This is your insider peek into the crazy world of publishing. Meet the people behind the books you love and discover what books these industry insiders are crazy about. Get ready to find your Next Great Read!
Anna Pitoniak, Editor at Random House
The Book: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks Dalton
Anna Pitoniak is an editor at Random House. She graduated from Yale in 2010, where she majored in English and was an editor at the Yale Daily News. Her debut novel, The Futures, will be published by Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown in January 2017.
When did you first decide you wanted to work in publishing?
I’ve always loved books, and have always been an avid reader, but it was when I worked as an editor at the campus newspaper in college that I started to realize this could be a job for me. Working with writers, helping them to refine and shape their stories—I loved that. I feel lucky that the reality of working in publishing has matched up with my vision of it—it’s the most interesting and rewarding kind of job I could have dreamed up.
What was your first job in publishing?
I worked as a subsidiary rights assistant at Penguin. I sold large print rights, some audio rights, some book club rights. I covered many different imprints across Penguin, ranging from literary to commercial. Each imprint operated a little differently, and being exposed to that range was fascinating.
What does your day to day look like?
It varies, of course, but an average day will usually involve a lot of phone calls and emails. As an editor, you’re talking with writers and agents, but you’re also constantly working with other people across the publishing house. You’re looking at jacket designs, writing flap copy, meeting with publicity and marketing, reviewing P&Ls, talking with the copy editor, brainstorming titles and subtitles, soliciting blurbs, reading proposals—and maybe, if you’re lucky, squeezing in a little bit of editing. Although often the actual editing happens outside normal work hours!
What is the most challenging part about your job?
The fact that there aren’t more hours in the day! There is a lot to juggle. There is the acquisition and editing of the books themselves, but then there is everything else that goes into publishing a book, which an editor is often deeply involved with. There are so many different priorities competing for your attention.
What is your favorite thing about your job?
Working with writers. I consider it the most important part of the job: helping a writer tell his or her story, whether fiction or nonfiction, in the strongest and truest and most compelling way possible. I think it involves a great deal of trust on both sides, which is a beautiful thing when realized, and which is what makes it so rewarding.
What do you think most people would be surprised to learn about working in publishing?
There is so much that goes into publishing a book. So many people have their hands in bringing a book to the wider world, whether it’s production, art, sales, publicity, marketing, subrights, academic and library marketing, the speaker’s bureau, and much more. And as an editor, you’re working closely with all of those teams.
Why did you choose to pose with Good Morning Midnight?
Because I absolutely adore this book! This is Lily Brooks-Dalton’s first novel, and the beautiful prose and vivid imagination on display here is stunning. I love the way Lily has taken a big, high-concept premise—something catastrophic has happened to the planet—but instead of focusing on the apocalyptic fall-out, she focuses on the inner lives of these two characters. The cover is really striking.
Can you tell us a little bit about it? Like what the other options were like?
Much of the credit goes to Lily. We had been playing around with a few other cover options, using the stars and the night sky as a backdrop, but they were more abstract. None of those were quite right, so Lily shared with us some of the evocative images she used as inspiration while writing the novel. This was one of them. I love the contrast of this image: the expansive night sky, and then the coziness of the tent. It captures much of the mood of the book—the way we’ve made a home for ourselves in the universe.
What other books have you recently worked on?
On the fiction side, some recent books I’ve worked on include The Girls by Emma Cline and A Doubter’s Almanac by Ethan Canin. I also edit nonfiction, and some recent titles include True Crimes, an essay collection by Kathryn Harrison, and Look at You Now, a memoir by Liz Pryor. One book I’m really excited for, coming out in November, is Victoria: The Queen by Julia Baird. It’s a juicy, riveting, page-turning biography, and the perfect holiday gift.
What is the book you most recommend to people who ask you for book recommendations?
There are two nonfiction books I am constantly recommending: Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez and Wind, Sand and Stars by St. Exupery. On the fiction side, I recently read Stoner by John Williams and I am now a complete evangelist for it.
What are you reading now that isn't for work?
I recently finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It was absolutely stunning. Everyone should read it.
Which author have you been most star struck by?
Gloria Steinem! I had the great honor of working on her memoir, which we published last year. I’m still pinching myself.