Book publishing, as an industry, is not unlike a Jenga tower held together by sheer force of will. If the industry works at all, it's only because many dedicated and diligent people work or little reward like that horse, Boxer, from Animal Farm. (Though it's not all gloom-and-doom; it can certainly have its moments.) Many publishing workers remain invisible to readers and even authors, toiling away on initiatives and tasks unfamiliar to all but those already deeply enmeshed in the publishing world. 'Acknowledgements' is an interview series that aims to change that in some small way.
Few titles in book publishing are more mystifying than 'managing editor.' And that's partially because the job description can oscillate wildly from publisher to publisher. In general, however, managing editors do more managing than editing: they'll shepherd the manuscript (or 'lamb,' in this case) through its schedules and deadlines, with particular attention to what happens after the substantive editing (i.e. 'big picture' stuff) has been completed. This includes copyediting, layout, proofreading and more, though whether the managing editor does this him/herself or arranges for it varies from publisher to publisher. Either way, a managing editor is both an author's personal guide and horsewhip in the journey from manuscript to bound book. The managing editor oversees the editorial workflow for the entire list, and if you have a list as big as Canadian publisher Dundurn, that's a pretty hefty task. Luckily, Carrie Gleason, a seasoned editor of children's and YA books, is more than up to the task. Though Gleason is a relatively new addition to the Dundurn family, she's worked as associate publisher and in editorial at a number of other Canadian publishers, and has quickly picked up her managerial duties at Dundurn. (She's also a published children's author!) She scheduled some time to answer questions about the tasks of a managing editor.
The Dundurn elevator is not unlike those ones that take you to The Hunger Games.
Atypical is a typical day. I never know exactly what I'm in for on the elevator ride up to our office. I never get too attached to my to-do list for the day, if I get to it at all. The thing I like the best about being managing editor is that every day brings a unique problem that I have to learn how to deal with in the most effective way. There are a lot of stakeholders to keep happy: authors, agents, all the different departments that make up a publishing house of Dundurn's size, and most importantly, the reader. The secret is to get out of that elevator each day with an open mind and a certain degree of adaptability.
A managing editor could also be called a 'chaos wrangler.'
Keeping everyone on track and acting as a liaison between editorial and sales, marketing, production and design is a big part of my job. I give Dundurn a lot of credit for their ability to bring order to what would otherwise be publishing chaos. There were systems in place to keep things on track well before I arrived. Marketing Director Margaret Bryant and Production and Design Director Jennifer Gallinger are absolute gurus when it comes to processes and workflow. Now we're always looking to modify systems and tweak things that could be working better. As publishing continues to change, this is something we (and every publisher) have to continually keep an eye on.
Missed deadlines are one of her least favourite things.
My job is to wrangle up the stragglers and get them back on track. When a deadline is missed, I initially focus on moving the project ahead. (Sometimes I cuss first.) 'How can we get there from here?' is the question I ask myself. If we can't get these books out, then we can't sell them and people can't read them. Afterwards I go back and look at what went wrong with an eye to preventing a similar situation in the future.
Managing editors have different strategies for staying organized.
It's a struggle to stay on top of things. I am not a hundred percent organized. My office is one of the messier ones at Dundurn; I often find cryptic notes I've left to myself on my desk that need a codebreaker to be deciphered. I get a ton of support and friendly reminders from the editorial staff.
Before joining Dundurn, she'd edited at publishers large and small.
I have been with Dundurn since October 2013. Before that I was associate publisher, children's and YA, at Lorimer. I've worked for mid-size Canadian publishers (Crabtree), multinationals (Scholastic), small Canadian publishers (Lorimer), and now I'm with the largest independent Canadian publisher. Each company has had its perks, and it's interesting to see how different they all are, yet very much the same in some ways.
Dundurn was looking for a managing editor, and someone who had experience with children's and teen books. (Their editor who specialized in these areas had recently left.) Diane Young, who was the Editorial Director at Dundurn, and with whom I had worked with at Lorimer, asked me if I was interested in the job. I came in and met with VP Beth Bruder and President Kirk Howard and they offered me the job a few weeks later. Unfortunately Diane Young has recently left Dundurn, and as a mentor for the editorial department she will be greatly missed.
Sometimes, just keeping track of all the books is a challenge.
My first few weeks were c-r-a-z-y. I went from a company where I was responsible for about twenty books a year to one that publishes over 100 books a year. After the first month someone would say the title of a book that I swear I had never heard of before, yet was on our list for that season. It was a good feeling when I finally got to the point where I could keep 100 titles straight in my head! I feel like if we had a round of Dundurn employee jeopardy and the category was 'Upcoming Seasons,' I could seriously hold my own now.
She can't get no satisfaction.
There's not a lot of time to take satisfaction in the day-to-day operation. Knowing I've put out a few fires at the end of the day, especially if I'm heading off to an event to support the company or an author, is a rewarding feeling.
And to, quote the Rolling Stones again, time is not on her side.
I feel bad if I can't respond to an author right away. I am often the first person in editorial they will deal with, and I feel the initial impression they receive from me could affect their relationship with their editor. I like to get things off on the right foot with authors. I wish they knew how big my inbox was and how many authors I deal with each day. Plus, I wish they knew how much I would have liked to have already read their manuscript before the first time I email them with the schedule, but it just isn't always possible. (But I will have read their book at some point!) If I had to write a book about my life as managing editor, I'd have to call it I'll Get Back to You Soon (Promise).
Her busiest time of year is (often) right now.
I don't know yet when the busiest time of year is … I'm praying I'm already past it though.
Managing editorial is not a dish best served cold.
We're in a beautiful old building and each part of the office has its own microclimate. My office is frigid in winter. I make sure if I have to talk to marketing or design I do it in the morning because it's warmer over there — their windows face east so they get the morning sun.
To check out some of the books Gleason has shepherded through the editorial process, visit dundurn.com. Photo by Laurie Januska. And stay tuned for more 'Acknowledgements' throughout May.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Evan Munday is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed book series for young readers, The Dead Kid Detective Agency. Both The Dead Kid Detective Agencyand its sequel, Dial M for Morna, were nominated for the Silver Birch Fiction Award.
Evan has worked in book marketing and publicity for ten years, eight of which were as publicist at Coach House Books, and he has since worked as a freelance illustrator and ebook designer.