CRP's Blog

‹ Back To All Posts
April 12, 2019

Industry Insider – Editor Spotlight with Jerome Pohlen


Next up in our Publishing Industry Insider blog series, we interviewed senior editor Jerome Pohlen. As both an author and editor for Chicago Review Press, he has insightful advice for any aspiring writer or editor.

Be on the lookout for Jerome’s upcoming book The Apollo Missions for Kids, available June 4!

Apollo Missions for Kids, The

How did you first become an editor at Chicago Review Press? What drew you to an editorial position?

I started at Chicago Review Press as an author, first with Oddball Illinois and then Oddball Wisconsin. At the time I was working as the editorial director for an educational toy company and had made the rash decision I would quit my job and become a full-time travel writer. I mentioned my plan (if you can call it that) to my editor, Cynthia Sherry, and she offered a dose of realism, that I might want to have a day job as a backup . . . and CRP just happened to have an opening. So I interviewed to be a project editor, replacing the woman who had been the project editor on my two books. It was a great way to start at CRP, learning the production process and trade publishing from the ground up, which was quite a change from my previous editorial position.

What’s a typical day like in the office?

First, coffee. But after that, nothing’s typical, which is why I enjoy it. We go through waves of activity; sometimes I’m focusing on title and cover development, or line editing a new manuscript, or preparing for a sales conference. Every day brings dozens of unexpected issues to resolve from authors, agents, and other editors. And of course, as an acquisitions editor, I’m always looking at proposals and pitches for new titles.

What’s your favorite part about editing? Favorite genre to work on?

I love to learn, and each book I work on is an educational experience. I love to read, but left on my own I would gravitate to subjects I’m already interested in or want to study. But as an editor, I often work on books that I might never pick up. In recent seasons I’ve learned about New York City’s first and only rainmaker, hired by the city to solve its drought; the history of pinball machines and their quirky fans; the wild attempts to be the first pilot(s) to fly to Hawaii from the West Coast; and the lives of Emily Dickinson, George Washington Carver, and Lavinia Warren, who married General Tom Thumb. I enjoyed them all.

What are the three most common editorial suggestions you find yourself giving to your authors?

First: Stick to the story. This is the popular “show, don’t tell” advice for good writing, but I also find that most writers are far better recounting the details of a story than they are summarizing subject matter. Analysis has its place, and every book needs some to keep it headed in the right direction, but keep it short. Reading a book is like talking to somebody at a party—if they have good stories, you’ll stick with them all night, but if they want to impart their wisdom or spout opinions, you’ll probably return to the snack table. Second: Trust the process. The editors, designers, publicists, and marketing staff want to make your book a success; listen to them. Third: Learn to let go. I know from personal experience that it’s difficult to hit the Send button when it’s time to submit a manuscript. You will drive yourself crazy rethinking what you’ve written, trying to tweak a phrase here and there. Even worse, you’ll drive your editor crazy. There isn’t a book in print that couldn’t be improved, but a book in perpetual reconsideration will never get to the bookshelf. Accept that.

You’re also the author of multiple Chicago Review Press titles, including Gay & Lesbian History for Kids and Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids. How do you apply your skills as an author to your skills as an editor?

I don’t think being an author helps me be a better editor so much as being an editor makes me a better author. But I do think being an author makes me a more sympathetic editor—I understand the process from an author’s perspective, like the thrill/terror of opening a jpg and seeing a proposed cover design for the first time, or turning over your “baby” to be picked apart by an editor. I’m probably kinder than most editors when working with authors.

What advice would you give to someone who’s looking for a job as an editor?

Take any job in the industry with room to grow, even if it’s not the job you ultimately aspire to. All editorial experience is valuable.

Stay tuned throughout the year for more industry insider interviews that will reveal the individuals working behind the scenes who help shape our books into the final product.


No Comments

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply