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Interview with an Editor: Julie Matysik

SARAH: Hey everyone! I’m here with Julie Matysik, editorial director of children’s and education publishing at Skyhorse Publishing or, as I like to call her, my editor. Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat.

JULIE: Thank you for asking me.

SARAH: Let’s get started with the first question. As an editor, what is your role in the publishing process?

JULIE: An editor actually wears a lot of hats in the publishing process. In addition to actually acquiring a book and then working on both conceptual and line edits for a manuscript, editors are also the author’s and agent’s point person throughout the process. An editor is, in effect, the liaison between the publishing company’s various departments and the author—and the author’s biggest advocate in the house. I’m also quite involved in the cover design process for my books, meeting weekly with our designer to discuss concepts, to review comps, and to make sure we get the package right (and, as you know firsthand, this process can be long—and sometimes a bit painful).

SARAH: Oh yes. But man, the wait is so worth it!

JULIE: I agree.

SARAH: So, when it comes to actually getting the books sold to stores, how closely do you work with the sales team?

JULIE: I am also very active in presenting my books to our sales force, both in house and at our distributor, and I make sure our sales team has all the information (comparable titles, author platform, plot summary, key points about how the book fits in with YA trends today, etc.) to go out and successfully sell the book to customers and retailers. I also participate in occasional sales calls to customers as well as meetings with the book clubs and fairs to pitch books on my list in the hopes that rights can be licensed. And then there is also the nitty gritty work—writing catalog and flap copy, soliciting blurbs for the jacket, updating online metadata to reflect new reviews and blurbs, etc. I funnel the edited manuscript through to production, checking typeset pages, reviewing copyedits and proofreads, and making sure the author is 100% happy with the end result before we send the book to press.

SARAH: And I can attest that you are AMAZING at your job. I don’t think I could have possibly had a better debut experience. I’m spoiled for the rest of time. LOL. Now, what qualities are you looking for in a manuscript when you decide to offer a contract?

JULIE: For YA in particular, I really am looking for strong characters, engaging and interesting plot (I don’t want to see something I’ve read in numerous books before), and at least a dab of humor (even if the story, on a whole, is dealing with tough issues). I don’t need the structure to be completely finalized but I do want to see writing that is compelling and an author who has an authentic voice that will speak to tween and teen readers.

SARAH: What was it about It’s A Wonderful Death that made you know it was a title for Sky Pony Press?

JULIE: It was your voice, frankly, that sold this to me as a Sky Pony book. I couldn’t stop laughing and then crying alternatively throughout and that’s something you don’t always find in a submission. I like to do books that are a bit different, that have a quirky side to them (whether it be in plot or characterization), and It’s a Wonderful Death fit that bill! It’s a book that, on the surface, can be read just for the pure fun of it—for the laughs and the scenarios and the great, memorable character and scenes. But then deeper, after you’ve gotten to the end, you realize that you’ve just read a book that has a lot of layers, that isn’t all that it appears on the surface (and which makes it all the better than what you initially thought). That’s the kind of title I want on the Sky Pony list, and that’s what we’ve gotten with your book.

SARAH: Wow, you just sold me on my own book. Again. Okay, I have to ask, because I’m always curious, but other than RJ, do you have a favorite IAWD character and if so, what makes them stand out?

JULIE: I love Gideon, to be honest. I love that he’s kind of bad at his job, in some ways, but that deep down he’s actually rooting for RJ and wanting her to make better choices and to get back to her old life. He’s a bit mysterious, too, which adds to the allure. Of course, I love all the characters, since I’ve spent so much time with them, but Gideon is the one I always go back to. I think it’s his fallibility as a character that makes him seem so real, if a Grim Reaper can be real…

SARAH: I agree with all of that. He was a fun character to pit against RJ in the opening chapter. Another question I’ve always wondered is what is your “favorite” part of your job? I love revisions, as you are well aware of, but with everything you do, the idea of it is overwhelming. But I can tell you love it and I want to know why.

JULIE: That is such a tough question, as I have many “favorites” for many different reasons. But I’d have to say it’s the process of working with my authors, of seeing their books take shape in a way that maybe wasn’t realized at the beginning, and of getting those “squee!” emails when the finished copies land on their doorstep. Even though most of my authors and I never meet face to face, they make my job enriched and rewarding (and without them, I’d having nothing to edit!).

SARAH: And there are some FANTASTIC authors at Sky Pony. I’ve had the good fortune to get to know several of them. Proud to be a part of the SP family. Speaking of which, here’s a chance to talk about some of the upcoming titles written by Sky Pony Press authors. And go.

JULIE: We have some really fabulous books that are publishing in the next few months. We have a trove of middle grade fiction that I’m really excited about: A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel is about a girl with albinism who is trying to prove that she isn’t actually different than anyone else—the book has a lot of heart and a farting dog!; Playing Juliet by JoAnne Stewart Wetzel follows one thespian’s dream to play the role of Juliet before her beloved children’s theater closes; and Dead Possums Are Fair Game by Taryn Souders uses a deceased possum to prove that math isn’t all that scary (and can actually teach you a thing or two about being flexible in life). And then there are a couple picture books I’m really looking forward to: I Want to Eat Your Books by Karin Lefranc and Tyler Parker (about a zombie who eats books, not brains!);The Daring Prince Dashing by Marilou Reeder and Karl West (a Cinderella story told from the prince’s perspective—with a blindfold trip to the zoo as well); and Tough Cookie by Kate Louise and Grace Sandford (a ginger-less gingerbread man goes rogue in the bakery, causing all sorts of mischief). And, of course, we are getting our spring 2016 catalog together, so there will be so many more fabulous books coming down the pipeline!

*Long Pause. Scribbling can be heard in the background.*

SARAH: Sorry. I was just adding all of those to my TBR list. Except for A Blind Guide to Stinkville because I’ve already read it and LOVED IT! Julie, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I know you have so much on your plate, but I really appreciate it!

JULIE: It was my pleasure, really.

SARAH: Well, there you have it folks, a chat with my amazing editor, Julie Matysik.

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