We’re getting super pumped about our “In Stores Now” chat on February 28, in which three Random House authors are coming to Figment to talk about selling their debut novels. Editor Erin Clarke is joining us, too, to talk about what the process looks like from the other side of the desk! Here, Erin gives us a little peek at her role in making awesome books.
And we mean AWESOME books. Erin’s an executive editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House, where she has been for 14 years. Erin works on a wide range of projects from picture books to young adult fiction, and is the editor of The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey, The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman, and The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan.
In 5 words, how would you sum up your job?
Rewarding, inspiring, dynamic, time-consuming, fun
What’s your typical day like?
Everyday is different, but the general pattern involves reviewing books in various stages of production (copyedited manuscripts, jacket proofs, ARC copy, etc), attending meetings, answering emails and phone calls, working on manuscripts and writing editorial letters, corresponding with authors, agents, and foreign publishers, and, on rare but blissful occasions, reading (most of my reading, however, is done at home and on my commute.)
Why did you decide to become an editor? How did you get started?
I was an English major in college and took a six-week publishing course at Radcliffe (now held at Columbia) after graduation at the suggestion of one of my professors. I accepted a position in the adult publicity department at Random House shortly thereafter, and while I enjoyed my time in the publicity department, it was abundantly clear that I was not cut out to be a publicist. After a year, I took a job a few floors away, assisting the legendary editor Janet Schulman at Knopf Books for Young Readers. Janet knew everything about children’s books and I knew nothing, but, fortunately for me, she was willing to share her knowledge.
When you read a new manuscript you might acquire, what are you looking for? I am looking for confident, original writing when I read a new manuscript. I want to publish well-told stories featuring characters that pop off the page.
Do you ever have to turn down manuscripts you love?
I’ve been very lucky and feel that I’m able to pursue projects I love here at Random House. I have definitely lost a few manuscripts in auction situations, which is always heartbreaking. But that’s part of the publishing world.
What’s the best part of working with debut authors? The most challenging?
I love the enthusiasm of debut authors, though it can be a challenge to manage expectations.
What are some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on?
It would be impossible for me to choose a favorite. I love all of the projects on which I work. I wouldn’t have acquired them otherwise.
Who’s your fictional crush (or favorite fictional character)?
I have many fictional crushes—Swimmy in Leo Lionni’s Swimmy for his creativity and team spirit, Frances in Russell and Lillian Hoban’s Frances books for being irrepressible, Ferdinand in Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand for being a pacifist bull, Anastasia Krupnik in Lois Lowry’s Anastasia books for being smart and thinking outside the box, and Hans Hubermann in The Book Thief for being the very best kind of soul.
Hungry for more? Join us on February 28 for the In Stores Now live chat to learn more about publishing business from Erin and authors Rachel Hartman (Seraphina), Alexandra Monir (Timeless) and Elizabeth LaBan (The Tragedy Paper).