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Feb 18, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Erin McClary

A warm welcome to Erin McClary

Erin is an Associate Editor at Sourcebooks—one of the nation's largest independent publishers and the country's biggest woman-owned publisher—located just outside of Chicago, Illinois. After 14 years of working in brand and digital marketing, she decided to pursue her passion of reading and editing and barreled her way into the publishing industry, where she acquires adult fiction and nonfiction. Erin currently lives in Naperville, Illinois, with way too many books and not enough time to read.

CritiqueMatch: How did you become an editor? Can you describe the career path for those looking to enter the publishing industry? 
Erin: I did not take the traditional path to publishing (i.e., majoring in English, interning at a publishing house, and then working my way up). I went to business school where I studied marketing before going on to work in brand and digital marketing for fourteen years. When I moved back from the Bay Area to the Midwest, I came across an independent publisher located just outside of Chicago (I mistakenly thought I would have to move to NYC if I wanted to work in publishing…not true! There are a number of amazing publishers located all over the U.S.). I was able to demonstrate how the skills I had developed working in marketing would transfer over into a career as an acquisitions editor, and they liked that I had a different background and could bring a unique perspective to the role.

CM: How many authors/books do you work with per year? 
Erin: In my first year, I acquired 13 projects (a mix of nonfiction, fiction, and gift).

CM: Walk us through the editing process you go through with authors before a book is released. 
Erin: Once an author sends me their manuscript, I do both developmental/structural editing, where I suggest areas to improve the overall flow of the book and the way the story unfolds, along with line-editing, where I suggest edits down to the sentence level. I return the marked-up manuscript to the author along with an editorial letter that summarizes my overall impression of the manuscript, what I loved and thought was really working well, and areas for improvement for the author to keep an eye out for as they dig into revisions. The author typically has 4-6 weeks to revise before sending it back to me for another round of editing. We repeat that cycle until we’re both happy with the manuscript. I then send it off to the production team who works their magic to develop the physical book, which also includes sending it to a copyeditor and proofreader who really get into the nitty-gritty of editing for grammar and making sure the manuscript adheres to our style guide (we use the Chicago Manual of Style).

CM: How involved with a book are you, past the editing stage? 
Erin: Once the manuscript is out of my hands and with the production team, my main role is to act as a liaison between the production team and the author. So I’ll route the design template, copyedited and proofread pages, internal proofs, cover design, etc. to the author for review. I also work with the design team to communicate what the essence of the book is and share design comps with them for similar books so they can work on the cover design. And if the book requires more design (e.g., gift books or nonfiction projects that include spot art or illustrations in the internals), I’ll again work with the design team to explain my and the author’s vision for the final product.

CM: How do you acquire books? How has the process changed during the pandemic? 
Erin: The primary way I acquire books is through literary agents sending me submissions and proposals via email. I also have attended (virtually) a few writers’ conferences and taken pitches that way; if I’m interested in a book, the author will send me a synopsis and the first fifty pages so I can take a closer look and decide whether I want to bring it to our weekly acquisitions meeting, where we pitch the projects we’re interested in acquiring to the publisher and SVP of editorial, who ultimately decide if we should make an offer on a book.

I only started acquiring books after the pandemic started so I can’t really speak to how the process has changed, but since we’re a non-New York based publisher and not in the epicenter where so much of the industry is, the process is relatively unchanged. We use a lot of email correspondence, phone calls, and Zoom meetings.

CM: What is a common myth about editors? 
Erin: That we spend all our time reading and editing manuscripts. Not true! Reading and editing are, in fact, only a small part of what we do (although definitely the most time-consuming). And reading submissions is typically relegated to after work hours, in the evenings or on weekends.

CM: How do agents pitch books to you in a world that requires social distancing?
Erin: The most common way an agent pitches a book is to send me an email with a description/synopsis, 2-3 comp titles, and the full manuscript (fiction) or book proposal with a few sample chapters (nonfiction). Some agents like to call first to pitch the book and ask if I’m interested in seeing it, which is also a great way to build connections and relationships with agents, which is so important as a new editor.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Erin: I read Lily King’s Writers & Lovers at the start of the pandemic and cannot stop thinking about it nearly a full year later! To me, it is the perfect balance of a commercial storyline with beautiful, knock-the-wind-out-of-you writing and complicated characters that I adore. It absolutely destroyed me emotionally before putting me back together again, ever-so-gently—which is exactly what I like.


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re acquiring:
  • Nonfiction: narrative/creative nonfiction with a focus on titans of business, writing, and travel, along with historical figures, social sciences and current affairs, and self-help/personal development.
  • Fiction: character-driven contemporary or historical fiction and general women’s fiction with a strong hook (if you can’t pitch your book in 1-2 sentences, it probably needs a stronger hook!). I love books with a slow burn but a big impact. I’m also looking to bring international voices to the U.S.
What you’re not interested in:
  • YA, children’s, romance, poetry, fantasy, essay collections, short stories, mystery, memoir


Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)
September 2021
January 2022

Do you accept un-agented submissions? No
I am only open to un-agented fiction submissions from BIPOC writers. If you are a BIPOC writer, please send a short synopsis and the first 50 pages of your manuscript to
For everything else, I am only open to agented submissions at this time.