I’d like to welcome Amanda Bergeron of Avon/HarperCollins to Mysteries and Margaritas today. I’m very excited she has agreed to let me interview her. First I’d like to find out a bit about Amanda Bergeron, the person, not the editor.
Mary: Where did you grow up? Or where are you from?
Amanda: I was born and raised in Maine, about 45 minutes north of Portland.
Mary: Do you know Stephen King? Just kidding. What are some of your favorite hobby’s? Other than reading.
Amanda: I love to learn to cook and create new recipes, play tennis, hike, visit new places, and take advantage, as much as I can, of all the culture available here in NYC.
Mary: But do you like to clean up the mess? It does sound like you're very active, even in the big city. When you were ten what did you want to be when you grew up?
Amanda: A geologist. I'm not entirely sure I knew what that meant though.
Mary: Having met you, I can actually picture you studying and researching the history and structure of the earth. On to the next, were you a girly-girl growing up or a Tom boy?
Amanda: I took ballet and gymnastics at some point or another, but when it came down to it I could always be found playing soccer with the boys at recess or street hockey with the guys in the neighborhood. I also loved my dolls and barbies, so I guess I had a fair balance.
Mary: I love NYC and I don't live there and can not answer this next question. What is your favorite thing to do in New York?
Amanda: While there are a lot of "big city" fun things to do (museums, shows, restaurants etc.) I particularly love going for walks up in Fort Tryon Park or by the Hudson River up near the GW Bridge. It's always so nice to find pockets of nature within the city.
Mary: Next time I'm there I'll have to visit both those places. Okay let’s get to know the Amanda Bergeron the editor: If you didn’t want to be an editor when you were ten, when did you decide you’d like to be one? Are you in your first Editing position?
Amanda: I think it was in the back of mind for a long time, but I actually went to college for print and multi-media journalism. It wasn't really until the end of my junior year (and about 5 months into a 6 month newspaper internship) that I realized what I really wanted to do. Yes, this is my first position.
Mary: Did you actively pursue Harper Collins for your editing career?
Amanda: Like any college grad, I applied anywhere and everywhere I saw an opening. Luckily, I wasn't too far along in my search when I moved to NYC and was able to get an informational interview with Human Resources at HarperCollins. That apparently went well, and I was invited back for further interviews when a position opened up…and then I got lucky.
Mary: Apparently it was meant to be. LOL. Walk me through a typical day for Amanda.
Amanda: Around here, no two days are quite alike, but I'll try! Let's pretend it's a Wednesday:
9am- Arrive with coffee in hand, and start checking/answering emails.
10am- We have a cover conference with the art department to plan and discuss artwork for upcoming titles.
11am- Answer more email, check snail mail. Do any of the following: send out checks to authors/agents, work on fact sheets for upcoming titles, transmit a manuscript to production for copy-editing, pull together a contract request for recently acquired books etc.
12:30pm- Lunch, hopefully with colleagues (and outside in the summer)—but sometimes at my desk
1:30pm- Any of following: Read a submission, respond to an agent, respond to more email, work on an edit letter to an author etc.
2:30pm- Editorial meeting—editors, publicists, sales rep, publisher all meet to discuss recent submissions, acquisitions, rejections, etc. Bounce ideas around and get second reads on projects
3:15pm-end of day: Work on any of the things listed previously.
Honestly each day holds a fun and different set of challenges. But I'd say the biggest misconception is the idea that editors actually get to read and edit all day—generally that stuff actually happens outside the 9-5.
Mary: A lot more goes into your day than I though. Like others I thought a good portion of your day was reading/editing. What is the Avon/HarperCollins process? In other words, you receive a query, you request a partial and you want to read the full. Who then would you pass it too if you didn’t reject it? And so forth until an offer is made?
Amanda: If I read a manuscript I just love and can't stop thinking about, I'll first ask a colleague or two to take a peek. If I am able to rally enough support around a project, I would take it to our editorial director to get the okay to make an offer. If that happens, I would then touch base with the agent to begin negotiations.
Mary: Okay something for me to strive for, make a manuscript a reader can't stop thinking about! I know a lot of editors and/or agents say they are looking for the ‘Wow’ factor, or that fresh new voice. Or something that grabs your attention and holds on for the ride. As a writer I’ve heard it all and believe me I try to achieve it all. So what does Amanda Bergeron look for? What would a manuscript need to have, for you to not just ‘submit’ it to your senior editor, but campaign and lobby for that manuscript through the entire process until an offer is made to the author and/or agent?
Amanda: If a writer has a fabulous voice and has a natural instinct for creating chemistry then I am always more willing to consider more heavily even if the story isn't entirely wonderful. Certain things can be taught, but voice and the ability to make a reader's heart stop are something special.
Mary: My favorite stories 'make my heart stop' so I know what you mean. Last but not least, if you could only offer a single bit of advice to an unpublished writer, what would it be?
Amanda: I would say, continue working to hone your craft and DO YOUR RESEARCH. Look for an agent that is the best fit for you, and pay attention to which houses are publishing the type of stories you write.
Thank you, Amanda for spending your valuable time to give me and others a glimpse into your life. We really appreciate it.