As a follow-up to last week’s DITL post, it was suggested that I do one from the OTHER side of the desk, so to speak. And so, without further ado, a VERY special treat. A look at the schedules of nine editors!
Martha Mihalick, Senior Editor, Harper/Greenwillow:
One of the things I love about my job is that no day is completely the same. Some days are all about writing copy or letters or calling/emailing authors about their manuscripts. Some are all meetings with sales and marketing or agents or our own team to discuss projects that are in the works or in the future. And of course, the books and authors change from season to season., and none of those are exactly the same every time. So this is an example of how one day might go…
6:45am: Alarm radio goes off with NPR Morning Edition, so that I can listen while I’m getting ready for work and pretend I know things about the world.
8:00am: Get on subway, aka submission-reading time. Hopefully seated.
8:45 or so unless the MTA gods are particularly wrathful: Get to my office and GET COFFEE.
Gently pat the manuscript I printed out and WILL EDIT TODAY.
Open email, catch up on anything that happened after I left the office last night, check facebook and twitter, the saved searches I have on all the authors.
Respond to emails. Answer questions. Soothe nerves.
Somewhere in here, I probably also talk to either our editorial assistant or our publisher about something we’re all reading (either submission or new draft).
Oh, hey, the phone is ringing. It’s an agent with a new project to pitch. Or someone who needs info on an upcoming book or author. Or maybe my mom, even though I keep telling her I’m busy at work.
Mechs for a picture book or a jacket that are circulating through the imprint hit my inbox, and I review so I can pass them on. If it’s the picture book I have coming out in Fall ’16 (yes, that’s how far ahead we are working), then I’m probably giggling and/or “awwww”ing at my desk.
An author sends in answers to a Q&A or a blog post, and I read it and ask managing ed to copyedit it, then review any copyediting changes or queries and pass it on where it needs to go.
Marketing brings over or sends an ad for us to approve, so I look at that.
Our art director got new comps in for a jacket, so we discuss those.
I gently pat that manuscript I’m totally going to edit after lunch.
Wait…is it already 2pm? Maybe I should get lunch.
While I’m buying food, two more submissions come in.
More emails from authors/agents/marketing/sales to weigh in on.
Managing ed has a manuscript back from copyediting, ready for me to review and pass on to the author.
Throughout the day I’m occasionally checking social media to see if there’s anything happening for authors or books or in the industry in general that I should know about.
Write copy—catalog copy, jacket copy, selling copy, a letter for a mailing, tip sheet copy, paperback copy, who knows what it could be this particular day?
Finally, it’s 5pm and starting to get a little quiet. Maybe I can edit 10 pages before I go home.
Oh, except there’s that question from earlier in the day I forgot to answer.
And now it’s dark out. Load any new submissions on ipad, grab 50 pages of that manuscript and head out. Maybe I’ll get it done at home?
Miriam Weinberg, Editor, Tor Books:
This is an interesting question to answer–and one I constantly try to express to my family members, who still think I get to read books all day, which was my childhood dream (I WISH).
Basically, a day in the editorial life on average includes very *little* actual editing, but a huge amount of what I would call “invisible paper mountain excavation.” That includes: copy writing, looking over cover mechanicals/proofs, sitting in on various meetings (marketing, production, random), updating interior systems for sales and external processing, and navigation of the Death Star trench run that is my inbox. Honestly, the majority of my editorial time is spent out of the office–either on weekends or, if swamped, during a day out of the week–as is the majority of my reading. HOWEVER, I have recently acquired a violently regal reading chair for said office, so I’ve been trying to come in half an hour or so early to get reading done, which, being a person who dislikes the morning, has been a rough go. But let us imagine that this is easily repeatable in a pretend (v. productive and non-interrupted with random book-related fires) Wednesday:
-Come in before 9am, try the new fancy coffee machine (the old one gave up bitter poltergeist tears of roast ghosts), hope to go someone in marketing/ad-promo came in earlier than me to make coffee. I make coffee, whole scoop of grounds, half the water, the way my mother taught me.
