Jeanne De Vita
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm the Assistant Editorial Director for Musa Publishing. I'm also a developmental editor, so that means I manage administrative work for the company in addition to reading submissions and acquiring and editing books. On a personal level, I crochet, I have a dog, I do a lot of volunteer work with children with complex medical and other special needs, and I also write under a pen name. I am from Chicago but spend a lot of time in Los Angeles - I've been in LA for about the last nine months. I have an eight month old niece, so Chicago is home but LA is becoming my second home.
What is your background in book publishing?
I feel like I have been in publishing since I was a child, seriously. My mother published her first book when I was about 12 years old. For several years before that she wrote and was rejected and attended meetings and read books about the craft of writing. She was absolutely 100% self-taught and so I really saw first hand everything from absolute rejection to pretty exciting success. I've enjoyed writing for myself since I was about seven years old but publishing as a business has felt like second nature to me. And I have to give a huge shout out to my mom, here. I have vivid memories from a very young age of mom typing (yes typing) articles and mailing them out, of trying different genres and styles before she finally got her first break. If watching my mom taught me anything, it was the profound value of study, passion, and commitment.
Cover art for "An Unstill Life" by Kate Larkindale
One of the books Jeanne is most proud to have edited
How did you get to this point in your career?
My story is definitely not the only way to break into publishing, but it's one way. I wrote a lot in high school and college and won scholarships and awards for my undergrad writing, but I supported myself after my freshman year of college, so balancing a job that paid the rent and writing was an absolute must. I balanced reading, writing, editing, and a day job through my late 20's when I was accepted to the University of Notre Dame's MFA program in Creative Writing, fiction concentration. I worked the entire time I was in the program, teaching, doing other odd jobs including one colorful stint at a dating service. The MFA degree isn't essential for everyone, but the experience of getting that degree allowed me to edit and publish in a real world way, in addition to teaching me how to instruct other people in writing. I wrote a lot of course, but I feel the MFA program taught me to teach, slush read, and edit even more than it gave me space to write. I had my first publication as an editorial assistant and seeing my name in print like that was thrilling. Sitting face to face with a class of college freshmen teaching rhetoric, argumentation, and composition at a place like Notre Dame - well, that brought out my A game. I completed my MFA 14 years ago! In the years since, it would be an understatement to say that life has intervened. I've continued to write and edit and work day jobs while experiencing the death of loved ones, major health issues - nearly debilitating health issues I experienced in my 30's. So I think the path for each peson is different but the critical issue is to keep at it, whatever it is that you love. Just keep working.
Cover art for "The Dark Citadel" by Jane Dougherty
One of the great books edited by Jeanne
What does a typical workday look like for you?
Musa operates a virtual office, so my typical workday starts when I open my eyes in the morning - whatever time that is! We have authors all around the world, so I inevitably wake up to new emails, submissions, everyday. And since we can work 24/7, I am somewhat tied to my job, but it's beyond a doubt completely worth it. I know I'm in the right place because even when I've answered all the emails and it's Friday night and I am babysitting my niece, I'm thinking about work, about our authors, about a book I am going to edit.
The job is very diverse which is also what makes it so fun. At Musa we have a really wonderful staff and a really open team approach, so if you're willing to step in and help, you've got work. So while I have a core workload of acquiring and editing books, helping with promotions, managing social media accounts, I also hire and develop interns and staff. I give input and help authors with every kind of question under the sun from, should I change my title, do you like this cover art, I'm thinking about attending this conference. I help other editors, contribute to business planning issues. It's like being a teacher, counselor, artist, and more. It's really a wonderful job and the only time I don't love it is...never!
What advice do you have for people who want to enter the book publishing industry?
I think the digital nature of our business means that there are just so many opportunities out there. If you want to get into publishing, be sure you love it. I have lost many editors because they thought they would love the work but don't realize how tedious and difficult it can be. Study writing - the craft. Read books about the craft. It's really important to be able to know from a place deep in your mind and heart why something works - and then be able to communicate that to others. You need to read a lot, write a lot, edit a lot. Take unpaid work as an intern or assistant. Nothing is "unpaid" if you earn valuable skills. The best currency though is passion. No matter what drives you in life if you approach it consistently, work hard, and never give up, you'll find your way.
Cover art for "The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis" by Sharon Ledwith
One of the great books edited by Jeanne