It’s hard to explain how excited I get with each new installment! So many smart and interesting individuals have already participated, to which I find myself fortunate to include Michele Wells in this month’s Red Sofa Chats. I’ve long enjoyed her banter and insight on publishing in the Twitterverse. Plus, Michele is a great editor, tech savvy, and makes sure to contribute to her community. Last but not least, I can’t help to encourage that you follow her on Twitter, as you’ll see she too agrees on its many benefits.
For anyone who comments or asks Michele a question, you’ll be eligible for nonfiction proposal critique. The winner will be announced on Sept. 29th.
Bio: Michele Wells has fifteen years of experience in publishing, both in print and multimedia. Currently working as a senior editor for DK Publishing editing illustrated nonfiction for children and adults, she previously acquired adult nonfiction for McGraw-Hill and Penguin Group USA, and edited series nonfiction for children and young adults. The author of several nonfiction books, she holds a BA in dramatic writing and art history from NYU and is pursuing a master’s in adaptations and documentary film, also from NYU. Michele is the founding chair of First Book-Brooklyn, a nonprofit organization focused on getting new books to children in need; she also volunteers regularly with the literacy and mentoring program Everybody WINS! Power Lunch. She lives in Brooklyn.
1. Why did you choose to become an editor?
I can’t think of a time when I ever wanted to do anything but work with books. I’ve been reading since I was three years old, and still have some of the first “books” I wrote and illustrated when I was five, so it was basically a foregone conclusion that I’d end up working in publishing.
When I was 19 I applied to work at a temp agency that did staffing for Prentice Hall, which was at the time part of Simon and Schuster. I took an editorial test, was hired full-time, and went on from there. That’s why, whenever people starting out in publishing ask who you “need to know” and how to “break in,” I encourage them to try something a little different. Temping got me into publishing—and to this day every single editorial job I’ve gotten has come through simply submitting an application on the company’s website. I really do think it’s less of who you know than what you know, and how you present that information to showcase your qualifications for a given position.
2. Are there any projects you wish you could have edited?
I’ve edited nonfiction throughout my entire career, but tend to read fiction for fun. Two recent novels I’ve loved, and would have loved to have edited, are The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern, and Those Across The River, by Christopher Buehlman. Both are really fantastic reads—I highly recommend picking them up! In nonfiction, I would have loved to have worked with Mary Roach (Stiff, Spook, Packing for Mars), whose books are an absolute blast, or Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City, In the Garden of Beasts), whose writing is simply gorgeous.
3. What are you reading right now (for personal reading, for fun)?
I’ve just finally gotten my hands on an advance of Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, and am devouring it. My all-time favorites (at least, for today) are Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Eugenides’s Middlesex, and Pamuk’s My Name is Red. I still haven’t yet gotten around to buying an ereader for personal use, so I still read almost everything in paperback. This means I’m either two years behind what everyone else was reading in hardcover, or ahead of everyone else if I’ve gotten my hands on an ARC. (Which adds another point to the ereader argument, of course—but there’s just something about a physical book that I’m not ready to give up for pleasure reading.)
4. How do you utilize Twitter? How do you believe it has changed the way we go about publishing books?
I’ve sourced everything from opinions on an idea I was developing, to experts for technical edits, to authors with niche experience and specific audience appeal on Twitter. You can put a question out on Twitter, and within hours—or sometimes even minutes!—you’ll have leads that you wouldn’t have found through other means.
In addition to the obvious network expansion Twitter provides and the ability to have a discourse with others in your field whom you might not have known otherwise, Twitter opens the door to quite a lot of give and take within the industry. And Twitter not only helps writers build a platform and a maintain a direct connection with their audience, but encourages concise, precise writing, as well. If you only have 140 characters in which to say something, your writing really has to be tight to be effective.
5. If you had a crystal ball, where do you think (or hope) publishing will be in 5 yrs?
I think in general we’re increasingly becoming more concerned about the global appeal of content, and the shifts we see now in publishing reflect that. I would imagine that as we continue to strengthen offerings with ebooks, book trailers, enhanced video books, and shared online content, paper books will become items that are to be collected and saved—but overall the content will have a much more global appeal. In addition to the obvious growth in all things digital, it may be that translation and foreign rights will be areas that will expand in the next several years.
Michele, once again, thank you! For my readers, what are your thoughts? Your questions? Do you agree that Twitter will help bring a larger global appeal to books and publishing? What has been your experience with writing, working with social media, or finding your niche in the publishing world? Let’s discuss. . .