-Eat yogurt (/Lucky Charms) and check twitter, if I hadn’t loaded on my way in to read on the commute
-Read until someone knocks on my door or calls; check inbox and re-write to-do list (or highlight/color code previous to do list for daily priority)
-Answer emails in order of priority; check in with bosses Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Liz Gorinsky to see if they need assistance with anything (mailing, orders, copy writing/processing, follow-up on upcoming seasonal tasks)
-I am currently in charge of the Tor intern program (and have been for a couple years), and my current intern comes in after their morning class, around 11. Go by their desk, chat a bit, see how their last task was going, assign new ones.
-Bring intern with me to morning production meeting; dodge the Eeyore faces of production
-Reassess TDL, email a gif to author, check twitter
-Check over quotes for a book that needs an offset transmittal so I can compile front sales; teach intern to do transmittals
-Look up previous contract for author who I’d like to buy another book from, think about math, think about marketing, make P and L spreadsheet, ponder. Talk to Tom; discuss author’s last book, weekend plans.
-Prep email with offer for agent; wait at least half hour to send, so that I can check again before I push GO.
-Twitter (guys, I know, but I LOVE TWITTER and also get a weird amount of business done on there for someone who potentially tweets more gifs than words?)
-Write/look over notes taken while reading new revision of manuscript, start compiling into editorial letter and/or streamlining MS comments (I often in-text edit, over long editorial letters, depending on the author/book/style–each one is different!).
-Look at Cover, debate how you feel about the color orange, take office poll about hue (try to not make puns).
-Have I eaten lunch? Probably eat lunch. I am already hungry because I likely have forgotten to eat lunch twice already today.
-Surf the internet while eating, try to not look at work things, stare
down anyone who knocks on my door
-Check back in with intern, set them up with some mailings and ask them to pull my royalty statements, which I will spend tomorrow morning
-Sighing/kvelling over (mostly b/c MATH/STATISTICS MY OLD FRENEMY)
-At this point, try to take reading break, possibly write blog post that you keep forgetting you owe to Tor.com, realize something is going to auction, or look over reading reports from intern.
-Meet with friend in marketing to discuss current/upcoming tumblr campaign for a book, once we finish our notes/needs, discuss anime/fandom concerns. Make puns.
-Reassess TDL, print out/pack up current reading pages (trying to give my eyes electronic breaks which is NOT nice for my back, but oh well, live hard/die in a paper avalanche), go home!
Kelly Galluci, Editor, Bookish:
I loathe mornings and value sleeping above all else. So I’ve managed to get my morning routine down to a quick 15 minutes, enabling me to stay asleep until 6:45. By 7:45, I’m on a train barreling towards New York City, and deep into whatever book I’m reading—this week it’s Marissa Meyer’s Scarlet. After battling the midtown crowds, I arrive at my office, which is blissfully silent early in the morning. I’m always the second person there and spend the hour or so before the rest arrive eating breakfast (no coffee here), checking our social media, and browsing the internet for literary news.
From there, each day of the week is different. On Tuesdays, I look over and approve the newsletter. On Wednesdays, I eagerly wait for 1 p.m. to hit so I can go to Chipotle. On Thursdays, I playfully bug my coworkers until they send in books for our Friday Reads post. The time before lunch is always filled with answering publicity pitches, commissioning interviews or guests posts, editing articles, and ensuring that articles are built and have the appropriate art. I have the bad habit of working through my lunches when I stay in, but I’m trying to break that. After lunch (once I’ve had my Diet Coke fix), I focus on writing my own articles. Then I look over the new books that have been delivered throughout the day, and sometimes I use them to update our Instagram with something fun. By 6:30 I’m back on the train for more reading, and then head straight to the gym to get those endorphins pumping, because if I learned anything from Elle Woods it’s that fitting in time to work out makes you happy no matter what is going on around you.
Diana Pho, Editor, Tor Books:
I’m going to start by mentioning what I do before I go into the office, because it all plays into how I try to keep a work-life balance. As an editor, it is very easy to have your work consume your entire life. So, I get up, do some light exercise to keep me focused (and prepped to sit and stare at a screen for the next 8+ hours).
