Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Editor Appreciation Day!

Okay, so I'm not an author, but I sure appreciate editors! Heck, I appreciate them so much, I want to be one of them. And, during my journey into publishing, I've been so fortunate to have known and learned from a variety of truly wonderful, insightful editors. These folks have taught me the A-to-Z of bookmaking. In the process, they've inspired me with their brilliance and poise, developed my skills by offering their good examples, and pushed me to grow and succeed.

Today, I'm thinking about and hoping to thank these wonderful editors:

  • Bruce Bortz and Harrison Demchick of Bancroft Press, who took me on as a bright-eyed, opinionated college junior and made it their goal to help me succeed. Bruce enlisted me to tear down the mountain of unsolicited manuscripts towering over the basement floor, and the daunting task forced me to sharpen my reading skills, develop a clear picture of my tastes, and become discerning and decisive. Harrison's editorial letters offered me the model off of which I began basing my interactions with authors, and they taught me to think like an editor and to express myself to authors in a way that's professional, engaging and clear. Finally, Bruce brought me into every editorial discussion at the press and carefully considered my input; he put his own work on hold time and again to explain the publishing process or to help me make contacts and find jobs; and he pointed his clients to me for freelance work and hired me to design the covers of two of his books. The two of them opened the door to the industry for me, and then encouraged me to go through.

  • Emily Clement, Assistant Editor over at Scholastic's Arthur A. Levine Books, who offered me an internship that changed my life. Emily's as sweet and patient as she is sharp, and I could not be more grateful to have had her as a mentor and teacher. Throughout my summer internship, she kept an eye out for projects that would interest me specifically, and she offered me the chance to join her in editorial discussions, production meetings, marketing efforts, imprint meetings, company parties and more; to work with original illustrations and manuscript proofs; and to meet some big players in the industry. What's more, Emily took the time to counsel me through a difficult transition and a trying job search. From Emily I learned more lessons than I can count. She taught me how to write helpful reader's reports and even helpful rejection letters; what qualities to look for in a picture-book manuscript and how a great manuscript gets paired up with the right illustrator; how all of the departments at a large press work together to create and promote a classic; and some of the concepts that are at the heart of all the best children's books.

  • Cheryl Klein, Arthur A. Levine's Senior Editor, who was (and is) an inspiration and a role model for her quirky professionalism, her unbounded enthusiasm and her absolute brilliance when it comes to editing. Cheryl gave me the chance to read hot submissions before anyone else and to look over her shoulder as she went through rounds of revisions with authors. She offered praise and guidance throughout my internship, answered all my questions readily, and taught me through her fantastic example how to be a passionate, professional, unstoppable editor. From Cheryl I learned how to judge a manuscript's and an author's potential, how to take a project through acquisitions, and how to work with an author to make sure that she achieves what she wants to and that her writing becomes the best it can be along the way.

  • Arthur Levine, publisher at AAL Books and all-around superstar, who not only gave America the chance to read two of my favorite series (for those who don't know, Arthur is J. K. Rowling's American editor and, during his time at Knopf, he helped bring the Golden Compass series to the U.S.), but who also welcomed me into his imprint and offered a third fantastic example of editorial greatness. Arthur is so witty and entertaining that simply talking to him is a pleasure, but learning from him is truly an honor. During weekly imprint meetings with him, I learned about what to look for in illustration submissions, how to fit the pieces of a great picture-book narrative together into a cohesive story, and how to present myself and my ideas professionally.

  • Laura Musich of W. W. Norton, who shares my absolute love of Mary GrandPre and all things designerly and wonderful, and who took a chance on offering me freelance work, thereby giving me the opportunity to learn all about copy-editing and e-media by working directly with it. Laura is funny, open-minded and more than willing to teach and to help newcomers, and my great experiences working with her led me to consider the textbook side of publishing (where the glamor is scaled back a little, but so is the stress).

  • Erica Stern, Laura Romain, Amy Cherry and Angela von der Lippe, all of W. W. Norton's trade division, who gave me a glimpse of the world of trade publishing for adults. The four of them constantly challenged me to broaden my horizons and to learn outside of my field. I worked on a variety of projects for them, and in doing so learned about what makes trade nonfiction captivating and marketable, how rights and permissions work, and how to track a book through its publication process.
I consider myself fortunate to have become a part of such a supportive, inspiring and extraordinary community of book editors. They haven't just made it possible for me to find a job in publishing -- they've taught me, inspired me, and enriched my life by giving me something to aspire to.


  1. This is such a wonderful post, Rachel! I loved reading about these incredible editors :)

  2. Number one—thanks for the follow, Rachel!
    Number two—I TOTALLY appreciate editors and the work they do. If I'd started writing earlier in my life, I might have made some very different career choices. I love editing my critique-mates' work and dream of the day when an editor will work with me on my book.

  3. I definetly have to say I love my editor. She helped polish my novel so much and had me bring out things that I am sure the readers ought to love that I was originally just going to glaze over.

  4. I just googled Editor Appreciation Day because I am an author who is feeling appreciative of her editors today (a self-published author.) I think we need an editor's appreciation day!