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I am very, very excited today to be talking to my editor at Walker Books! Annalie is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met, as well as being an editing genius.
Her editorial notes are always spot on, to the point where I’m just nodding my head as I read them, saying obviously I should have done that! under my breath every other second. I’m convinced her line editing abilities are actually magic (she can find 10,000 unnecessary words to remove from a manuscript and completely change a plotline from slow to pacey in seconds – all without taking out a single scene. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?).
She also writes her own novels – Captive, a thriller about the Prime Minister’s daughter being kidnapped, is out now. I had to get her perspective on publishing, from both sides of the field.
What does your job involve?
Acquiring books for the children’s and YA fiction list at Walker Books, then working with authors on edits as well as supporting them throughout the whole publishing process. I also work closely with the design team to create a cover and liaise with our marketing and sales teams over campaigns and pitches to booksellers.
How did you get started in editing?
My first job out of uni was as a marketing assistant at a children’s publishing house. I fell in love with the books but knew that I wanted to be more hands-on with their creation. After getting some editorial experience at a magazine, I became assistant editor to the fiction publisher at Walker.
What are your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?
As a child, I loved A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, as well as Ursula Moray Williams’ Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and Jill Murphy’s The Worst Witch. Oh and The Witches by Roald Dahl. And The Deptford Mice by Robin Jarvis. (I loved so many books as a kid; I could write this list for ever.) As an adult, my favourite children’s books change, but at the moment I love Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. For younger readers, Frank Cottrell Boyce and David Almond are great. I’ve also just read Katherine Woodfine’s The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, which is gorgeous.
What drew you to The Next Together? 😉
The epic love story – I’m a total sucker for romance. I also really liked the characters, and the writing was very funny! Plus, the use of ‘original’ historical documents to help tell the story was unusual and intriguing. I would have loved that as a teen. (Is your head getting very big now, Lauren?!)
Yes, yes it is. Keep talking….
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Working with authors to make their book the best it can be.
You’re also a published author yourself. How does writing fiction affect your work as an editor, and vice versa?
I have definitely become more sensitive to my authors’ needs since becoming a writer myself. I like to think I’ve always been empathetic, but I really get it now – the insecurity and how exposed you can feel as a writer. It’s made me feel even more protective of my authors.
In terms of the way my editing affects my writing: I would say it has helped with structure. It has also made me less precious – if a scene doesn’t work, it has to go; that’s just the way it is. It can be hard to turn my editor’s brain off, though, so I can try to edit my work too early.
What are you proudest of in your career?
I feel proud every time a book arrives from the printers. (I felt especially proud when it was a book I had written!) It’s also lovely when authors tell me that I helped them to create the book they had in their head. That’s pretty special.
How do you go about choosing books to acquire? Is there anything in particular you’re currently keeping an eye out for on your book wishlist?
When I read a book that I want to acquire, I always get the same feeling – a desire to run around and tell everyone about it. However, acquiring a book is about more than just loving it. It’s worth new authors remembering that, as rejections can feel personal, but an acquisition is a business decision too. It’s about what else we have on the list, what is selling well and how we think this particular book might fit in.
I am always on the lookout for new and original voices and stories. I like books with complex characters, ones that surprise readers and make them think about things in new ways. And I like a love story too, but it has to have edge. Nothing too fluffy!
Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?
It certainly means that I don’t read as many adult books as I used to! If I’m not reading submissions, I’m reading published books to make sure I’m aware of the market.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into editing?
Talk to editors – ask them as many questions as you can to make sure that it is the job for you. Connecting with publishing professionals is much easier these days, with Twitter etc. See if you can go into a publishing house, to get a feel for the job. Read a lot and widely. Being an editor isn’t just about loving books. You have to be aware of the marketplace, both past and present. And finally I would say don’t think of editing as the only way to work with books. The publicity, marketing, sales and foreign rights teams all have lots of interaction with the books we publish. The job opportunities can be more varied and there are often more of them – especially at entry level.
Annalie Grainger is fiction commissioning editor at Walker Books. She joined Walker in 2007 and now edits a range of children’s and YA books by some very talented writers, including Jandy Nelson, Non Pratt, Zoë Marriott and Sarah Webb. Her authors have appeared on many award lists, including the Carnegie and the Branford Boase.
She is also an author. Her debut novel, Captive, written under the name A. J. Grainger, is published by Simon & Schuster. It was named ‘One to Watch’ by The Bookseller and was listed as one of The Telegraph’s best YA books of 2015. Her second novel is due out in spring 2016.
In other news: Final copies of The Next Together are in! Isn’t it pretty? A little birdy has told me that if you come to my panel at Nine Worlds, they may be available to buy a month early…..so get on that!
I wrote about my favourite Harry Potter moment for Jim Dean’s 50 Magical Moments celebration of the 35th birthday of Harry Potter.
I filmed a ‘Kiss/Marry/Kill’ based video with Alice Oseman, while drunk, called the Cinnamon roll challenge. You’re welcome.
A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.