Today I have Mallory Braus from Carina Press, talking about how she became an editor and what editors do, etc.
Just so you know, she’s my editor at Carina Press, and she acquired The Last Slayer and edited it. :)
Ramiel has his own reasons for offering Ashera his protection. He knows her true identity and the real reason the demigods want her dead. What he can’t predict is how she’ll react when she discovers he knew who she was all along…
Ashera is shocked to discover that she is the only daughter of the last slayer. To claim her destiny, she and Ramiel must join forces to face down danger and outwit their enemies. Only then will she be able to truly accept her legacy…
Hi Mallory, thank you for being here! :)
Thank you so much for having me, Nadia!
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in the Midwest but moved to California with my family right after high school. Once in CA, I enrolled in school as an English major. In 2006, I accepted a scholarship to study abroad in London—which only further strengthened my love for stories. Living in a city where just wandering down the street allowed me to trace the path where so many authors had walked before. I graduated from UCLA in 2009 with my BA in English.
How did you become an editor? What sort of skill sets do you need?
This is a bit funny as, in my story, everything fell into place very serendipitously. I was attending UCLA with the intention of getting a teaching certificate. Not necessarily because I wanted to be a teacher, but because I didn’t know what else to do. I’d never put together that the books I loved and read over and over and over again were not the books that were turned in originally. I knew editors existed, but in my mind, they acted exclusively as copy editors.
Until one day, my mom forwarded me an ad from bookjobs.com for an internship for a literary agent—the wonderful Emmanuelle Morgan. My whole life path was changed the day she emailed to tell me I got the position. I worked remotely (as she was in NYC and I was in CA) but she was so, so wonderful in involving me through the various stages of publication and letting me take on more and more responsibilities as time went on. I started out reading partial submissions, moved on to reading full submissions and writing recommendations, then continued on to read manuscripts she’d acquired and add editorial suggestions.
I went to visit NYC my senior year in college. Emmanuelle helped me set up numerous information interviews with established romance editors, to gain information on what the industry is like and how to pursue a career in publishing. Everyone I met was so nice and willing to share insider advice. I’d expected to walk in to The Devil Wears Prada and instead, it felt like The Ya Ya Sisterhood! During that trip I met Rose Hilliard. I’d only spent ten minutes in her office before she invited me to act as her intern/reader. It was that moment—that exact moment—that I decided I wanted to be an editor. At that moment I realized, ‘This can be real. I can really do this.’
I’ve never looked back.
In terms of skill-sets, I’d say the first key is to read. Read bestsellers. Read the books that should be bestsellers, but for some reason aren’t. And especially, read the books that are unsuccessful. Always be analyzing. Why does this work? Why doesn’t this? Have a solid grasp for grammar. If you’re looking to work w/ developmental edits and line edits, be able to see the book as a whole, a section, and a single line all at once. Be detail oriented and passionate. Keep up to date on the market’s trends.
You have experience working for a literary agency and a Big Six publishing house. Why did you choose to become an editor? Why Carina Press?
This may sound corny, but I don’t think I chose editing. I think it chose me. I didn’t know it at the time, but the moment I accepted that first internship was the moment my path in life changed forever.
Now with that said, I struggled. I visited NYC and stayed for over a month. And realized I couldn’t stay in that city. It was a hard realization to come to—having to face the realization that I couldn’t live in the city where (up until the last few years) you HAD to live to work in editing. I flew back to LA defeated. Or so I thought…
Before my trip to New York I had sent Angela James a cold contact cover letter asking if Carina was hiring. I’d heard news of the imprint, read several of their books, and believed in their motto of “Where No Good Story Goes Untold”. A month after I returned to the suburbs of Southern California (and quite a few pity parties later) I got a response asking if I was still interested in applying.
