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A Day, or 3+ years, as your Graphic Novel Editor

Updated: Mar 4, 2021

My name is Kiara, and for the short period of this post I am going to be the editor for your graphic novel. Were you wondering what’s like to work with an editor? What the heck do graphic novel editors from their day to day? Well, I doubt the following will shine too much light on either of those questions.

9:15 AM: I already have at least 25 emails in my inbox. Nowadays, I average about 50-ish emails on a light day and more than 100 on a busy day. Even before we moved to all digital because of the pandemic, I would say emailing is more than half my job. It’s how I communicate with agents and you, my author (as well as the occasional phone call). It’s also why I have 24 labels to try to keep my Gmail somewhat organized and under control. But...

I am human and sometimes emails get lost—so if it’s been a little while and I haven’t responded to you, don’t be afraid to nudge.

11AM: If I didn’t have a meeting, which I usually have at least one of every day, sometimes up to three, then I chipped away at my morning unread emails. This included emails checking in on you about your next deadline, or getting you the 1st pass PDF of your graphic novel if we have started the production phase, or communicating with managing editorial about the current book season we are working on, or negotiating with an agent on a book I want to acquire. There is never a dull day in my life! And no two days of the week are the same—especially since on any day I am working on graphic novels in completely different stages of their development. And boy are there many stages:

Different stages of development: Acquisition (Pitch, Acquisitions Meeting, Negotiation, Contract) > Development (Script, Thumbs, Pencils, Test Proofs, Inks, Cover Convo, Colors) > Production (Zero Pass/Line Read, 1st Pass, 2nd Pass, FM/BM Design, Jacket Design, 3rd pass+, Mech Release) > Printing (1st Proofs, 2nd Proofs, Blues, F&Gs, Advanced Copies, Finished Copies!)
Different stages of development: Acquisition>Development>Production>Printing

2PM: Did I eat lunch by now? Probably not, and if I did, I ate it while staring at my computer screen. I’ll probably be working through the next batch of 20 emails that arrived at my inbox—maybe one project needs me to update the ‘metadata’ that feeds out to Amazon/B&N/etc, maybe something is running extremely late and I need to talk to managing editorial about our options, and maybe I am talking to Marketing & Publicity about our campaign for your book. Or, I could be writing copy for the back or flap of your graphic novel. Maybe we have just started working together and I am setting up a call where we go over your writing/drawing process and set rough deadlines (that will almost always shift, I promise you).

I wear many hats. I am your cheerleader, editor, and if need be, nagging nancy. I am the liaison between your agent/you, and the rest of my company. I am the bridge between any two departments involving your graphic novel. And I am your in-house champion.

I’ll continue wearing and switching out these many hats from the moment I acquire your idea until 3+ years later, when it’s materialized as a finished book out there in the world. And a while after.

Development timeline: Contact Signed > Final Script/Thumbs (6 mos) > Inks (1.5 yrs) > Final Art Files (2.5 yrs) > Printed Books (3+ yrs) > Book Pubbed!
Contact Signed, Final Script/Thumbs (6mo), Inks (1.5yrs), Final Art Files (2.5yrs), Printed Books (3+yrs), Book Pubbed!

5:30PM: I clock out thinking where did the day go and why didn’t I get more done. I make sure I have no unread emails and that any which are pending an action are properly sorted. I update my never-ending to-do list and I log out yet again disappointed that I didn’t get to do any reading that day.

“Well, Kiara. If you’re emailing, filling out forms, and attending meetings every day, then when do you get any of your actual editing done?!” you may ask yourself. Well…

Matilda chuckles while reading a book.
Matilda chuckles while reading a book.

Saturday, 12AM: I am under my comforter in bed. I probably just finished reading your script or thumbnails (or maybe I lied and it’s actually 3AM). I’m either crying or smiling. I have just written you a three paragraph email telling you how much I loved it, that my edits are in the comments of the PDF, and asking you to ignore the timestamp on the email.

In this slightly sleepy high, I have yet again been reminded why I love my job so much.

Kiara Valdez

Kiara Valdez is an Afro-Dominican associate editor at First Second. She was born and raised in New York City (shout out to Washington Heights) and has been an avid comics reader all her life. She is interested in middle grade and young adult graphic novels doing with magical realism, memoir, #ownvoices stories (especially those from Latinx creators), and stories with LGBTQ+ characters and romance. She likes stories that feel contemporary, real, and are grounded in our world regardless of the genre it’s in, and is a sucker for well-done resolutions/happy endings. The long list of First Second books she’s worked on include: Check, Please! series, Bloom, Kiss Number 8, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, Snapdragon, and Himawari House. Social Links:

Twitter: @dezinpub

Instagram: @dezinpub

Himawari House book cover
Himawari House

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