Clare Millar interviews Stacey Clair, Junior Editor at Hachette Australia.
What did you study?
I completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, then a Grad Dip in Writing, Editing and Publishing.
What would you say was most interesting in your studies?
This answer is probably going to sound abominably naff, but, in my second year of undergrad I was feeling pretty aimless and grappling with thoughts of dropping out of uni. Perhaps serendipitously, I was taking an editing subject while figuring my next move out, and during one particular assessment I realised that while writing is something I enjoy for myself, editing was where my real passion lay. I’d not really thought about that path much before then. That epiphany got me through a very difficult second year of study, and spurred me on for a long time after.
Junior editor roles are hard to come by! Tell us a bit about your journey towards this role.
I spent a very long time (years!) applying for jobs with publishing houses all over the country, interviewing, doing editorial tests, and getting knocked back. I did two internships: one with Hachette Australia and the other with Escape Publishing. I asked a million questions and absorbed as much information about what publishing looks like on the inside as I could. In the four years I was working at Queensland Writers Centre I ran an annual project in collaboration with Hachette—a company whose ethos and publishing team I really connected with, and a place I thought I would love to work one day once I’d established myself. When an opportunity came up for a Publishing Assistant to join Hachette’s Australian Publishing team in 2017, they approached me about applying and I was (thankfully) successful. All those rejections paid off in the end! I could not be more thrilled to have started my career in publishing with the company I’d always considered ‘the dream’ goal.
How would you say your role as junior editor differs to a publishing assistant or an editor? How do you feel supported in your development as an editor?
Well, even though I was working on books from about six months in to my role as the publishing assistant, that role really was (and is) about grunt work and learning how all departments in a publishing company work together to get a book from manuscript to market; there’s only so much your degree teaches you about working in-house. So I was doing a huge range of tasks from things like catering runs for meetings and arranging author photoshoots, to updating publishing data spreadsheets, proofing marketing materials, administrating cover and acquisitions meetings etc..
An editor on the other hand is focused on taking book projects from manuscript to finished product in collaboration with the book’s publisher and production controller, so that involves direct contact with authors and freelancers and book pages (!!), among other things—though I do still proof marketing materials from time to time.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There isn’t exactly a ‘typical’ day, to be honest, because every book and every author is so different. Of course we have production schedules with hard deadlines to hit, but, like almost any job ever, successfully juggling a lot of tasks is about identifying the priorities. On any given day I could be checking corrections into typeset pages, liaising with a cover designer, drafting promotional copy, checking metadata, writing a casting brief for an audiobook, reading submissions—the list goes on!
You’ve worked in bookselling and in a writers centre. How different are these book-related jobs to what you do now?
Very different! I see those jobs as being at almost opposite ends of the lifespan of a book. As a bookseller I learned to understand what readers wanted and how to put the right book in their hands. I learned how to sell stories. At the writers centre I worked with writers looking to improve their craft and learn about the industry, and facilitated events and programs that emphasised to me the importance of author advocacy and support.
Having experience at both ends of this spectrum gave me a great appreciation for the privilege of being able to work on the middle part.
What do you do to unwind from work?
As you can imagine, sometimes reading doesn’t feel like downtime for an editor, so heading to the cinema or loading something up on one of my innumerable streaming services is often how I zen out. This feeds my play-hobby as a pop culture reviewer (@thelessathletictypes), and also keeps me up to date about the kinds of trends happening across media—which is important for work when considering submissions. I also co-host That’s So Meta; a podcast about the un-real books on submission to the publishers in the TV show, Younger, and whether we think they’d make it in the real world.
Where do you see your career going next?
Ideally I’ll progress to a position in which I can commission work from Australian writers, particularly those writing genre fiction and who may be living outside capital cities. That’s a little while off yet but it’s the stretch goal!
What are you excited about or hopeful for (or concerned about!) in the future of Australian publishing?
I love the Australian writing community, and will always advocate for those living outside built-up areas who have less access to opportunities for development of their craft, or knowledge of the publishing industry. When I worked at QWC, I spent so much time connecting with writers in regional or remote areas who felt locked out of the writing community because arts resources outside major cities are scarce, and it’s still one of my most fervent passions—to advocate for those writers.
We have an incredible depth of untapped talent in this country, and as we’ve seen over the last decade, Australian publishing has gone from strength to strength, and continues to. I’m so excited to be part of a company, and an industry, dedicated to unearthing and showcasing more and more local talent.