Then magic happened. I’ll let you in on a not-so-secret. I have the best job. Carina Press starts trends. They make sure editors are working on books they love. I’ve been blessed to work with a wide range of authors, all of whom I adore. I can work with just about any genre (that CP accepts). And, I get to work in my pajamas. And the Carina team rocks. I really believe that I was meant to leave New York. I have a home at Carina. It was serendipity at its finest.
Carina acquires as a team. Have you ever wanted to buy a book that the acquisition team said no to? (If so, can you elaborate on what it means to the author and for you; i.e., can you do R&R with the author? Or are they encouraged to submit elsewhere, etc.)
This actually happens more often than most authors might think. Most times, the acquisition team will have a very specific reason for saying no to a manuscript. For example: It might be too difficult to market. Or a plot point made it difficult to suspend disbelief. Or it simply doesn’t seem like the right fit for Carina. In most cases, I’m encouraged by the team to write an R&R letter using both my notes and the specific notes given to me by the acquisition reader.
Even if that specific manuscript does not work for Carina, I like to email the author personally and encourage them to continue to submit to us. Though that manuscript might not be the right fit, there was something that drew me to the story and made me want to work with the author.
What are you looking for when you read submissions? What makes you want to buy a project?
First, I look for strong characters. The quickest way to my editorial heart is to create deep and engaging characters who reveal vulnerabilities and overcome obstacles over the course of the story.
I’m always fascinated in new and/or unusual worlds/places. Bringing the setting to life so that it stands as its own sort of ethereal character. And approaching plot and conflict in a way that keeps me turning the pages.
And of course a well-balanced voice that brings all of these things together.
What are the most common mistakes you see in submissions?
Oh, this is hard. I often see misused words—which is never an automatic rejection. However, when these appear in abundance, it does make me wonder how strong the author’s self-editing capabilities are. I also take note of “anonymous” query letters. For example: Addressing a letter with “Dear Sir” leads me to assume the author hasn’t done enough research on the company…
It’s difficult to label something a ‘mistake’ because reading submissions is so subjective. Last year, the Carina editors were able to enroll in Angela’s Self Editing workshop “Before You Hit Send” and I would highly recommend this for all authors (and editors!). She’ll show you how to keep an eye out for are things that stand out immediately when I’m reading. Echoes, overwriting, unnecessary information being given (which will often slow down the pace).
Other than The Last Slayer, what other titles have you acquired and/or edited recently?
I’ve been able to work with so many amazing authors. PJ Schnyder’s Hunting Kat, B.R. Paulson’s Whispers of Me, Janis Susan May/Janis Patterson’s The Hollow House and Inheritance of Shadows, Liz Flaherty’s One More Summer, Regan Summer’s Don’t Bite The Messenger, Stephanie Julian’s Sex, Lies and Surveillance, Alexia Reed’s Hunting the Shadows, and Cynthia Justlin’s Edge of Light. I’ll have more to add to this list, but I can’t announce acquisitions until the author has… ;)
Many people think that editors read all day at work. What do you really do as an editor?
I definitely do a lot of reading. But there’s a huge difference between reading for fun and reading for work. There have been times where it takes me an hour to read ten pages, simply because of how deeply I’m thinking while I read.
Editing is a bit like entering a bubble—becoming completely immersed in the story and yet considering every word, punctuation mark, plot point. While I’m reading, I might highlight a word or phrase and see how many times it appears. Then go through each occurrence to see if another imagery or phrase could be used. To skim back to another section to see if a paragraph or conversation would read more powerfully at an earlier or later part in the story. Keeping track of character traits. And also looking for areas where character growth could be brought out more, or a depths further examined. Always questioning “why?”
There’s also research. Checking facts, grammar rules, house rules, etc. Some days, the Carina editors will feel especially chatty (usually my favorite days) where we’ll help each other brainstorm or offer advice. And then there’s also weighing in on cover art and copy. Interacting with authors—sometimes even brainstorming via yahoo chat or by phone.
Please describe how an editor-author relationship works, and what editors bring to the table.
