A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.
Today I’m chatting to Nicole Frail about the publishing process. Nicole is an editor at Skyhorse Publishing, a New York-based publishing house that grows bigger every year. Skyhorse has twelve imprints that publish a wide range of books from mystery/thrillers to cookbooks to oversized coffee-table art collections. Though Nicole acquires mostly nonfiction (cooking, lifestyle, and hobbies), she most enjoys working on the young adult she acquires from time to time. For me, it was for THE WANDERERS, my YA shapeshifter circus novel, for the children’s book imprint Sky Pony Press.
I originally posted this interview on the Creative Authors blog. Nicole’s answers were so detailed and insightful that I thought it’d be great to post here too. We’ve tweaked slightly from the original, as Nicole’s roles have shifted a bit as the house continues to grow.
Kate Ormand: Hi, Nicole! Thanks for stopping by today. First let’s talk about THE WANDERERS and the process a manuscript like this goes through. On my end, it was to write it (check!), edit it (check!), and then my agent sent out on submission. Fortunately, you liked it, offered for it, and now you and I are working together on it (simply put!). How do things work on your end after all of that?
Nicole Frail: Great question. Sorry for the wordy answer, but there’s quite a bit that goes into a book from an editorial point-of-view that a lot of people don’t know.
This process is different for every company depending on the size of the company, the organization of the employees, the responsibilities of various departments, etc. But at Skyhorse, first, before any of the editing takes place, we put together a small package that will help our distributors and sales team sell the book to buyers. This requires us to write catalog copy and develop selling points, design a tentative cover, and polish an excerpt for the sales team to read and get a feel for the book.
Once these tasks are complete, each editor has his or her own way of approaching their lists, but I begin editing based on priorities, printing schedules, and a number of other factors. If time allows, I like to do a full read-through of the book for a content edit. The content edit results in big-picture changes: tense, plot, character development, organization. If a heavy amount of revision is needed, I’ll send it back to the author and we’ll discuss my notes and then the author will have time to work on those revisions. If the manuscript doesn’t need much more development, I may go right into a line edit without exchanging it with the author. During the line edit, I look for the more technical, smaller issues as well as full sentences/paragraphs that may need to be reworked. That will go back to the author to review and make further revisions. Once the author and I are happy with the manuscript, I send it to production along with notes about how the author and I envision the typeset interior should look.
Production receives the manuscript, sends it to our typesetters, and then sends it back to me when it’s fully typeset. I like to send the first version of the PDF to my authors so they can review the design only; I ask them not to review the text but to focus on the way the book will look. Do they like the size of the headings, do they like the typeface we used, do they want their names in the running heads?
We’ll go back and forth with production to make sure the interior looks great, and then I’ll ask production to send the book out for proofreading. The proofreader will make sure the book aligns with our house style, with the Chicago Manual of Style, Merriam-Webster, and any other notes that we may have created along the way (some editors create a style sheet for every book they edit). I review the proofread when it comes back, send queries from the proofreader to the author, and then all the edits are made.
I then send a clean, comment-free version to my authors and ask them to reread the text to make sure they’re happy with the way it turned out. While this is happening, a pass travels around the office, through our final pass checkers, through me, through our managing editor, and back to production. These people catch any inconsistencies or errors with the book right before the interior goes to the printer.
In the meantime, the design team is working on the full jacket/cover of the book and the publicity team is writing press releases and working on getting the word out. Once a book is sent to the printer, it may take a few months or a few weeks for sample copies to reach the office. When the sample copies arrive, I flip through it page-by-page to make sure nothing funky happened in the printing process—e.g., the pages are all there, the running heads are correct, etc. And then we wait for all the books to arrive in the warehouse!
KO: What does a typical working day at Skyhorse look like for you?
NF: When I get in, I organize my email according to the season and the book that it’s related to and I immediately answer the priority emails. Emails typically take me about an hour/hour and a half on a good day.
Then it just depends on what’s due and when. Perhaps some of those emails contained typeset passes I need to review and share with the author. Perhaps an agent is returning a red-lined contract I need to review and share with my editorial director. Maybe I need to write an offer letter or a revision note.
Sometimes there are meetings with the design team or with imprint heads. Every week I sit down with my editorial director and pitch at least two books I’ve reviewed and may want to acquire. Phone calls with authors and agents… Packing up books to send for awards… Metadata management takes up a LOT of time. Every time a word changes in a subtitle or we add a comma to the copy or the author decides to change a word in his/her bio, we have to update our metadata system and send alerts that we’re making the update.
All of these little bits and pieces and tasks take up the entire day. Very rarely do I actually get to edit at my desk or review submissions. I read submissions on the train, on the bus, at home in bed, at the gym on my Kindle… Wherever I get a chance. I edit at home, too, as do many of my editorial colleagues. This is just the way of the business, it seems, but… I enjoy it. (And it’s much quieter!)
KO: What kinds of books are you currently looking to acquire? What are you open to?
NF: I am open to nearly everything, and I’m specifically looking for nonfiction right now (preferably not sports or politics). Cookbooks, gardening, how-to, crafting, interior design, pets, humor… And, of course, some young adult here and there.
KO: How many of the twelve imprints within the house have you acquired for?
NF: I have acquired for five: Skyhorse, Sky Pony, Talos, Carrel, and Helios.
KO: And to finish, can you give us a selection of your favourite books?
NF: Of those I’ve worked on? Dark Days, of course! I helped out with that one a bit… This is difficult; it’s so hard to choose! Let’s go by genre… If you’re looking for a funny memoir that will really make you think, I’d suggest Why Do Only White People Get Abducted by Aliens? by Ilana Garon. Another great memoir that has created quite a bit of buzz is Victorian Secrets by Sarah A. Chrisman. If you’re into horror and want to experience a really great twist on the zombie novel, you should check out Bring Me Flesh, I’ll Bring Hell by Martin Rose. A fan of historical fantasy romance? Arcana by Jessica Leake. Fans of young adult and/or verse novels should also check out The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl & Random Boy, which is a beautiful debut by Marie Jaskulka that will be released in April. And if you’re a dog lover, Rescuing Riley, Saving Myself by Zachary Anderegg is a safe bets!
Of those I haven’t? The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath is my favorite book of all time.
KO: Thanks so much, Nicole!
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Kate Ormand is YA author of DARK DAYS and THE WANDERERS. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate also writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd.