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Day in the Life (Remote): Matt Phipps

Assistant Editor, Penguin Young Readers

Day: Tuesday, July 26, 2022

9:00 – 11:00 am: I like to spend mornings drilling through emails that have piled up yesterday or earlier on in the week. Today is a lot of small, random, but crucial tasks like:

  • Making sure bookplates (blank pages creators sign, which go into large quantities of signed editions for bigger stores/accounts) get sent to an author and illustrator on time before they’re sent back to the printer to get bound into books.
  • Forwarding files for a video an author created back to Marketing.
  • Updating web copy (the copy that feeds out to online retailers and consumer-facing sites like Amazon) for one of our titles to include a nice quote from a review where our book is compared to John Green. (Woohoo!)
  • Writing and prepping an email blast for the company’s LGBTQ+ Network, which I’m on the board of.
  • Checking web copy/metadata for some of our backlist authors who have won a prestigious American Library Association award that has changed its name recently, to make sure all entries reflect the award’s name change.
  • Reprint corrections for a backlist title where the author discovered some typos/mistakes in the Serbian words used, and we want to get updated files ready for the next time the book is reprinted.

11:00 – 11:45 am: Today is Tuesday, so we have our weekly Status meeting, run by my imprint’s managing editor, which brings together everyone from our Production, Design, and Editorial teams to touch base on every title currently in production through the next few seasons. This is where the managing editor checks in with Editorial if jacket/cover copy or another material is running late, or checks in with Copyediting or Design to find out the status of a book currently being typeset, designed, or proofed. We also get updates from Production on books that are running late, printer and shipping delays, and other stuff that sounds dry but is actually pretty interesting!

12:00 – 12:45 pm: More small random crucial stuff!

  • More work on reprint corrections for the backlist title with updated Serbian. Changing the text means we have to update the copyright page when we reprint, and templates for these kinds of front matter elements change every couple of years, so there are a number of things to tweak.
  • Reviewing case samples (the case is the hardcover the pages are bound into) for a middle-grade novel. One fun surprise when I first started in editorial was realizing that editors get to pick the color of the case and the text printed on the spine! (Yes, I’m a nerd.)
  • Tracking down pdfs for a request from Production—the Spanish printer we work with wants to submit a picture book they printed for us to a prestigious award because it turned out so well.

12:45 – 1:15 pm: Lunch!

1:15 – 2:00 pm: You know the drill! Small, random, crucial stuff (SRCS).

  • Doing a corrections check and review of the current pass of a picture book interior and jacket to make sure any changes marked in the previous pass have made it into the next round.
  • Pulling together answers from Finance, Contracts, our audiobooks department, and my publisher to respond to e-mailed requests from an agent in an ongoing negotiation for my first acquisition! Once a publisher makes the initial offer to acquire a manuscript, if there are no other publishers competing for the project, agents typically counter by asking for improvements in terms of royalty rates, advance levels, and other stipulations relating to audiobook narrators, foreign rights, etc., and each ask from the agent requires me to get approvals from different departments to see what we are able to offer as a counter.
  • Relaying a different agent’s request for archival copyright agreements for a backlist series that’s been recently adapted for a streaming TV series. There’s a lot of back and forth between the production company, the agent representing the estate of the author, and my company—everyone wants to have confirmation of how rights have been transferred at various stages of the life of the book/adaptation. Luckily I just get to kick this request over to our Contracts department.
  • Reviewing the current pass of a novel just back from Copyediting, to make sure any changes marked in the previous pass have made it into the next round, and sending the pass to the author to respond to or sign off on all queries and suggested changes.

2:00 – 2:25 pm: On Tuesday we have our weekly Cover meeting with the design group who does the covers for all of our YA and middle-grade titles. The cover design group works for multiple imprints within my division, while our imprint-specific designers handle picture book covers and interiors for all of our books. Today we discussed a YA cover for another editor’s title, as well as cover sketches and title treatment options for the first two books in a new middle-grade series being edited by one of my managers. This is where we provide feedback that the cover designer relays back to the artist before the cover is ready to show to the author, marketing, and sales for more feedback before it gets finalized and made public.

2:25 – 3:30pm: SRCS for life!

  • Reviewing comments from Copyediting on the first interior pass pages of a new graphic novel, before forwarding it on to one of my managers.
  • Reviewing comments from Copyediting on another first interior pass for a new illustrated middle grade novel.
  • Reviewing an updated copyright page for another book we’re doing a reprint edition of. (Like the correction above, this reprint is for a backlist title so old that we need to update the front matter to reflect things like our company’s address, updated copyright and production info, etc.)
  • Posting a draft and outline, respectively, of two upcoming books in a new middle-grade series so the cover design group can work on providing instructions to the artist for sketches.

3:30 – 4:00 pm: Since my company went mostly remote during the pandemic, we’ve started a number of different platforms and recurring meetings hoping to bring insights and connections between different departments of our division who don’t necessarily work together on a regular basis. Today the Digital Marketing department provided an overview of their efforts across different social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.—they’re amazing and so much of our marketing efforts have gone digital in the past couple of years that it’s good to know what’s going on in their world.

4:00 – 6:00 pm SRCS till I die:

  • Writing to Contracts to check the status of a special permissions agreement they are drawing up so we can include some kid-authored short stories in the back matter of an upcoming paperback edition of a middle grade title.
  • Drafting the deal announcement for my supervisor’s acquisition of a picture book and the first four books in a new picture book series to publicize the acquisition in trade outlets like Publishers Weekly and Publishers Marketplace.
  • Updating our editorial archive to note that one of my managers’ titles landed on this week’s Kids Indie Next List, selected by independent booksellers.
  • Event planning for an upcoming LGBTQ+ Network event highlighting our Library Sales team’s efforts to support teachers and librarians across the country as their jobs are complicated by Republican-led efforts to ban books by and about queer and trans creators and characters, as well as books that reflect the reality of our country’s history in terms of civil rights struggles.
  • Researching illustrators on Instagram and other portfolio websites as part of my homework for my company-assigned mentor, who is helping me build a roster of illustrators and other creators I might hope to work with one day.

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