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Caroline Abbey is my editor. And she is amazing. Smart, insightful, pleasant, responsive, professional and just downright nice. I could go on and on, but this actually isn’t supposed to be a gush-session. It’s an interview.
Caroline agreed to answer a bunch of my questions about herself, her job, and The Mark…
How did you wind up in your current position?
CA: I majored in Creative Writing so I really thought I would be a writer. Then I spent a summer interning at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and I immediately changed my plan. I started my editorial career at Simon Pulse and have been at Bloomsbury for a little over two years now. I love it!
What are some of the books you’ve worked on?
CA: Say The Word, by Jeannine Garsee—a voice that spoke to me from the very first line! Two Parties, One Tux, and a Very Short Film about The Grapes of Wrath, by Steven Goldman—a book that still had me laughing out loud on the fourth read-through. Pandora Gets Heart, by Carolyn Hennesy—the fourth in a series that I was thrilled to inherit when the editor left Bloomsbury.
What’s something about your job that most people would be surprised to learn?
CA: My non-publishing friends are surprised by how much reading I bring home. It’s very difficult to get quality, quiet reading time at the office. Many authors are also shocked by the size of the slush pile when they visit the office. It’s pretty big!
How many books do you acquire per year?
CA: I don’t have an official goal number but I think last year it was five.
Why did you choose The Mark?
CA: Even before starting the manuscript, I loved the concept. It’s paranormal without being a vampire/werewolf/zombie novel. But it was the writing that really hooked me. The storytelling is smart and interesting and the romance is far from perfect (I loved that!). This is a novel that really sticks with you when you’re done.
When I’m considering acquiring something, I usually ask myself: “Can I read this book five more times and still love it?” because I’ll have to go over it at least that many times during the various stages of editing. I knew the answer was yes when we brought The Mark to acquisitions, but I was reminded of it when we got to the proofread pages of the typeset manuscript. The pages had been with Managing Editorial for awhile so I had some distance from it. When I picked the book back up to start reviewing the proofreader’s notes, I was sucked right back in! It was like returning to an old friend.
What steps does a manuscript have to go through to be acquired?
CA: We have a fairly formal process at Bloomsbury. First, I have to get a second read from at least one other member of my editorial team (sometimes more). Then, when we agree it’s something we’re interested in, I present the book at an acquisitions meeting. The meeting includes representatives from editorial, sales, marketing, publicity, subsidiary rights, and design. Once we (editorial) consider all of the feedback from the acquisitions team, we decide if we want to make an offer. Then it’s time to run numbers and send an offer. And then, you cross your fingers and hope you get the project!
The process often includes a conversation with the author at some point. But that tends to be decided on a book by book basis.
What was the most challenging part of The Mark’s journey to publication, from your perspective?
CA: Hmm…I’d have to say the cover. The first cover came fairly easily after a few in-house meetings to discuss ideas and some photo research. In fact, by the time I sent a “comp” (draft) we were already pretty sure we loved the image enough to make it final. Then we discovered the book shared a stock photo with another title pubbing in the same season. I loved the original cover so it was hard to go back to the drawing board. I also hate having to disappoint a writer who’s happy with her cover. But in the end, after a team effort, design gave us a cover I love even more than the first! So I’d say that challenge was well worth the work that went into beating it.
What was the most satisfying part?
CA: It’s all fun and exciting—especially with a debut. I loved presenting the book in various meetings and getting great feedback from sales/marketing/publicity. But for this book in particular it was really satisfying to see the way my editorial feedback played out in revisions. I’d asked for some significant changes (make Cassie younger, tweak major plot points, etc.) We’d discussed much of it pre-acquisition so it wasn’t a surprise and I was confident you could do the work. But, ultimately, I think the results were even beyond my expectations!
What are some of the projects you’re working on now?
CA: I’m just finishing up Deception, by Lee Nichols. It’s the first in a YA paranormal series that features an eerie New England backdrop, a ghostly murder mystery, and a kick-butt heroine. I’m also in the final stages of Pickle Impossible, a zany middle grade adventure about two kids traveling to an international pickle competition by debut author Eli Stutz. And the manuscript that’s on my desk as we speak is Andrea Seigel’s YA debut, The Kid Table all about teen cousins still stuck at the kid table at every family event.
What are some of your favorite books?
CA: I always panic when I’m asked a “favorites” question. I immediately forget everything I ever loved in that category. But here’s a short list of books I love (in no particular order): Matilda by Roald Dahl, The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, and the Harry Potter series (I know it’s sort of cliché but this series reminded me how much I loved to read when I was somewhat burned out at the end of high school.)
Okay, now tell us a little about you. Your formal bio, if you will…
Caroline Abbey is an Associate Editor at Bloomsbury Children’s Books and pretty much considers this her dream job. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing from Hamilton College where, over the course of many writing workshops, she discovered she loved editing more than writing. When not editing, Caroline loves drinking milkshakes, playing guitar hero, and obsessing over the cuteness that is her parents’ golden retrievers. She is also super excited (and sad) about the last season of Lost.
Thanks so much, Caroline! For the interview and more importantly, for finding so many ways to make The Mark a better book!