Once in the office, my daily schedule tends to change very quickly. I keep of Task List of major and minor things I have to do for my current book projects that (hopefully) will have an item or two crossed off by the end of the day. I also handle responsibilities outside of my own book projects – assisting others, doing sales work for Seven Seas Entertainment, whatever miscellaneous side-quest the day tosses my way.
If I’m lucky, I would get in an hour of actual editing on a project done. Sometimes, I have to put on the headphones, blare my music mood of the day, and try not to answer any emails or anything until I make some progress. The editing process is pretty slow for me, and I usually come into the office for a few hours on the weekend so I have some time/head space to work. I usually end up reading submissions while I commute or at home.
Hope that doesn’t come off as too boring/stressful. I really love my job! 😄
Richard Shealy, Copyeditor:
(Get some coffee first, because this is about as exciting as lukewarm oatmeal!)
My day is largely molded on the standard nine-to-five schedule, as my wife commutes to work by train; given that we downsized to one car many years ago, I drive her to and from the train station, and I won’t do that before the second cup of coffee is kicking in (word to the wise: don’t drive in NJ if you’re half asleep!). The alarm goes off at six; I get up and make a cup of coffee, then run through email and social media while my wife gets another half hour of sleep. I get her up around 6:30, we feed and medicate the cats, she showers, and we get in the car before 8 to get her to the train. When I return, I clean out anything new that has popped up and then start work.
The work itself: It takes its own pace. I take breaks freely to head off waning attention or deal with question-pondering. Also, the pace varies drastically between beginning and end; early on, I’m considering possibilities and authorial intent, but by the end, those questions have largely been answered and the work accelerates dramatically from day to do. That shift is even greater when I have access to an author who is both willing and able to answer/discuss questions (my productivity will superficially appear to be at a standstill for hours early on while consulting with the author, but with all the universal-effect issues resolved, the pace can become blistering, and I’ll end up working late or even asking my wife to take a cab home because the work is flowing too well for me to feel comfortable stepping away from it).
I don’t set a standard pace and try to stick to it; I learned early on that this would hamstring the overall quality of my work and not help any one internal part of it. Front-loading the thought, the analysis of “What’s really going on here?” is functionally far more effective for me than is assigning page-number goals per day. Page/word totals will come if I let the work itself set its pace . . . and guess what? The pace almost always averages out in the end to roughly the same. And there’s no set schedule outside of getting up at the same time, taking my wife to and from the train station at the same time, and feeding/medicating cats at the same time (they simply refuse to understand!). I come to perceive the rhythm that the particular project sets, and I follow that wherever it leads.
Carly Silver, Assistant Editor, Harlequin:
I’ve just begun a new role at Harlequin as assistant editor for our Romantic Suspense line, which is very exciting. My day consists of everything from revising backlist cover copy to working on line edits, reading slush to Googling pictures of hot guys to serve as art references.
I adore working at Harlequin – romance is a fun business to be in!
Michael Damian Thomas and Lynne M. Thomas, Editors-in-Chief of Uncanny Magazine:
An Average Day at Uncanny Magazine Headquarters
1- Check email to see if anything is on fire. Answer the email fires that are easy to put out.
2- Check social media. RT nice things said about the magazine. Quick meeting to go over the upcoming day.
BREAKFAST! PUT DAUGHTER INTO WHEELCHAIR AND ONTO THE BUS!
3- Check website, approve comments, make sure everything is fine.
4- Check to-do list.
5- Email people to see if that draft/contract/approval/interview/whatever will be ready soon since it’s past the deadline.
6- Answer queries. Put out the delicate email fires.
MESS AROUND ON TWITTER!
7- Look at submissions and sort them.
8- Read some submissions and make notes about pluses and minuses of the pieces for the later meeting.
9- If it’s post-meeting, send out rejection and acceptance emails.
10- Create contracts for the acceptances.
11- Pay people who have sent back their contracts.
12- Fill in spreadsheets to keep up-to-date on issues’ Tables of Contents and the general status of things.
13- Look at some artwork for possible covers.
14- Send out some social media updates.
15- Email the staff about where we are today. Schedule things. Send some supportive emails.
