Trials of an Editor

Think your editor, or all editors, have it good because they get to sit around proofreading the next Great American Novel while drinking tea? I never really thought about it. Most the things I hear about are how difficult it is to be a writer, or an agent, or a publisher. But the editor? Well, I guess I figured they sat around reading already approved manuscripts and that there were enough of them to go around. According to Lucia Macro, that’s very untrue. Read below to find out just how a real editor spends her day:

What I Do When I’m At Work
by Lucia MarcoWhenever I tell people I’m an editor, I almost always get two responses. The first is, “Oh, so you must be a really good proofreader!” The other is, “Wow, I wish I sat around all day and got to read books.”

That’s when I get to tell them that while I do a little bit of proofreading, that I don’t spend my hours reading galleys, red pencil in hand. And one thing I seldom do at work is “sit around” all day reading books—or manuscripts. Their vision of me in a comfy chair, cup of tea in hand, happily reading the next Great Novel is a (lovely) fantasy while tweedy men and earnest women occasionally pop in for “a word” went the way of the two martini lunch…if it ever existed at all.

Instead, I’ll tell you what I spend 40% of my time doing: I answer emails. I took five days off around Thanksgiving and, keeping in mind that the offices were closed on two of those days, still returned to over 300 email messages. And that doesn’t include the SPAM!

Authors can ask me anything, but boy do we also get some doozies, especially slush queries, usually from men who have just written the definitive work on either an obscure –but to them terribly important –politician that I must publish because The Fate of the Free World is At Stake or else they’ve penned the Greatest Spy Thriller of Our Time.

I recently tried to only answer my emails at 10am, 2pm and 4pm. I failed miserably. I tried turning off the signal, but I get a preview, that sort of fades into the screen gently and I can’t help but look at it out of the corner of my eye.

Email has taken over my world, and it ain’t pretty.

The other thing I do is attend meetings: cover art meetings, marketing meetings, editorial meetings, launch meetings, planning meetings…you get the picture.

And today I’ve written a piece of jacket copy!

So, when do I find the constructive time to read, consider, and really focus on all the great elements of your books? That’s what I do at home. I read at home, I do my best thinking at home. And now, with the joy of the Blackberry, I can answer email at home.

Since it’s football season, it’s fairly easy to do this while also having some real bonding time with the boyfriend. All I have to do to is pretend that, say, the Seattle Sea Hawks v. the Green Bay Packers is of utmost importance to me. (It’s easy to do this. Wait for significant other to cheer or groan. Immediately raise up head with rapt expression. Watch re-play with sharp eye. Make sympathetic noises, go back to ms.) Baseball season is more difficult, since I really do care if the Yankees win.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I love this job. I think Morrow/Avon is a great place to work. I have great colleagues, wonderful authors, and work that gives me fulfillment. And it’s a lot of fun, too. It’s what I wanted to do, and intend to do it until they pry my red pencil from me at retirement, which is quite a ways away. Besides, one of my sisters is a Special Ed teacher, and the other is an Occupational Therapist. Now, they have difficult jobs.

But the next time you’re tempted to press send in the middle of the weekend, remember the Blackberry and have mercy. Wait till Monday. The editor you save might be your own.

Found at Romancing the Blog, January 3 2007 entry.