Welcome back to “6 Questions For A…”! Each week, we’ll ask someone 6 career-centric questions about themselves.
Today’s installment we’re featuring Cheryl Segura, a New York-based editor at McGraw-Hill Professional. Fun fact: she edited Lauren Berger’s latest book, Get It Together!
1. Tell us about the kind of tasks are in a typical day in your role.
On a typical day as a business book editor, I’m usually editing a manuscript, answering author questions, having calls with potential authors, or reading new book proposals. I personally like to get into the office at least an hour before the day gets started so I can be settled in and already in the flow of working before other people get to the office. It’s the quietest time of the day and it’s when I get my best work done without others disturbing me.
2. What is your favorite part of your job?
I actually have 2 favorite parts: working with my authors on their manuscripts and talking to potential authors.
First, I love the collaboration that goes into editing a manuscript. Being able to learn from my authors and discover new ways that they can organize or explain their ideas so readers can improve their own lives is both challenging and exciting for me. Plus, it’s really fun when the first physical copy of a book gets to my desk and I can look at it and know how much work went into getting to that final product.
Second, I love talking to potential authors because I am constantly learning directly from so many different voices and leaders in the business world. It’s amazing that I get to be the one that says yes to someone to write the book that could change another person’s life. After 6 years, I can still say it’s an incredible feeling!
3. What are some challenges you face?
My biggest challenge is managing my time so I can everything done in a day. One of my biggest takeaways from Lauren Berger’s book Get It Together is to set aside specific times to accomplish the things you hope to get done. She explains that if you have a to-do list with 20 different tasks on it and a calendar with only 1 hour free, there’s realistically no way to get it all done. So, as a result of this advice I have timed myself when completing certain tasks I do often so I can have a general idea of how long they may take in the future. This allows me to be completely aware of how much time I realistically need to block off in my calendar to ensure a task done.
4. Who inspires you and why?
Female side hustlers! As someone who only recently (less than a year) started my very own side hustle (withcheryl.co), I am constantly amazed by how women do it all—and how much they want to help other women succeed too. The drive, determination, and passion that these women show day after day drives me so much!
5. Share some advice to someone aspiring to be an editor!
There are 3 big pieces of advice I would pass along to anyone who wants to be an editor.
First, you can and should put in extra hours to grow your own career and still get your job done. Within my first year of being an Editorial Assistant (which is typically the first role you take after interning in the publishing world), I already signed my first book. This is not the norm in the publishing world, but I was determined to not only excel as an assistant, but also prove that I had the drive and passion to be an editor one day. I did this by getting to the office at 7:30 almost every day so I could get work done for my own career before I got started on my actual assistant duties. While 2 hours each day may not sound like a lot of time, if you multiply that by the average of 260 work days a year, you will have spent 520 hours developing your own career while still kicking ass at your actual job.
Second, take care of yourself. While my first piece of advice is helpful, it will only be effective if you actually take care of yourself. The only reason I was able to get into the office so early most days is because I made sure I was getting enough sleep the night before. Figure out what time you need to be awake in the morning and count back 7 hours—that is the latest you should be asleep. Make sure you put in the time to recharge, otherwise you will burn out.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you first get started in your career in publishing, you will be learning TONS of new processes that you will need to execute perfectly for every single book that the editors in your group sign. If you want to do your job well after the learning stage is over, ask questions to ensure you know how to do exactly what is asked of you. People would rather you ask questions now than do something wrong for months without realizing it! Believe me, it takes much less time and energy to ask than it does to go back and fix all of your mistakes.
6. What did you want to be when you grew up? How did that change over the years?
Growing up, I wanted to be a ballerina. I’ve been a dancer for 24 years now and that was always my first dream. But, as I got older and saw how rare and difficult it was to make it in the dance world, I knew it wasn’t going to be the right fit for me. So, I developed a new dream: to become an English teacher. Along with dance, reading has been one of my life-long loves. If you were to get ahold of one of my old family videos, it’s likely that you’ll catch me reading to my younger sisters or by myself a few times.
With this love of reading in mind, I thought to myself “Why not become a teacher and show others that books can change lives?” But life had something different in store for me. After not making it into the teaching department in college, I was forced to figure out what the right next step was for me. I was completely clueless until I stepped into a class that changed my life (dramatic, but 100% true): revising and editing. As soon as I got a taste for editing, I knew it was something I could not only excel at, but would still accomplish what I had hoped to do as an English teacher: help others learn from and fall in love with books. And, from there my career set off to be an editor!