It takes a village to make a book. Behind every great book is a slew of people who help make it great: artists, designers, editors, publicists.
I talked to Erica Finkel, one of the associate editors for the children’s department at Abrams. Erica Finkel grew up in Maryland and could often be found on the sidelines of her brother’s Little League games with a big stack of Nancy Drew books or anything by Madeleine L’Engle or Sharon Creech. She earned a BA in English Literature from Tufts University and taught English in a teeny town in France. After returning to the States and earning an MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College, she moved to New York to take a job at Abrams in 2010. She now works on a wide variety of projects from picture books through young adult novels, including Fraidyzoo (an ALA Notable Book), In My Heart (a USA Today bestseller), the Camp Rolling Hills series, and The Movie Version.
What’s the average day of an associate editor like?
That’s a tough one! I tend to describe my job by breaking it into three parts: acquisitions, working with authors, and office stuff. For acquisitions, I network with agents and foreign publishers, read manuscripts from them, and the ones I like I bring to our editorial meeting. If my publisher supports the project, I prepare a profit and loss statement and pitch it to the sales team, and hopefully make an offer! With the authors, I work with them first on big-picture edits and then very nit-picky edits. Then there’s the more day-to-day office stuff: drafting copy for sales and marketing (the copy that goes on flaps, sales sheets, galleys, etc.), working with design and production to make the physical book, attending production and marketing meetings, etc. An average day could be any number of those things!
How much time do you spend reading manuscripts? Editing? On social media? Eating chocolate?
To be honest, most of the reading and editing happens nights, weekends, and on my commute. But if I’m lucky I’ll squeeze in a quiet morning or afternoon somewhere. I need to be on social media more! It doesn’t come as naturally to me, but Twitter especially is great for kids books, and I love seeing what authors, agents, and publishers are up to. As for chocolate, let’s just say I keep a very well equipped snack drawer…
“I keep a very well equipped snack drawer.” @ericafinkel talks being an associate editor on @piquebeyond.
What’s the difference between your job as an associate editor vs Maggie Lehrman’s job as a senior editor? What about an assistant editor? What’s the difference in ranks like?
Good question! Editorial assistants and assistant editors support upper-level staff. For example, they might write a rough draft of an editor’s cover copy, or request costs from production for a certain special effect. But now that I’ve worked with the department for awhile, I work primarily on my own books. My job isn’t that different from Maggie’s, actually! I’d say the biggest difference is that a senior editor might be expected to work on more books per year.
When you’re not working, what is it you do for fun?
After all of this computer time, I love to find things to do that don’t involve screens! I go to yoga classes, sing in a choir, and cook elaborate wintery comfort foods. I like to craft—recently, embroidery is my jam. And of course, I like to read actual published books.
What advice would you give to people who may want to become editors?
Well, I went to grad school, which for me was the right choice. I needed a bit more vocational training and direction in my career, and I found both the classes (copyediting! InDesign!) and the internship opportunities immensely helpful. But I’m always careful to say that grad school is NOT required for publishing, so think very carefully about the time and money you’d put into it. A certificate course, night class, internship, or informational interview could also be a great way to get your foot in the door. And personally, I actually transferred to editorial from another department (managing editorial), when I decided this path was better for me. A horizontal move doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s worth being open to whatever opportunity comes your way and learning about different sides of the business.
What are some of your favorite books to have worked on recently? What books do you think people should have on their radars going forward?
So hard to choose — I love all my books! Some that are on the shelves now include the Camp Rolling Hills series, The Movie Version, and The Bear Report. For Spring 17, keep your eyes peeled for Skyfishing and The Last Thing You Said, and for Fall 17, A Taxonomy of Love, Sidetracked, and Alfie.
What else do you want people to know about being an associate editor?
While it’s not a 9-to-5 job, it’s super rewarding. Nothing beats getting back a much improved revision, or getting that starred review, or seeing a book you worked on displayed in a store. What a heart-glowy feeling!