I consider the editor-author relationship as a partnership. My role is to help make the book as strong as it can be. This comes in so many forms. Helping grammatically, or helping an author’s voice come through and sparkle. Pointing out inconsistencies or confusions. Playing devil’s advocate with constant questions on motivation.
Authors and editors may not always agree—but the relationship is based on trust. An author has entrusted me with their baby. The story they’ve put their heart into. It’s very humbling. My job is to nurture that story, to help it grow, and fulfill the trust the author has put in me.
What do you read for pleasure? Any comfort reads or favorite authors (other than the ones you edit, obviously! :D )?
Oh man. Where to start? I enjoy reading outside my familiar zone. I love romance and most of the novels I read are romance novels. But I also love trying new genres and authors. Recently I read The Alienist by Caleb Carr and was sucked right in to the historical mystery.
Favorite authors: I love Nalini Singh, Deanna Raybourn, Suzanne Brockmann, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Julia Quinn, Suzanne Enoch, Kristen Higgins, JR Ward, Kay Hooper, Jim Butcher, Meljean Brook, and so many more.
One of my all-time comfort reads is the Anne of Green Gables series. I make it a point to re-read that series about once every six months.
Do you mentally edit the books you read for pleasure? Or are you able to turn off the professional processes?
You know, this is tough. It’s almost impossible for me to turn off ‘editing brain’. But, I’d say it works in various stages. There are books where I have a voice shouting at me about how things should have been done differently. Then there are books where every once in a while, I’ll hear a little whisper about how something could have been done differently. But there are the rare books where I am so wrapped up in the voice/story/characters that the editing brain remains silent. These are the books that generally wind up on my keeper shelf.
What kind of stories are you hoping to acquire in 2012?
I will read just about anything—except horror. I’m especially on the look out for mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi, speculative fiction, and dark paranormals. More than anything, I love character driven stories. Unique worlds. I love series, especially those with a ‘band of brother’ type feel.
The Carina Press editors recently did a call for submissions that lists some things I’m especially on the look out for here: http://carinapress.com/blog/2011/10/carina-press-call-for-submissions/
How should writers submit their work to you?
The best way is to submit to the Carina Press submission email address (firstname.lastname@example.org), but address your query to me. Angela then forwards the email to me, but it helps to keep track of submissions coming in.
If you could be any ice cream flavor, what would you be?
Ha! Can I cheat and say whichever flavor would keep me from being eaten?
If you had a super power that enabled you to overcome one thing (a fear, flaw, etc.), what would it be?
I would love the ability to teleport. I don’t think it’s a secret (to anyone who follows me on twitter) that I am terrified of flying. One thing at the top of my bucket list is to visit Scotland. But, my brain can’t even process the idea of an international flight. Wouldn’t it be amazing to close your eyes, maybe wiggle your nose a bit, and suddenly be across the country? Or across the world?
And you know, I’d come visit you in Japan as my first trip! :P
The book you think everyone should read is…?
This was one of the toughest questions. I’ve started to answer and then deleted several times.
I’m going to say Nora Robert’s Sea Swept. It’s the first in her Chesapeake Bay series and was the first romance novel I’d ever read. It’s still my favorite. What I look for now in character development, depth, vulnerabilities, ways to handle a series—it’s all in there. I re-read that series every month, whenever I need a pick me up. I love, love, love it!
Your Number One Pet Peeve is…?
Bad drivers. When I journey out to the city, I get so frustrated by the sheer idiocy I see on the roads. It’s gotten to the point where I refuse to drive during rush hour.
One thing you want to do before your next birthday is…?
To randomly be in the right place at the right time to witness a flashmob.
I hope you have a better idea of what editors do and what Mallory is like, in case you were thinking about submitting to Carina and wondered about editors there.
If you have any questions or comments for Mallory, please feel free to use the comment form below. :) BTW — if you are a writer, please do not pitch since she’s not taking pitches here. (I wanted to make that clear. Some editors do pitch contests on blogs, but this isn’t one. Thanks!)