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
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
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.
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.
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.