I began my book career right out of college, working in bookstores for 5 years, and then going to Random House as a Midwest sales rep. In 16 years at Random, I served mostly as the Marketing Director of Knopf, Vintage and Pantheon, before going to Little, Brown as Associate Publisher, and then HarperCollins as VP of Retail Marketing. I also edited books for Harper, Perennial, and Poisoned Pen Press, and wrote a book, Cursed by a Happy Childhood, published by Harmony Books. I also spent 4 years as Director of Book Sense, a national marketing campaign for the independent bookstores, and 3 years as Executive Director of World Book Night U.S., a literacy campaign that gave out a half million books every April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday. I speak regularly at the NYU Publishing Course and teach the week of marketing each summer at the Denver Publishing Institute.
As for my editing work, see the Endorsement tab and Past Projects list below, but I lean towards commercial fiction and narrative non-fiction. Having said that, any good editor can spot issues in most any work outside their fields of expertise — if the book is written in an engaging way. I’ve edited mysteries that involve astrology, which isn’t my area, but they are damn good stories. I’ve edited a book about the Irish in baseball, me a WASP who loves soccer. But I will be candid with you if a subject matter is just out of my realm of experience.
I’ve edited fiction by a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and two novels I edited were Thurber Humor Prize semi-finalists. Most important, several authors I worked with early on went on to get 3-book publishing contracts and are thriving now on their own. And one was chosen to be the co-writer on a #1 bestselling James Patterson novel.
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And how did I even get into editing, from a sales and marketing background?
The story as briefly as I can: Sales and marketing staff get the final manuscript to read, and we don’t have the time or inclination to suggest edits; it’s too late in the process anyway. But a few years back, I befriended an author whose editor had just left, and he asked if I would take a look at his latest. It was far along in the writing, but when I sat down with the manuscript, I found a few inconsistencies in plot and timing of things in the early pages. And having a pencil nearby, I went ahead and edited it, since, well, I could. He was happy, I was happy, and the book went on to get the author’s first NYTBR review. Not because of my edit – he’s a wonderful writer – but perhaps partly because I tightened up some details, helped with pacing, and came up with a new title.
I got the bug then, to be able to touch books earlier in the process and help shape the action, plotting, voice, and more, and separately, even be a marketing guide as well. I feel very, very lucky to have been able to do this. And by ‘this’ I mean helping an author see things fresh, things they’ve been too close to for hours and days and weeks, and offer suggestions and encouragement for improvements large and small.