#43: Regretful Rejections, by Maria Gagliano
Back in Issue 11, I’d curated a nonfiction piece called Regretful Rejections. It was a collection of stories from book editors who’d regretted passing on a proposed book, or otherwise couldn’t get things together in time to make an offer on the project. Here are some highlights from the piece. I’m cutting the editors’ names, so they don’t have to relive the bad memories.
“Before submissions were universally submitted by email, they used to come in stacks of four hundred pages or more, rubber banded together or contained in sturdy (or very flimsy) cardboard paper boxes. Consequently, manuscripts used to physically stack up on the floor of editors’ offices and things very often were literally “at the bottom of the pile” for days, weeks . . . even (regrettably) months. I’d finally had a quiet afternoon during which I carefully opened and considered, or reconsidered, the bottom five manuscripts in my pile. One in particular had been languishing for more than a couple months, and so I called the agent to apologize profusely and ask if I could have the weekend to give the novel my full attention. The agent said, “Oh, don’t worry about it. I sold it weeks ago.” It was Water for Elephants.”
#30: A View from the World’s Largest Publisher, and from One of the World’s Smallest, by Maria Gagliano
I hold a unique position in publishing. Via my day job and my side project, I have a view of the industry from the world’s largest publisher, as well as from one of the world’s smallest publishers. Let me explain.
By day, I work as a senior editor at Penguin Random House. Since Penguin and Random House merged this year, my employer is the world’s largest publishing empire. That said, working there doesn’t feel as big as it sounds. The company is broken into two major branches—Penguin and Random House—and from there, into smaller divisions. Each division is comprised of a handful of imprints. Once you drill down to the imprint level, you get to the work of making books. Editors acquire projects and help authors write manuscripts. Managing editorial and production departments conduct the magic of copyediting, proofreading, and printing. Sales teams get books into stores. In between, you have departments covering contracts, legal, subsidiary rights, publicity, marketing, and design. It’s an epic machine, but when it comes to my job, I work in a department of about 20 people, which feels just big enough. We busy ourselves making books on our corner of the 3rd floor. Other departments contribute at relevant times, and the whole operation hums along. Our authors often earn advances large enough to help them feed and clothe themselves. Their books are often bestsellers, and they win national awards that are followed by more books.
Encounters in Publishing #25: The Four Faces of Book Editing that Have Nothing to do with Editing, by Maria Gagliano
I’ve written about the surprising expectations that come with being a book editor. In that vein, I’ve found the job also comes with some ‘unofficial roles’ that have no relation to the actual editing of books. These roles make for a sometimes rewarding, sometimes taxing, never boring work day. So, in addition to being an editor, I’m also sometimes a….
Encounters in Publishing #21: The Day the Books Arrive, by Maria Gagliano
Here’s a funny thing about my job: I rarely touch my books. I’m talking about physical touching. They’re abstractions for the entire year (or more) that I work on them. They are proposals in Word documents. They are hundreds of emails about manuscripts, covers, titles, flap copy, catalog spreads, author photos, and publicity strategies. They are phone calls and meetings, lunch dates and even text messages. I edit electronically, so a red pencil never gets involved. The words never even touch paper. Everything about my books exists only as pixels and conversations. During its evolution, a book will migrate from a manuscript in a Word doc to a designed PDF. This is big progress. The book looks different, but still, nothing on my desk. Nothing in my hands.
Encounters in Publishing #17: I Think My Office Walls Are Trying to Tell Me Something… by Maria Gagliano
This week marks one year since I’ve inhabited my new office and its walls are still mostly bare. I’m not good about personalizing my work space because I’ve never figured out exactly how to go about it. My last office remained bare-walled for five years until a colleague stormed in and decided something had to change. We hung printouts of book covers and Christmas cards. It helped a little.
Despite the naked walls, a few token items have crept into my office. Somehow, they all seem to be working together for the greater good:
Encounters in Publishing #6: Behold the Village Idiot Syndrome, by Maria Gagliano
My first job in publishing was as an editorial assistant at a major cookbook publisher. It was…how do I say this? It was a high-stress situation. Most of the books were on a crash schedule, meaning they had to be transformed from a vapor of an idea to a fully-designed, finished book with hundreds of recipes and double that amount of photos in a few short months. The authors were usually celebrity chefs, which meant they had other responsibilities aside from their books. Most things got accomplished via a chain of he-said-she-said exchanges among trembling assistants.