Q&A: Insights to book editing and publishing with Kate Juniper of Juniper Editing & Creative
My name is Kate Juniper and I’m the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Juniper Editing & Creative, a boutique, all-female company of editors, writers, and communications specialists from across Canada that specializes in book editing. You’ll find a lot of books, coffee, houseplants, and cats in its online presence, which also provide a pretty accurate representation of me (add wine and/or gin cocktails and an obsession with Christmas for the fullest picture).
We’re now a team of six: my two copyeditors, Hayley and Ceilidh, communications manager Jaime, marketing guru Gemma, blog writer Georgia, and I. (You might also include Olive, my cat, who has been my most constant colleague since we got her on Thanksgiving last year; my husband, Nic, my partner-in-everything; my dear friend Kim Jay, the talented photographer behind much of the aesthetic side of things; and my sis, Emily, back in the UK, who takes time out of her schedule on a regular basis to do research for me. Oh, and my dad, also in the UK, a.k.a. JEC’s primary biz consultant!)
- How did you get into this!?
I became an editor completely by accident. I’ve always been a voracious reader, many thanks to my mum’s encouragement when I was young. Books have been a magical thing for me my whole life—things to be venerated—and English lit was eternally the subject I most excelled at and enjoyed.
I did my BA in English lit, much to my parents’ concern (“What kind of job do you get with an English degree?!”); I was head of the English and Humanities department at a high school in Abu Dhabi for three years; I pursued my MA in English lit, too, at UVic—and that’s where I found myself in various editing-related roles, scrutinizing academic articles and bibliographies for contradictions and typos (if it sounds dry and dull that’s because it was—for me anyway); I copyedited encyclopedia entries for the Routledge Press Online Encyclopedia of Modernism (interesting field, but 500–1,000-word entries aren’t much to sink your teeth into, either); I worked at a gallery or two where these skills were useful. At no point in all this did I consider myself an editor, or that editing was my vocation.
It was only when I got a job working in-house at a publishing company, where real books were made, that it dawned on me that I’d found something I could love. The first time a colleague used the word manuscript, my heart beat harder: it was the most romantic word I’d ever had the honour to use in my professional life. And I used it a lot managing authors’ book projects until within a few months I’d distinguished myself as the person in meetings opening with lines like, “Guys, I’m concerned with the quality/consistency/accuracy of our editing services.” Thankfully, rather than grumblings about being a “ballbreaker,” a position was made and I became Senior Editor, managing a team of around seventy international freelance editors. As time went by, it became more and more clear that this was what I loved: editing books! And what I really wanted was to be amongst the team I managed: the editors in the trenches, grappling with the raw ingredients of a manuscript and turning them into magic: a real life book.
In one of those periods where everything changes at once, I quit my job, got hitched, and went into business for myself. Two years in I have an inspiring team and a powerful and constantly growing group of authors—professionals, thought leaders, artists, activists: people on a mission who have invited us to contribute our own talents, spirit, and drive to their causes. All the challenges accounted for, I couldn’t be more honoured and happy to have found my vocation.
- I love that your website says “WE'VE GOT THE WORDS AND THE WISDOM TO CATCH YOU UP TO WHERE YOUR DREAMS HANG OUT”. Tell me more about how you do that!
Great question! In short, as wordsmiths and publishing pros with many years in the industry, we have the tools to launch an author’s book and career. Whether it’s an intimate knowledge of the literary canon; a firm foot in the contemporary book world; a professional responsibility towards present cultural conversation, in particular around intersectional feminism; the empathy and artfulness required to edit respectfully; contacts in the Canadian publishing world; book marketing smarts; or all of the above that’s important, we have it in spades. AND WE LOVE ITTTT!!
To give you a clear understanding of how we do that, you can get the deets on our basic structure in our handy blog post, “3 Steps to Publish: ASSESS, EDIT, PITCH.”
- I think you work in a field that a lot of people don’t know much about, or even know that they could use the services of an editor. Can you give me an example of three different kinds of people and projects that you help with?
