves me, and cares that what I do makes me happy and content. But after about fifteen minutes and an unbroken blank stare from her, I gave up.

That’s when I realized how hard it is to explain my job to someone who is completely unfamiliar with our industry. I think Mom believes that I spend my days reading paper manuscripts and correcting grammar. When I told her that I don’t work on paper and usually edit after work or on weekends, she became even more confused. I finally gave up, and we talked about quilting instead.

I will oversee about thirty-five books this year, and I’m responsible for every step from acquisition until they are transmitted to the typesetter. This includes initial review, contract negotiation, two levels of editing (macro and author revision), as well as consultation with the creative team on covers, back cover copy, etc.

I arrive at work between 8 and 9 a.m., and the first thing I do, even before I take off my coat, is boot up the computer. My work computer is achingly slow and takes a while to get up and running and find our server. I dump my purse and coat then and get a strong cup of tea. I greet my colleagues, see if my boss, Pamela, or my business manager, Lisa, needs anything from me, and check our mailbox.

First thing back in my chair I check e-mail. Currently I have 260 unread e-mails, about 200 of which are submissions. The other sixty get my attention first, as I tackle emergencies, especially those involving covers or contracts. I usually have an e-mail or two from the typesetter, who starts work at 7 a.m.

A slew of e-mails are usually follow-ups on checks, contracts, covers, piracy sites, and editorial projects. Questions from authors who have books in production are a priority, as are any questions from marketing and sales. I check the two author loops I manage, a couple of publishing news sites, and any marketing updates that have been circulated.

By the time I get through all this, the clock is sneaking up on lunchtime. I usually eat at my desk, finishing any of the morning tasks.

After lunch, I settle in to edit. With thirty-six books in play, one or the other is usually coming or going. Although the macro edits are outsourced, I have to review all their comments and notes to the author. Unless there’s a serious issue, I prep the manuscript for the author, and send it off, checking the production calendar to make sure it’ll get back in time for the next step―which is another editorial review by me before it goes to the typesetter.

If there’s a serious issue with the manuscript, I set it aside to work on later, usually on the weekend when I can concentrate on the overall picture without the interruptions of the office. Folks pop in and out of my office all day, usually with business-related questions or news. Admittedly, it’s not always purely business. I work with a great team, and we all get along smashingly.

A review takes two to three hours, after which I try to take a walk and clear my head.

If this is a Monday, I spend the rest of the day preparing for the meetings I have on Tuesday: a production update at 11:30 and a fiction team meeting at 1:00 p.m. I lead the team meeting, and that’s when we review the sales, marketing, production, and creative issues with the line as well as talk about possible acquisitions.

If I’ve picked a book to propose for acquisition, I have to prep a Business Plan Information Sheet, which will cover every aspect of the book’s production and marketing. The author’s proposal will be attached and circulated to the team well in advance of the meeting so they can read it and be ready to discuss it. I schedule submissions reviews Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

Now is the time I start working on spring 2013 covers. ARCs and covers are due to sales by August 1, which sounds like a lot of time, until you take into consideration all the travel the team members do, plus the actual creative work time.

I leave around 6 p.m., usually with a flash drive full of work tucked into my purse.

Publishing is not a nine-to-five job. Never has been, never will be. My authors know I answer e-mails on the weekend and sometimes at 1 a.m., if I’m up.

I do it because I love it. I love working with the authors and the publishing teams, and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. I hate it when I get six to twelve months behind with submissions, but it’s sometimes the nature of the business. I’ll get caught up. Eventually.

Even if my mother never totally understands that commas are the least of my concerns.