Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview With Book Editor Lauren Mosko Bailey

1.  How long have you been an editor? Where have you worked? any books or authors of note that you have worked with? I've been a professional editor for 13 years and a book editor for 10 years. I worked for Writer's Digest Books from 2003 to 2009--first as an assistant editor for Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, then as editor of Novel & Short Story Writer's Market, and then on the trade book line. I've been freelance since then, doing book editing for WD, HOW Books (owned by the same company, F+W Media), Kirkus Media, and private clients. 
During my WD days, I had the pleasure of editing many writers and editors of note: essayist and story writer Steve Almond, southern humorist George Singleton, Asheville Poetry Review editor Keith Flynn,Glimmer Train editors Susan Burmeister-Brown and Linda Swanson-Davies, to name a few. Probably the most popular title I edited, released during Pirates of the Caribbean mania, was a comprehensive dictionary of piratespeak called The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers and Rogues, by George Choundas. Since writing is just as much a part of editorial life at WD as editing is, I also got to interview tons of amazing writers, such as Khaled Hosseini, Mary Karr, Megan McCafferty, and Gregory Maguire.

2.   As a book editor, what role do you play in making an author's work better?  Because every project is different, I adjust my level of involvement to accommodate the author's vision and skill level. I've done everything from a ghost (re)write and complete organizational overhaul to a light-handed line polishing. But most of the time, what I'm doing is offering a trained and fresh eye, acting as sort of a "super reader"; I not only call out what really works but also shine a spotlight on anything that will prove troublesome or unsatisfying for the author's audience: ideas that are incomplete, language that is muddled, plot points or characters that are flat or confusing. And then of course I apply whatever style is preferred for consistency's sake (Chicago, AP, or something specific to the house) so that all the book's edges are smooth. To me, a great editor is one whose work is invisible to the author, and together the two work to make great writing that's invisible to the reader--the words falling away so that the reader just gets lost in the narrative. 

3.  What are the rewards - -and challenges -- to editing books? I think one of the greatest rewards is the personal creative relationships I've formed with my authors. Knowing I've helped a writer achieve his or her goals for a book is a tremendous high, and staying in touch with my authors--watching their careers develop and sometimes developing a true friendship with them--contributes to the intensely personal nature of bookmaking. 

In some cases, the editor also gets to work closely with book designers and sales, publicity, and marketing colleagues, and for me it always felt wonderful to be in the company of so many creative people who love what I love. Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a team--all devoted to the love of language and literature--to make and sell a book. Being a part of that is tremendously special. And of course getting that first copy of a new book, still warm from the printer, never gets old.

As for the challenging part, sometimes no matter what feats of communication and diplomacy an editor performs, for whatever reason, the author-editor dynamic just doesn't work, and that makes the whole process harder. And it's hard when you really believe in a book or author and you just can't get the marketing support behind it or it doesn't sell as well as you think it should. On a micro level, when a rougher manuscript comes in, it can really take some mental acrobatics to get it ready for publication--but that's also the fun part.

4.  What trends are you seeing in the genres of books that you have been editing? Genre blending is being embraced by both writers and readers to the point that I think it's becoming nearly impossible to shove a book or author into a particular silo, which is wonderful. And I love that authors are producing work outside the genres they're typically known for. 

5. Where do you see book publishing is heading in the next few years? It's funny because I remember--maybe 6 or 7 years ago--panels of WD editors being asked by writers at conferences if we thought ebooks were the future of publishing. Our stance then, and I think we were not incorrect in saying it, was that ebooks wouldn't catch on until there was a truly viable ereading device. And now there are Kindles and Nooks and iPads galore... And the major publishers are reporting growth in this area and declines in print sales. No surprise there. 

So thanks to these devices and the public's comfort with them, I think, with the exception of children's picture books--Scholastic or the ALA just released the results of a survey that showed that children prefer print for family reading times--the ease and ubiquity of ebooks will continue to convert readers at a significant rate. I also think the stigma of established authors taking control of their publication and sales and self-publishing through places like Amazon will be a thing of the past. In fact, particularly for genre writers with extensive backlists, it may become the norm. I still don't think ebooks or self-publishing vehicles will make it any easier for the average unknown writer to break in, but I do think writers who are building or have already built an audience will find it increasingly easy to reach them.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This blog is copyrighted material by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2013 ©

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