Editor for Life: Hazel Millar, Co-publisher, Book*hug Press

Interview conducted by Alicja Minda.

A career as an editor is often a solo adventure, especially if you’re a freelancer. So we thought one way to better connect with fellow editors was to ask them the Five Ws: who, what, where, when, and why. Read on for some thought-provoking, enlightening tidbits from those of us who choose to work with words to earn our keep.

Portrait of Hazel Millar, Co-publisher at Book*hug Press
Photo by Cristy Becky

Please tell us a little about yourself, the kind of work you do (and where you live), and how long you’ve been an editor.

I am the co-owner and co-publisher of Book*hug Press, an independent literary publisher based in Toronto. I’ve been working in publishing since 2009. As is true of many small independent publishers, Book*hug tends to be an “all hands on deck, all the time” work environment. While I am involved in all aspects of the day-to-day operations of the press, my main responsibilities include helping to acquire manuscripts for publication; managing production; overseeing marketing, publicity, and communications; and managing our rights sales. The thing I love most about my job is acquisitions. For me, nothing beats reading a manuscript that I know is perfect for the press and then successfully acquiring it for publication.

Who: If you could edit one famous author, living or dead, who would it be?

Oh, this is a great question and nearly impossible to answer. There are so many authors I could think of—Joan Didion, Deborah Levy, Lauren Groff—to name only a few. But one author who immediately comes to mind for me is Maggie Nelson. I am a huge fan of her work and feel lucky to live in a world in which Maggie Nelson thinks and writes. In particular, Bluets was a game changer of a book for me. I have publisher envy, but in the best way, whenever a new Maggie Nelson book is published.

What: Do you have a favourite punctuation mark and/or a favourite word?

Ah, another excellent question! I am quite fond of the exclamation mark. I often worry though that I use too many of them, especially during correspondence with authors. I typically read over emails before hitting send and am often surprised to see the number of exclamation marks I’ve used, and then I remove some out of fear I may sound too enthusiastic. (Having said this, I find it odd that I worry about sounding too enthusiastic when, really, we could all use some positivity and cheer given the state of the world we live in.)

Where: If you could work anywhere in the world as an editor, where would that be?

I’m proud to be part of the Canadian publishing industry, but if I could work elsewhere for a short while, I would choose London, United Kingdom. Hands down.

When: Was there ever a time in your life when you seriously questioned your career choice?

Oh, with regular frequency! Publishing is an ever-changing industry and there is always more and more work to do. As the co-owner and co-publisher of a small, independent literary press, I am often overwhelmed by the many competing asks, priorities, and deadlines we have in front of us every single day. I have long worried about both personal and industry-wide burnout, and this fear has only grown since the start of the pandemic. When I begin to question everything, I try to remind myself about the reason I got into publishing in the first place: I love books, and it is this sincere love that keeps me going.

Why: Why did you choose to become an editor? Or, should we ask: Why did editing choose you?

Simply put, I love the written word and am passionate about books. Growing up, I was always that kid walking about with my nose stuck in a book, and I’m still that adult. I feel tremendously lucky to work in publishing, despite the many challenges the industry is facing, such as interruptions to the supply chain, printer delays, rising production costs, discoverability of titles in a crowded marketplace, the shrinking landscape for book review culture, and much more. It is a sincere joy to help launch or grow an author’s career and to expand their readership. I am thankful to every author we work with at Book*hug for trusting us with their words.

And, of course, we just had to ask the inevitable how: How would you sum up your motto?

Book*hug Press has two mottoes: “radically optimistic” and “adventures in literary publishing.”

Radically optimistic because one must have radical optimism to work in independent literary publishing, an industry that is almost always changing.

Adventures in literary publishing because every season of books is a new adventure, and every book is its own special adventure.

Alicja Minda is a freelance editor and journalist based in Toronto. She is the editor-in-chief of BoldFace.

This article was copy edited by Alex Marcoccia (he/him), editor-in-chief and freelance editor at Self Pub Hub.

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