Q&A With Jessica McCleary

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Q&A With Jessica McCleary 

This week after the two of us connected on LinkedIn and emailing each other, I am delighted to be doing this Q&A with the managing editor at Bloomsbury Publishing Jessica McCleary! It’s always amazing doing Q&As with different people in the publishing industry whether they are authors or the people who help authors put their stories out into the world! 


Q: Jessica, would you please tell the readers of the blog &me a little bit about you, & what your role is as a managing editor?


A: I’ve been in publishing for 24 years, starting as an editorial assistant with Rowman & Littlefield and working my way up to managing editor, a position I’ve held for 17 years. Rowman & Littlefield was recently acquired by Bloomsbury, but my duties remain much the same. I currently oversee a team of 9 production editors who are tasked with turning manuscripts into printed books. I review all new projects, assign them to individual editors, and provide troubleshooting strategies along the way as needed. I also produce about 50 books of my own each year. With Rowman & Littlefield, I worked on both trade and academic books, but I’m now focusing exclusively on the latter with Bloomsbury.


Q: How long have you been a managing editor at Bloomsbury for?


A: Bloomsbury acquired Rowman & Littlefield on May 29, so it’s only been about a month, but I’m excited about the opportunity to work for such a renowned publisher and continuing to produce high-quality academic and professional titles.


Q: What is your favorite & least favorite part about being a managing editor at Bloomsbury? What advice would you give anyone wanting to go into the same career you did?


A: My favorite part is refining the text itself. When you fix an error, it’s that same satisfying feeling as hearing the clicking of a vacuum cleaner sucking up dirt! I also enjoy formatting manuscripts and using my creativity for page layout and design. 


Challenges include meeting publication schedules despite uncontrollable delays. You always have a lot of balls in the air, and sometimes it’s impossible to catch all of them—sometimes they fall right on your head!


A bachelor’s degree and an interest in publishing are enough to get started in the field. There’s a lot of room for growth, so an entry-level position can lead to much more. Building knowledge from the ground up is a great way to acquire the necessary skills for a lifelong career—just like I did!


Q: Did you have to go to college for your career or apply for an internship?


A: I’ve always had a passion for words, so I studied English and French in college. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do with that degree, but it didn’t take long to find a job I really enjoyed. Internships can also lead to a publishing career—they’re a great way to explore personal interests to find the best professional fit.


Q: To become a managing editor, were you just an editor and then you worked your way up to being the managing editor?


A: Previous experience is definitely needed. It can take many years to develop the requisite knowledge and skills. Being with the same company for more than 20 years granted me extensive expertise that I can now bring to Bloomsbury.


Q: If you ever became an author, would you ever want to edit your own book, or have someone else edit it for you? What genre would your book be?


A: Ohh, I’d love to write a fantasy novel someday! It’s always been my favorite genre. I read the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan when I was a preteen, and I was instantly hooked. 


Even with all my experience, though, I’d want an outside editor. (You have no idea how many times I rewrote and edited these answers!) Writers can become blind to their own errors or simply get lost in the story. A professional editor can help with grammatical issues and also provide developmental feedback to improve the story itself.


Q: Would you please give a list of authors you’ve edited their books for?

A: I’ve worked on more than 1,000 books with many amazing authors. One notable author was Dan Kamin, an expert on Charlie Chaplin (look him up—he’s so cool!). I also worked with Charles Fox, a composer who wrote such songs as “Killing Me Softly.” A recent publication that’s getting a lot of publicity is Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure by Maggie Jackson. She was lovely to work with! Another fun one is The Power of Personality: Unlock the Secrets to Understanding Everyone in Your LifeIncluding Yourself! by Eric Gee. Who doesn’t love a good personality test?