A Day in the Life of a Swoontern
Howdy, Swooners! Javi here. For the last few months, I’ve had the pleasure of being this summer’s Swoontern. What exactly does that mean? Since May, I’ve been basking in the publishing world and learning as much as I can about the industry—whether that’s by combing through pass pages, writing copy, or just talking to the friendly faces at the office. To give you all a good idea of what an editorial internship with the planet’s most swoonworthy imprint looks like, let’s take a journey back in time to a day in the intern life...*blurry rippling flashback effect*
I’m wide awake! I shower at night (no thanks, wet morning hair), so I get to enjoy a little extra beauty rest. Once I’m all dressed up and I’ve had the most important meal of the day, it’s off to the subway!
Local, express, then local again—two transfers and a zillion news articles later (an NYC commute is prime reading time), I’m finally at the wonderful home of Swoon Reads: Manhattan’s fabulous Flatiron Building.
Just another manic weekday! But not really: the first big event of the day is the Feiwel & Friends Staff Meeting in a charmingly pointy conference room. Run by our lovely publisher Jean Feiwel, this is where the F&F team touches base on various happenings (like BookCon or an attention-grabbing movie someone saw), and everyone has a chance to share updates about exciting things coming down the pike.
Back to my desk! I have a nice little cubicle, decorated with some hearts and fake ivy. What really makes my spot, though, are my neighbors, who are both designers. Even though I’m here to do editorial work, I love hearing about the fascinating things they’re doing, colorization and resizing and all. (Publishing is truly a team sport—editors are important, but what’s a book without designers to make it beautiful, marketers to get it out into the world, and publicists to make sure people know about it?)
Today I’m looking through a submission on the Swoon site. Our eagle-eyed director, Lauren Scobell, has found a manuscript that looks like it’s getting some buzz (from readers like you!). When I read, I always keep a document open so I can write down any thoughts and feelings that come to me (and so I can make note of anything interesting I find—especially in-text comments from readers). Most of the time, editors only need to read the first three chapters of a manuscript before they know whether to say “yay” or “nay,” but this one is simply too good to quit! Just one more chapter...
I’m also scouring the web (and racking my brain) for some comparison (“comp”) titles for a new pitch Holly West—one of the coolest editors in town—will be bringing to a meeting today. Essentially, I’m looking for recently published books with a target audience and plot elements that are similar to those of the new manuscript. More on this later!
Lunchtime! Being in New York means that there’s an endless supply of every type of food you could want on almost every corner, but since merely existing here costs a pretty penny, I’ve brought a cute little sack lunch from home instead. A few of my (awesome) fellow interns come with me into Madison Square Park, where we eat and chat!
Now it’s time for one of my favorite meetings: Acquisitions. This is where editors from the Children’s Publishing Group bring proposals before their colleagues, pitch them as best they can, and try to convince the room to give them (and the authors they’ve taken a chance on) the green light. It’s Holly’s turn, and she passes around copies of something called a “P&L”—“Profit and Loss”—that details how much it will cost to purchase, print, and sell the book, and how much Macmillan can expect to recoup. (Editors do so much more than just read!) She also hands out a sheet that gives an overview of the story, explains why we should buy it, and—here’s where I come in—lists some comp titles that forecast how the book should do on the market. Holly’s pitch succeeds with flying colors and we’re ready to move forward!
I’m about to meet with a phenomenal Swoon editor, Kat Brzozowski. We’re comparing track changes we both made in a manuscript from the site that was chosen by our editorial board for publication. After we combine our documents (a nifty feature), Kat and I scroll through our comments and discover that we made notes in a lot of the same places. Many of these look something like “LOVE THIS,” or “More dialogue like this!” while others like “Can this scene be longer?” or “A little less description here,” help us make sure that you get to read the best version of our author’s book. After that, Kat and I brainstorm some taglines. It’s tricky, but a lot of fun! We have a few that we’re going to spend some time with and come back to later.
It’s time for the last meeting of the day—Art! This is a fast-paced meeting filled with all sorts of visual treats. Different designers run a slideshow where they present various cover treatments to a room full of editors, executives, publicists, marketers, and interns like me. Anybody can speak out about a stylistic choice if they feel it isn’t working (or if they love it a lot), and the designers make notes and bring updated versions to future meetings for approval.
I head over to the desk of Emily Settle, Swoon’s fantastic assistant editor. Emily has been emailing an author with some ideas for the latest draft of their manuscript—it’s come a long way since it was first uploaded to the site! I’ve read through it and written an editor’s letter in which I’ve made notes about big-picture features like plot structure, character development, and overall pacing. Emily and I discuss what I’ve written and we figure out what suggestions we want to send to our author for their next draft.
Almost time to go home! Before I leave, I schedule some tweets for the Swoon Reads feed (*cough* @swoonreads *cough*). After writing a few about upcoming publication dates, fresh releases, and exciting reviews, I head out. Back to the train, home again for a dinner fit for a twentysomething (tacos or pasta, anyone?), a call to my folks, and—naturally—some light reading before bed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this (entirely nonexhaustive) glimpse into my world this summer! Publishing is rich with kind-hearted people who are passionate about the work they do and the books they help produce. I’m thankful for this experience and I’ve loved swooning with you all. And as the old saying goes... If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
If you have any questions about working in publishing, let us know in the comments!