We're thrilled to welcome Rachel Boden, Editorial Director at Walker Books, for our latest interview.
Rachel lives in Guildford, is a mum of two and a lover of cats and dancing.
I have always had my head in a book since I learned to read, and I wanted to be in the world of literature and stories on a day-to-day basis.
I'm currently working at Walker Books, which is an independent children's publisher. A typical day is spent reading and responding to emails - from authors, agents and colleagues - and having meetings. Authors and illustrators sometimes come in, which is always productive and interesting.
Or the meeting could be with a designer, looking at layouts or rough illustrations together. Or it could be with the sales and marketing teams, talking about new acquisitions, existing authors and brands, or prices and formats.
Of course, there's always a text to edit. Most go through several rounds with the author. As an editor, you get little time to read, ironically, so I read submissions on my commute. There is a constant flow of tea and usually some biscuits or cake in the office too.
I worked for a tiny independent in Brighton for a year, learning how to proofread and copy-edit, and then those skills proved invaluable when I applied for jobs in bigger companies in London.
Being in constant creative conversations with incredibly inspiring people - not just authors, but illustrators, agents and publishing colleagues. And helping to create amazing books, of course.
Not always winning the manuscript you've pitched for, and which you desperately want to work on.
A unique voice that is also believable, and a willingness to listen to feedback! With children's writers in particular, a knowledge of their target market is crucial - what do children actually want to read about?
It's difficult to specify - it's to do with voice, with original plot, with something that just demands you keep reading. I still remember when I read certain manuscripts as they were so refreshingly different - A Series of Unfortunate Events, for instance, or Artemis Fowl, or Skulduggery Pleasant. And one that's forthcoming from Walker - Malamander.
Respect. The editor must absolutely respect the author's voice and choices at all times. It's their book, after all. And if the author also respects the editor's thoughts and suggestions, then a really fruitful conversation can be had. They both have the same goal, after all - to make the book the best it can be.
It varies from author to author and manuscript to manuscript. I email most of them, and add comments on a Word document. Sometimes I give them an editorial overview in a separate letter as well. Usually we speak on the phone or meet up as well. We send various drafts back and forth until it's ready for copy-editing.
I couldn't possibly single any one moment - or anyone - out. I've had lovely comments from authors, and enjoyed working with them all. And I've had personal illustrations drawn for me by kind illustrators. I feel lucky every day to work in this industry.
No. I have written some books in-house, but to commission. My inner editor is too exacting regarding any ideas I may have myself!
Read books that your target market are reading. Know your space. If one idea gets rejected, don't despair, try to have another one up your sleeve. If something is rejected, it could be for many reasons, not necessarily your talent. Perhaps that publisher has got something similar coming up; or that story itself wasn't right, but another could be. Your day will come!
Thank you so much for joining us, Rachel. A great insight into the editorial world and some really great advice here for all budding writers.
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