How to Become a YA Publishing Editor
Learn how to become a YA Publishing Editor with Mari Farthing, Senior Editor at Buzz Books USA.
Buzz Books USA is a YA publisher specializing in multiple forms of publishing – short stories, novellas, full-length novels, you name it. They currently focus on online publishing with a playful approach to building communities around their books, whether it’s through art competitions for mutant bats or regular hive podcasts. Buzz Books have a buzzy gang of authors who share ideas and celebrate their work via Twitter, Facebook and secret online hideouts created by the editors. Buzz Books is an example of an indie publishing company that embraces new technology and methods of promotion, and we talk to Senior Editor Mari Farthing about what it’s like to live in this brave new world when your primary focus is words, words, words.
What made you become an online YA publishing editor?
I wouldn’t call myself an “online YA publishing editor” so much as just an editor. I kind of meandered my way into the job after years of writing jobs and magazine editing. When Buzz Books started up, I let Malena (Lott, Executive Editor of Buzz Books, USA) know that I would be available should she need freelance editors; she called my bluff and hired me as Buzz’s Senior Editor.
What is the pay like?
Working as the Senior Editor at Buzz, it’s a flat fee paid by the publisher, which is transparent to the writer. When writers sign a contract with Buzz, we ask for sweat equity from them – in the form of working hard to promote your own product, as we also work hard to promote you. But we don’t charge authors to publish their work, that’s a different sort of press entirely. For me, it’s a contract job, one of many that make up my monthly working landscape, but I would love to edit and develop writers full time.
Beyond that, I also offer independent editing services for writers who would like to work with an editor but perhaps not a publisher. Many writers are choosing to self-publish these days, but even if one chooses to self publish, it’s always important to work with experts (editors, designers) to ensure the highest-quality product.
What draws you to YA fiction?
Honestly, I abhor the labels, but I understand that they are a necessity when it comes to a marketing perspective. Certain story elements will place a story into a certain catalog. That being said, the story above all is the draw for me. Compellingly-written characters and situations. And it seems like the most tremendous writers are being drawn to the YA market, which is such a boon to the reader. The shelves are overflowing with amazing books.
Selfishly, I’m a mother to two “tween” kids who read a few years above grade level, smack dab in the YA range, and I like to get an idea of what they’re going to be reading. Being on the inside of the process gives me an early glimpse into what I can recommend to them.
What sort of training/qualifications/skills do you need?
Above all else, to be a good editor there needs to be passion, a love for words and a desire to collaborate. My job as an editor is to work with a writer, to get into the brain of that writer and when the words aren’t behaving, figure out what they were meant to do, help that writer’s voice escape to the page. Bringing a writer from submission to contract and through editing to publication is like being a midwife; I feel as though I’m helping the writer to birth their creative product. I feel very responsible to that writer.
There are no university degrees that I know of that will make you a better editor than others; I have a management degree and my elective courses were primarily English and literature courses; I’ve just always had a love for writing and a love for editing and a desire to work with words.
Do you get job satisfaction? What are the perks?
I get to do something that I love; it can be difficult and trying some days, but ultimately, I enjoy editing. Meeting writers and being surrounded by creativity, I would count that among the perks. I get to meet amazing people and I’ve made some fabulous friends through this work. I get to be a part of a process that is often the realization of a dream. That’s powerful!
Are there any downsides?
It’s terribly mentally draining. It’s helpful to be extremely organized. Which I am not. But I am honest and sincere and when I make a mistake, I am always honest and forthcoming and that is important. It may seem initially easy to be an editor – (to be PAID? For READING?) but it is time-consuming and detail-oriented.
How physically/mentally demanding is the job?
See previous answer regarding the mentally demanding! Physically demanding, well not really directly. Unless you count paper cuts… occasional typing-induced carpal tunnel syndrome… and the job-related stress sends me to the track to run in an effort to burn off said stress, so that is a bit physically demanding.
Most glorious career moment to date?
As an editor, my moments are primarily behind the scenes moments, which I’m okay with! I published a short story (under my maiden name, Mari Hestekin) in an anthology last fall, and it felt pretty awesome to have accomplished that. But I think the best, most glorious thing has been seeing writers whom have gone from pitch to publish with me. Especially those who have been previously unpublished, makes it all the more meaningful!
Danger? Well, not so much. Danger of losing my grip when I’m working on a deadline and my kids are underfoot. Danger of getting into a serial comma disagreement. But not literal danger.
What advice would you give to anyone interested in being a publishing editor?
Follow your love for words. If you want to be an editor, find a way to make it happen. Read as much as you can, in as many genres as you can tolerate.
Mari Farthing, Senior Editor at Buzz Books, USA.