Today on the blog I have McKenna Gardner, who is an editor at Xchyler Publishing.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background. What did you study in college?
I grew up all over the country. Though born in Idaho, I’ve lived in twenty-five different homes and learned at an early age to adapt, make friends, and find joy in the little things. My childhood was spent pretending one scenario after another. My three older brothers and I would often act out battles between elves, trolls, dwarfs, and humans. (J.R.R. Tolkien was a big influence in our home.) As I grew up, I discovered that I enjoyed writing poetry and even research papers at school. I could always crank out a ten-pager in one brief sitting. I didn’t read as much as I wish I had, though. Much of my free time was spent out of doors and in sports where I thrived. Even today, I spend a lot of time backpacking, camping, rock climbing, and exploring.
In college, I studied recreation and ended up with a Bachelor’s of Science degree with a minor in Health Science and Sociology. It doesn’t help me much with my writing or editing, but it did help me to know how to write properly and succinctly. I have spent the last fifteen years trying to make up for the lack of reading I did as a child. Sometimes my family thinks I’m trying to squish fifteen years worth of books into a few days, but I do pop my head up every once in a while. After starting to write fiction about twelve years ago, I found a new passion and that’s what brought me into the world of editing, starting with my own amateur work. I like to think both skills have improved over the years.
What is your position at Xchyler and what do you do there?
I am the senior editor at Xchyler Publishing. I’m entering my third year with the company. It has been an adventure, that’s for sure! My responsibilities include working with authors as a content editor, line editor, proofreader, or final approval editor. These each represent different stages for the manuscript. I also work with authors in developing their “brand”, including author photographs, marketing, and ensuring they represent their work in the best way possible.
As senior editor, I also work closely with the graphics department. I help assign ISBN’s, develop distribution plans, create ARCs for review, and find images that might work well for covers and marketing.
Sometimes I’m responsible for new editors and making sure they get their feet wet in a productive way. I also do my best at supporting Editor in Chief Penny Freeman. She’s a literary powerhouse! Above all else, I offer my resources and aid to authors. We all have difficult days when we simply want a sounding board. I love experiencing “aha” moments with my authors. They really are the cream of the crop at Xchyler!
What are your favorite and least favorite things about your job? What frustrates you and what excites you about this job?
You can probably guess that I love my authors and all the hard work they put into their creations. I haven’t found a perfect first draft yet, so I always appreciate when they are willing to improve and comfortable with defending their position on something. I certainly don’t have all the answers, so when they feel passionately about something, I enjoy respecting that and finding the best possible way to communicate their ideas to readers.
I struggle at times with balancing the workload. There’s just SO much to do in such little time, but it’s worth it when you finally release a labor of love out into the world. Occasionally, I come across authors that are unwilling to change or think outside the box. It’s definitely a challenge to work with that type of personality, but I find a way to make it work unless they are compromising the standards that Xchyler has worked hard to establish.
I’m excited about the direction business is going. We continue to grow exponentially and find artists that insist on blowing our minds. It’s very rewarding.
Can you tell us a bit about taking a new manuscript through the editing process? What does that entail and how long does it take?
I think I offered a glimpse into the work required to publish a book, but there are so many stages, it’s hard to list all the facets involved. Simply put, there are a few initial meetings to develop a plan of action, editing begins (content, line, proofreading, final approval, and final proofing), marketing develops their plan (distribution, video trailer, bloggers, Goodreads, reviews, interviews, Facebook release event, etc.), graphics gets involved with the cover and any promotional artwork, and then ARCs go out to readers. Reviews are very important in the publishing industry. Especially good ones. The book is usually uploaded and available online before the release date and party. We love throwing parties for our authors to celebrate their hard work! Afterward, it is a team effort to continue promoting the author and their book long into the future.
The entire process can happen within a few months, but six months or more is ideal. At this point, our docket is full until fall of 2015, but we are still accepting promising authors.
You also work as a freelance editor. How different is it from working for a publisher? What’s that process like and what does it involve?
Oh, it’s much, much simpler. When you remove all of the marketing, graphics, and distribution, everything becomes pretty cut and dry: guide an author through the process of making their work better than before. There are certain things you learn from operating in the publishing industry that someone may not know before (what trends are popular, what trends are not going so well, what publishers are looking for, what frequent mistakes authors make, and what ideas are overdone). It’s my responsibility to stay on top of those things so I can best serve my authors.
I like the simplicity of freelance. I’m not having to balance too many things at once. Instead, I can just dive into the work and focus solely on that. I find great fulfillment in editing, whether that’s helping develop a character more completely, making the “world building” more solid and consistent, or suggesting different ways of opening scenes. It’s also important that I stay on top of language changes. It’s a dynamic field! There are specific requirements when it comes to punctuation, grammar, and word-usage, but I also need to be aware of how to make an author’s language and voice stronger, active rather than passive. It’s a large responsibility by itself, so adding the publishing side can be a handful!
Can you talk about some of the books you’ve worked in (both for the publisher and indie)?
This question made me go back and think through all the manuscripts I’ve had my (virtual) nose in! I counted 25 just within the past three years. They cover many genres: children’s, middle grade, young adult, adult; fantasy, thriller, suspense, romantic, paranormal, comedy, steampunk, science fiction, and dystopian. I’ve had dragons and wizards, mechanical men and steam-powered trinkets, women on the run and female warriors, men who give up everything to gain everything, and spaceships that cover both space and time. The stories that make me happiest provide two important elements: interesting worlds and dynamic characters. I probably prefer character-driven books, but I’ve seen some decent plot-driven ones, too.
I’m always searching for brilliant artists, so anyone can contact me for a consultation. Those are always given freely.
Thanks so much, McKenna, for stopping by and answering these questions. It’s a fascinating process, for sure.