- Leanne has written a memoir-cum-self-help book for millennials titled Inward and Upward. It’s at once a personal retelling of her struggles with bipolar disorder and the trauma that triggered it, and an accessible resource containing coping mechanisms collected from ten years of various therapies, practices, and academic and popular readings. She writes from the perspective not of a mental health professional, but of a survivor who continues to wrestle, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, with the challenges bipolar disorder presents to her. The manuscript is presently with me for developmental editing. She is a freelance writer from Brisbane and well worth a follow on Instagram as @leannejrogers.
- Caroline hails from North Carolina and has written a YA novel titled The Book of Hopson Riddle, which tells the story of a thirteen-year-old boy from Nashville who finds himself in an architecturally trendy-looking Heaven after he’s shot outside Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge by a woman with a beehive hairdo. Thanks to his unfinished business, God and his snappily-dressed assistant Gustav send him back down to Earth in a Pokémon t-shirt with three days to solve his murder. If he can’t, it’s unfortunate, but the Black Holes will take him for eternity. We’ve provided Caroline with a Manuscript Assessment and a developmental edit, and the manuscript is currently with Hayley for copyediting while I work on the first query letters. You can find out more about her writing journey (and a little about yours truly) at her blog, The Year of Submission.
- Astra is a local from Victoria who has recently completed the second book in an epic fantasy trilogy The Prophet’s Tale. Her ability to write storylines that involve handfuls of complex and unique leading characters and weave conflict, romance, adventure, political intrigue, magic, and science—to name a few!—together into watertight and deeply engaging stories is nothing short of remarkable—to illustrate, book two is 800 shockingly successful pdf pages long!! She is a prolific writer (and illustrator, and seamstress), and between my Manuscript Assessment of book two and the developmental edit, I’m assessing book one to determine the viability of pitching this first trilogy (she had only intended to pitch her next trilogy until I told her how great this one was) once it’s finished! You can find her as @ulzaorith on Instagram.
[We also do copywriting for clients that include Think18 (Thinklandia, based in Victoria, BC) and Jenrick Group (based in the UK); however this work is a separate entity.]
- Tell me about the conference you are attending this year!
I’ll be speaking at the Editors’ Association of Canada conference in Saskatoon this May on the subject of marketing by building an online community. I’m a big believer in supportive business practices as opposed to oppositional ones; I think there’s room enough for all of us so long as we are honest about what we do, *why* we do it, and how we do it differently. So part of my talk is on creating a collaborative and emotionally supportive atmosphere online with one’s professional peers (some of my closest friends in the field are ones I’ve never been in the same time zone with!), and the other aspect, of course, is using social media platforms to sell from without being a sales-y business, which doesn’t speak to who we are or what we’re trying to achieve. We’re not looking to sell our services to anyone; fundamentally we’re seeking out future colleagues and collaborators with as much ambition and vision as we have.
- Do you have a favourite genre to work with?
My heart lies with literary fiction but one of my favourite things about my job is the unpredictability of my next project. I’ve read books on subjects I would never have otherwise known existed, learned things I would never have gone looking to learn, and discovered genres and histories and stories I couldn’t have imagined were out there. It’s like having a key that opens secret doors, haha. And I love me some secret doors.
- Do you have plans to write your own book one day?
Last year I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) despite the fact that I had no big idea and no burning desire to write a novel; perhaps I thought I was doing market research. Whatever my reasoning, I wrote the longest thing I’ve ever written. Then my friend went into a very difficult labor and we had a whole bunch of things to take care of that shifted my attentions elsewhere. I’ve since returned to it and I’m enjoying the huge surprise factor of what ends up on the page—I’ve no more idea where it’s going now than I did then! Not to mention the insights doing so gives me into my clients’ writing process. But I’ve always considered myself a facilitator—or empowerer—of others’ creative endeavors first and foremost. The rest is play.
- What challenges have you overcome that led you to a deeper understanding or a shift in perspective for you or your business?
It took me a long time to distinguish the difference between being dedicated to my business and getting consumed by it. The theory that a business should support your life rather than the other way round is easier said than done, especially in the beginning, and it’s easy to grow into bad habits and put yourself last. It’s a process that I’ve by no means mastered, but I’m a lot closer than I’ve ever been to allowing my biz to feed my lifestyle rather than eat it all up! A lot of that comes from finding good people to help you and then delegating and letting certain things go.
- What are some key pieces of advice that you would lend someone who is writing now or pursuing another kind of self-motivated business or passion?
