An Interview with Executive Editor Anna deVries
February 27, 2018
by Greg Stewart
For the latest interview in our Encounters in Publishing series, Anna deVries gave us a look into the day-to-day life of a book editor. In her role at Picador as Executive Editor, she enjoys the freedom to search for great books. Anna’s position requires that she has a hand in all parts of book production, from buying the manuscript to getting it into shape, to seeing the book designed, produced, marketed, and distributed. She offers great insight for anyone considering a job in publishing. She also discusses diversity in the publishing industry, looking at how this issue has been dealt with and what should happen in the future.
- What do you wish you’d known before entering the world of publishing?
One thing that I was surprised by when I took my first job in editorial was that most editors don’t edit in the office–there’s no time. Most of the day is taken up with overseeing their books in their various stages, communicating with art, production, publicity, marketing, and of course, emails, emails, emails.
- What’s your day-to-day experience like at Picador?
See above: I spend way too much of my day answering emails. And the rest of the time coordinating with different departments about my books. It’s my job to be the author’s advocate in-house–making sure people are paying attention to the book and that it has all the resources of the publishing house behind it.
- What drew you to the publishing field in the first place?
Like most people in this business, a love of books and reading. I worked in bookstores for nearly ten years, both full and part-time, and I loved it, but I also wanted to have a hand in creating and shaping the work and publishing was always the ultimate goal. In addition to working with writers and reading, I also was interested in the business side of the industry–figuring out ways in which to promote, market, and distribute great writing to a larger audience, so I enjoy the nuts and bolts of the job too.
- You moved from Simon and Schuster to Picador. What was it like to move from one publishing house to another?
Different publishing houses have different personalities, different ambitions. When I came to Picador from Scribner, an imprint at S&S, it was to a much smaller team with a smaller list of books. We were working on expanding the list of original work we publish so my task was to bring in new writers, allowing me the freedom to pursue many different subjects and different types of writers. Because my list is small I’m able to focus more on each individual book and give my writers, particularly the debut writers, much more time and attention.
- There has been a push to publish and employ underrepresented voices within the field for a while now. It has recently swelled to a bigger movement. What are your thoughts on these changes in the industry? How do you think publishing houses will move forward in the future, and what kind of obstacles remain?
It’s long overdue. It’s crazy to see the homogeneous makeup of the industry–not just in editorial but in marketing, publicity, and on the business side of things. We’re a profession that prides itself on bringing forth stories from all walks of life, and yet the people behind these efforts mostly come from the same background and share the same tastes and experiences. While it’s great that more and more of publishing is aware of the “diversity” issue–it is going to take concrete changes, from publishing more inclusive stories to hiring and promoting a wider range of employees. Publishing is notorious for moving at a glacial pace, and for its low salaries and rate of advancement. Until those with power decide to change those fundamental dynamics a lot of this talk of diversity will continue to be just that.
- Do you have any advice for writers, or potential employees of a publishing house, who don’t exactly fit the cookie cutter corporate mold? What can they do to enter into the field?
There are many people in publishing who don’t necessarily fit into a corporate mold–if you have a passion for reading and can talk about books intelligently and convey your passion it often doesn’t matter what your college major was or how many internships you have. However, if you’re not into a corporate desk job then perhaps look outside the big five publishing houses–there are many independent publishers, literary magazines, and literary agents who offer a different atmosphere and work life. I also encourage people to think outside the editorial box–there are so many different jobs in publishing — from publicists to copy editors to designers–that are crucial to creating a book, so don’t neglect those possibilities.
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Greg Stewart is a writer and a student attending The New School in their Master’s program for Creative Publishing and Critical Journalism.
Anna deVries is an Executive Editor at Picador, which she joined after seven years at Scribner. She acquires and edits a range of literary fiction and non-fiction. She has worked with authors including Jeff Chang; Meghan Daum; Keith Donohue; Scaachi Koul; Harriet Lane; Amy Grace Loyd; Chris McCormick; Katha Pollitt; Rakesh Satyal; and Damon Tweedy.