Interview with an Editor

Emily Fahey Book Publishing, Team

Here at the Scribe Source, we are fortunate to have a book editor for a New York publishing house who also works as a part-time copyeditor on our team. We thought it would be fun to interview Rachel Diebel, an editor with St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan, about her unique line of work and how it informs her role at the Scribe Source. The result is a fascinating window into the world of book publishing.


Emily Fahey: How did you first get interested in editing and publishing?

Rachel Diebel: I first heard of editing as a job when I was in middle school. I distinctly remember hearing an editor on a podcast and knowing right away that this was what I wanted to do. A career where I could read books for a living? Perfect!

EF: Where did you go to school, and what degrees did you get? How did they inform your decision to pursue the publishing field?

RD: I earned my BA in English at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA, which I picked partially because it offers a minor in Publishing and Printing Arts. I loved my PPA classes, and they solidified that publishing was definitely where I wanted to be. From there, I knew that I had to move to New York if I wanted to get a job in traditional book publishing, as all the big five publishers are located there. I chose a two-year master’s degree in publishing from Pace University, where I graduated in May 2018.

EF: What do you do now, and how did you get this job? Did you pursue any internships or have relationships that connected you to your job?

RD: I got an internship at a children’s imprint of Macmillan in grad school. I stayed on for a second semester and kept my eye out for other openings in the company. I also asked my internship bosses to let me know if they heard about anything opening up. Eventually, I was hired as an editorial assistant at St. Martin’s Press, and I’m now an assistant editor. The connections I made at my internship were crucial to getting hired—my boss let me know about the opening before it was even posted, so I took the person I would be replacing out for coffee to chat about what the job would be like before I actually applied.

EF: What would you like to be doing in the future?

RD: I recently got permission to start acquiring and editing my own projects, so I’d love to find a manuscript or two that I love and start doing that as soon as I can. I’d also love to eventually move back to a children’s literature-focused imprint like the one I interned in—I love my job, but my real passion is for kid lit!

EF: What is your favorite part of your job?

RD: The people. Book people are the best people. Almost every single person I’ve worked with or met has been absolutely lovely, which is great in a job that can be stressful. I also love that part of my job is to make dreams come true. Whenever an author hits the best seller list for the first time or gets to hold their finished book in their hands for the first time, they are always so grateful and thrilled. I sometimes get a little weepy—it never gets old!

Book people are the best people, says editor Rachel Diebel. Learn more about the life of a New York book editor in this interview with one of our team's contract copyeditors who spends her days at St. Martin's Press. #editing… Click To Tweet

EF: What is the most unexpected part of your job?

RD: An unanticipated side effect of working in publishing is that it has become really difficult to read for fun. I read submissions for my bosses, for myself, and for coworkers, I read drafts of books to edit them . . . with all of that, it can be really hard to spend my free time doing yet more reading! But I try to reserve a little time for it each day because I don’t want to forget the reason why I entered this industry.

EF: What does a typical day look like for you?

RD: I assist two different editors in addition to looking for my own manuscripts to buy and edit, so my job is really split into my editorial work and my assistant work. I’ll spend most of an average day doing work for my bosses. It’s my job to shepherd books that my bosses have finished editing through the rest of the production process to becoming a finished book. I have to communicate with the authors about deadlines, look over copyedited and pass pages, and ensure that everything is going smoothly and on time. I attend a few meetings each week, but the best one is our editorial acquisitions meeting, where editors bring up projects they love for discussion to determine whether we should buy and publish them.

With the rest of my time, I read! I read submissions for my bosses, myself, or my coworkers who are seeking a second opinion. All the actual editing in publishing is done at home, after hours. I coedit a few manuscripts with my boss, accompanied by as much caffeine as I can get! When I buy my own book to publish, it will also have to be done in the evenings, with my cat on my lap and a cup of tea.

Do you want to enter the publishing industry? Hear from Rachel Diebel, an editor at St. Martin's Press, as she shares her journey into the world of books and gives practical advice for getting started in the industry. Click To Tweet

EF: What tips do you have for people who want to enter the publishing industry?

RD: If you want to work in traditional trade book publishing, you really do need to move to New York since the industry is centralized there. I cannot recommend getting an internship (or two, or three) enough! It’s a great way to learn about the industry and figure out which part you really want to work in. Persistence is key. I applied for dozens of internships before I got one, but I did get one! When you eventually land that key interview, make sure to do your research! Look up the kinds of books the publisher does and sound knowledgeable about them.

EF: What do you like about working with the Scribe Source, and how does it connect to your work as a book editor?

RD: I like working for the Scribe Source for several reasons. I feel like it gives me much greater empathy for the copyeditors working on my books because I know the amount of work they put in and how often they are underappreciated by authors. There is nothing more valuable than a really excellent copyeditor! I also think working for the Scribe Source makes me better at my day job. I am much more likely to notice mistakes when looking at copy for marketing or advertising or when looking over a finished book cover. My copyediting work is nice because it’s a totally different skill set—I can put my headphones on and focus for a few hours a day, have a tangible result, and be able to see all my work!


Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post that looks at the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing, as well as how you can determine which is right for you.

Have a finished manuscript that’s ready for developmental editing or copyediting? Get in touch with us to see how we can help!


About the Author

Emily is a fundraising professional with ten years of experience in higher education and public media. She specializes in writing direct mail and email fundraising appeals, website copy, capital campaign marketing materials, copy for on-air live read and live pitching campaigns, and fundraising training manuals. She first joined the Scribe team in 2014.