- Please tell me your favourite:
[I’ll preface this by saying that I actually have thousands of favourite books.]
- Fiction book: Your Mother Was A Panther: Stories in Verse
This book is written, designed, and published by my friend and peer and collaborative colleague Tara of Faradai Press (@tarangozimixon on Instagram). It’s a book of short stories in verse told by a black American woman as a family history of sorts, and I champion it every chance I get because I love and admire her and her work so very, very much. I just got news this week that she has quoted me on the cover of her third edition, which is an honour that will go down in my family history, haha. If you want to read a book that looks and sounds in your mind the way Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” album does on the screen, go buy it and fall in love with it.
This coffee table book provides inspiring and aesthetically pleasing looks into the professional lives and practices of 100 creative professional women—among them Roxane Gay, one of my very favourite contemporary authors. Badass women working hard and joining forces is pretty much my favourite subject (you might’ve gleaned that already).
- Personal or business development book: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
I read this book while I was grieving and feeling afraid of everything, and within a few pages I felt an incredible weight lift from me. It told me exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve since recommended it to a lot of my loved ones when they’re in dark times, and it seems to provide the same kind of relief to them. I’m very grateful for it.
This book combines Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine with London spirit, and since I hail from the UK and ate all the Lebanese, Iranian, and Middle Eastern food when I lived in the UAE, I love it for the opportunities it gives me to recreate and relive those special dishes and amazing flavours.
“The New Yorker Fiction Podcast”—writers published in the magazine read stories from its back catalogue and discuss them with host Deborah Treisman—owner of my future dream job!
“This American Life”—it’s flawless.
“Help Me Be Me” by Sarah May—like getting free therapy from a best friend.
“The Mystery Show”—Scooby-Doo-esque sleuthing into bizarre and hilarious mysteries.
- At the end of the day, what are you most proud of in the work you do?
In my time in the publishing industry it's become clear that, like most institutions, the publishing world has its high walls and closed doors, which make it feel to most as though publishing a book is near-impossible. As Nic and I continue to progress in our respective careers (he is a visual artist), meeting with peers, connecting with would-be strangers, and discussing future collaborations with them and each other, we're realizing that, among the many things we do each day, one of the most rewarding and consistent pleasures for each of us lies in holding the metaphorical door open for others.
Whether it's by making the publishing world more transparent to authors and helping them plot the best way forward—with their manuscript, their author "brand," their marketing strategy, and their eventual submission to agents and publishers (my specialities); or by using upcoming "one-man" shows as a platform to invite a multitude of artists to exhibit in highly respected and coveted gallery settings (some of Nic's current projects), we thrive on sharing information and opportunities, breaking down hierarchical barriers, exchanging and growing big ideas, and establishing a feeling of support and community amongst creatives that permits and strengthens everyone’s endeavours rather than pitting people against each other. So I think our values and the ways we implement them on a daily basis are probably what I’m most proud of.
- Tell us 5 things people generally don’t know about you
Haha, I’m a pretty open book so this feels hard. Here goes:
- I lived in Abu Dhabi for three years from the age of twenty-one.
- It was the most emotionally challenging time of my life.
- I realized that cruelty and dishonesty were considered by some as acceptable forms of behavior in work and in life.
- When, in my management role, that treatment became targeted at me, I decided never to witness it without calling it out, despite the painful repercussions.
- I could have lost a lot in the exchanges that took place, which grew steadily worse with time, but I held it together and got my end-of-contract bonus—which brought me to Canada where I have been eminently happy for six years (and rarely looked back).
[Turns out I have to go deep for something less well known! At least the story has a happy ending!?]
- What would you tell your younger self?
Accepting your struggles is a far better move than fighting against them.
- Where do you go in town for your favourite meal?
My husband and I have a legacy of intimate and exciting chats over pho and spring rolls at Pho Vy on Fort St, so I’d say that’s my favourite place. :)
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Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did!
Here are a few more references you can use with Kate:
Readers can also sign up for their Publishing Roadmap, which outlines the basic structure of a manuscript’s journey from rough draft to acceptance by a literary agent or publisher—in other words, the stages an author and their book must pass through before they can realistically hope to be championed by a third party.
All photos by @kimjaysoul / Kim Jay Photography
Her instagram: @junipereditingWebsite: www.juniperediting.com