Mentor Corner: Lucas Wetzel
Editor, Andrews McMeel Publishing
What brought you to publishing and what was your first job?
I authored and illustrated a book about phobias in the 4th grade that I’m quite proud of, even if it never landed with a major trade publisher. After that, I routinely made zines and self-published books, and eventually landed a job as a features editor at Universal Press Syndicate (now Andrews McMeel Syndication), the home of classic comic strips like Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, Cathy, Doonesbury, and others. Then in 2018, I joined the book group at Andrews McMeel Publishing, working mostly on illustrated humor books with occasional poetry or narrative nonfiction titles.
What was your career path like getting to your current role?
It was a bit haphazard since I lived outside of New York and was not nearly as connected as most publishing professionals. But I always had a curiosity and interest in books and would talk with authors and editors at comic cons, book fairs, and in our own company. Eventually, AMP President and Publisher Kirsty Melville recognized that interest and gave me the opportunity to work as a book editor.
What advice would you give to those who are either just starting out or are in their first few years in publishing?
Probably the same advice I still give myself today: Be patient and stick with it, try not to lose your sense of humor, and accept that there will be ups and downs. There will be difficult days where you question what you are doing, but also days where you see a fresh box of advance copies of a fantastic new book, or a starred review, or an email from a happy author, and it all feels worth it. Even if the learning curve can be painful at times, each difficult situation you face is an opportunity to master something new and conquer your fears of the unknown. And after a certain point, it’s best to shut off your computer or phone and just take a walk or get some sleep!
What have been some highlights of your career so far?
Working with all-pro NFL receiver Tyler Lockett to publish his debut book of poetry was a blast, including accompanying him to book launch events in Seattle. Helping Garry Trudeau design and produce his 50th anniversary Doonesbury publication was a monumental task. And working with webcartoonist Sarah Andersen on her recent bestselling book, Fangs, was a delight. Recently I have enjoyed preparing a few new children’s comic series for launch as well.
What is your favorite title that you’ve worked on?
I can’t pick favorites! But I have been thrilled by the rave reviews for Samantha Edwards’ debut middle-grade graphic novel, A Tale as Tall as Jacob (October 2021), which is about her experience growing up with a brother with ADHD. The book is an authentic, hilarious, and heartwarming portrait of one family’s journey toward accepting Jacob for the “tiny tornado” that he is. Samantha is a children’s librarian in my hometown of Kansas City who has long dreamed of publishing books, so helping a new author realize their dream has been a special thrill.