Sarah started off at a literary agency and then moved on from there to a job at Scribner’s; she has also worked at Random House and MacMillan before landing at Simon & Schuster. In addition to her role as Senior Editor, Sarah was asked to start an imprint at Simon & Schuster called Simon451 (a nod to Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451) that is a digital-first model and is solely for publishing e-books.
Her visit was delightful and informative regarding what she deals with on a day-to-day basis. Besides getting an average of 700 manuscripts a year that she personally responds to (about seven of which she actually acquires), her days are filled with meetings, finding people to write blurbs for books, emails, letters, and phone calls to authors and agents discussing acquired books, as well as submissions; there is no editing done at the office, that is done at home in her “free time”.
Sarah keeps her book list diverse so she doesn’t get bored; it allows her to be exposed to all types of writing and genres, which is wonderful, yet so much diversity coming across her desk at once can become difficult. She also touched on the importance of the relationship that develops between the author and editor. There has to be trust, understanding, and compromise for it to be a successful partnership. For class we had to read a manuscript (The Intern’s Handbook by Shane Kuhn out in April) that Sarah had acquired and she spoke about how Kuhn wanted to work with her because she was straightforward about what needed to be done to the manuscript.
Sarah also talked about the post-acquisition experience. After the excitement of the first read has faded, there is a sobering moment that occurs when she goes back with an editing eye, a realization that a lot more work needs to be done than she first recognized. However, this is what an editor does and if you love the book, then the work is all worth it.
When asked what her favorite part of being an editor was she said, “working with incredibly intelligent individuals on a regular basis”; people who challenge her and open her eyes to things she may have never heard of or known. The worst part, she says, “is the disappointment of watching an author you worked closely with on a book you loved, not do well.”
Her obvious love for books, an innate understanding and instinct of what it takes to be a good editor and her open-mindedness in everything she acquires shines light as to why she is great at what she does (hard work, determination and drive play a large part, too). Her visit was an inspiration to anyone looking to become a Senior Editor. Thank you Sarah Knight.
Kimberly Richardson is a first semester student at Pace University and is interested in the book publishing industry, particularly editing. Her experience so far at Pace has been eye opening and she is looking forward to exploring all the possibilities the program has to offer.