What Does an Editor Do All Day?
Once upon a time, I believed that there was only one kind of editor in the world. The kind that looked good in turtlenecks, drank black coffee, and always had a red pen in hand. They read manuscripts all day from a tiny studio apartment in New York…and they got paid for it.
Fast forward a couple of years, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t sit around with a red pen, a cup of coffee, and a manuscript from 8-5. The good news is, I also don’t have to wear turtlenecks or live in a tiny studio apartment. The even better news is, I get to read for a living, but I also get to do a lot of other awesome stuff. Here’s a look at what an editor really does all day.
What you would expect…
- Edit manuscripts. As an acquisitions editor, I mainly work on the macro, or big-picture, edits. That includes developing characters, plot, and pacing in addition to looking at grammar and sentence structure. These days, instead of paper and red pen (eek! the trees!) I use Track Changes, or in rare cases, a handy dandy blue pen.
- Read submissions. One of the most fun parts of the job is searching through the hundreds (or thousands) of submissions to find a diamond in the rough to publish. Submissions come in from literary agents or authors, and with the help of the editorial team, we decide book is a good fit for me to acquire. Yes, this involves saying no to a lot of people—one of my least favorite tasks—but it also means I get to read a lot of wonderful, brand-new material!
- Make deals. Every so often I get to offer an author a book deal, and it’s always a great day when I can bring a writer a home to Blink. This process can require some negotiation, but nothing is better than when we get to rain down the celebratory confetti! (Though alas, I must usually do that virtually. I would, however, love to have a giant confetti cannon that could reach authors all around the country. #wishlist)
- Work with authors. Authors are the reason I started in publishing. It’s like working with rockstars, minus most of the drama and plus a lot of fabulous reading! I’m so lucky to be able to work with talented writers and help them bring their books to life.
- Drink tea. Many editors may fit the black-coffee stereotype, but trust me, you don’t want me operating on that much caffeine. Thus, I compromise with tea. I have at least three mugs at my desk at any given time, and I have developed an extremely scientific theory that the literary cortex of your brain is stimulated by tea. Without it, we would never have made it past hieroglyphics. (Check out this article from the New Yorker for proof!)
What you might not expect…
- Help develop covers. While I’m not an artist of any kind, I love helping to create a cover for a book. I meet with our design team to hash out ideas, and then they take my descriptions and painfully pathetic stick drawings and turn them into a beautiful, glorious cover fit for the world to see.
- Research. I’m pretty sure my most-visited website is Goodreads. It’s one of the most searchable sites to find books in various genres and to get a quick idea of how readers are responding to stories. I spend a lot of time seeing what is trending in the market, from content to covers to typefaces. It is important editors know what readers want so they can go acquire it!
- Craft presentations. I have to present to our editorial, creative, marketing, or sales boards on a weekly basis. Each day I spend time honing pitches and creating PowerPoints to showcase the titles I am excited about. Sometimes I even present at events or conferences on topics related to children’s or YA publishing. This means I had to learn how to be an extroverted introvert—it’s a thing, I promise!
- Attend conferences. There are dozens of book conferences across the country each year, whether they are for writers, librarians, booksellers, or publishing professionals. Those are perfect places to meet and network with other book lovers and share excitement about upcoming titles.
- Keep reading. Even when my eyes are tired from staring at words all day, I go home and keep reading. From my library card to my B&N membership to the free copies I grab at conventions to the submissions in my inbox, there is literally no end to my TBR pile. But the best thing an editor—or a writer, for that matter—can do is read. The more we read, the more we understand the importance of voice and characterization and unique twists of plot. And besides, I love to say I really do read books for a living.