IM WITH COLLEAGUES ABOUT LATEST SF/F KERFUFFLE!
16- Look over some purchased manuscripts and make some line edits.
17- Look over copyedits and send to the author.
DAUGHTER COMES HOME!
18- Email potential advertisers.
DINNER! WATCH A TV SHOW! PUT DAUGHTER TO BED!
19- Record a podcast.
20- Discuss things, make decisions.
21- Take care of some Kickstarter things
22- Read more submissions.
Melissa Frain, Senior Editor, Tor Books:
I currently go back and forth between two offices—most days I work from my home in Pennsylvania, but I pop in to my NY office at Tor as needed. PA days and NY days are totally different—when I’m in New York, it’s pretty much all meetings. But on an average day in PA, I get up (read: my cats wake me up) at 7:30ish and I go for a run. Then I make the long commute across the hall and usually settle in at my desk around 9. I’m obsessive about my email, so I start every workday by answering and filing away as much as I can. Then I make a to-do list of the most pressing things that must get done that day.
When I was a baby editor, I had the fairly typical delusion that it would be all reading, all the time. In reality, I do most editing and reading submissions on nights and weekends. The actual day-to-day varies a lot, since I’m always working on a lot of different projects at the same time. A debut YA fantasy publishing next month has way different stuff going on than a media tie-in that pubs in a year. A lot of the job is figuring out what each individual project needs at a particular time and getting it done. But the broad strokes are pretty consistent: I clean out my email. I make my to-do list. I try to save the more creative tasks (editorial letters or brainstorming sessions, writing jacket/catalog/internet copy, coming up with cover concepts, etc) for the afternoon, so that they can float in the back of my mind and take shape for a while before I actually sit down to write them out. In the meantime, I do things like reviewing contracts before they go out for signature, writing rejections (or, on happier days, working up offers for new projects), providing key selling points or other information for the sales department, working with marketing and publicity on plans for books further in the process, and of course managing email as it comes in. When 5:30 hits, I grab whatever manuscript I’m working on and edit in bursts until bedtime.
Aimee Friedman, Executive Editor, Scholastic:
What I love about being an editor is that I get to be involved in every stage, and aspect, of a book’s life–sometimes from the tiniest seed of the idea all the way through the book launch party, and beyond! This means that no two days are ever quite the same: sometimes it’s day of back-to-back meetings with various colleagues; sometimes I’m catching up on submissions; sometimes I’m in the middle of an auction and making a zillion phone calls; sometimes I’m having lunch with an author and/or an agent, sometimes (if I’m lucky) I get to hide out in my office (or work from home if need be) and just dive into the editing of a manuscript.
It’s a Tuesday afternoon as I write this, so this morning I went to our editorial staff meeting, where we talked about upcoming industry conferences and our own upcoming in-house meetings and what we need to prepare for them. We also discussed general trends we’d noticed and potential ideas and some movies and books: fun stuff. Then I got a big iced coffee (crucial) and sat down to answer emails–a lot had accumulated because I’d been out for a few days. After taking care of the most urgent requests, I shut my office door and focused on the copyedited manuscript I had just received back from the production editor. I went through the copyeditor’s comments, made my own, and sent it off to the author. Later, I will probably call this author to discuss any questions or issues that might be tricky. Then I’ll grab a salad from Sweetgreen (my new favorite place) and eat at my desk, answering more emails, maybe reading submissions, or skimming Vulture if I want to take a break. Then I’ll try to clear out my non-virtual inbox: signing off on routing covers, going through second passes with proofreader comments, etc. Often I’ll have to talk with the production editor about how the schedule is coming, or meet with the designer to discuss any concerns I might have about the jacket. Then I have my bi-weekly meeting with my supervisor, where we’ll go over outstanding issues and I’ll ask all the questions I’ve saved up for him. I usually get a cookie at some point around 4 pm, and chat with my colleagues for a little impromptu break. I’m a night owl, so I’ll generally stay at the office late–I’ll get a burst of productivity after everyone else has gone home! And of course, like I lot of editors, I often take reading home, or I’ll read on the subway. And who knows what tomorrow will bring?