Leila Sales Visits Book Club

By, Elly P. ’21 and Avery G. ’21

Even though Leila Sales ’02 hasn’t been in high school in 16 years, her stories are more relevant than ever.

Leila Sales, a Winsor grad, is the author of six books. She is also an editor who has worked with Gayle Forman, author of If I Stay, among others. She works at Penguin Publishing full time and writes on the side. Her newest book, If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say, recently came out on May 1. She also has written This Song Will Save Your Life and Mostly Good Girls, the latter of which bears striking similarities to the life of a Winsor student.

Leila Sales writes mostly realistic fiction geared at a young adult audience. She touches on topics relevant to teenagers like relationships, social dilemmas, and social media. On Tuesday, May 1, the Winsor Book Club hosted Leila Sales, who talked to students about the publishing and writing process.

One interesting thing she said about the editing process was that she “gets tons of submissions;” however, “the vast majority [Penguin] doesn’t publish.” Over the course of a year, Sales’ department publishes about 60 to 70 books, at least half of which are continuations of series or by authors they’ve worked with before. “Very, very few are brand news books or are from new authors,” said Leila.

According to Leila, “the editorial process can take up to a year.” First, Leila looks at the original manuscript that the author submitted. She then writes an editorial letter: hers are often ten pages or more single spaced! In her letters, she comments on characters and their motives, how developed the conflict is, and themes that emerge. She may ask the author to revise the ending or change the middle if it’s not exciting enough. An editor and author will go through a few rounds of this revising because often the comments require a lot of thinking on the writer’s part.

After multiple editorial letters, editors will do line edits. Line edits are where editors go through line by line and point out places where the sentence doesn’t make sense or where there is repetition. Then, the manuscript goes to a copy editor who checks “consistencies, fact checking, [and] grammar.” The novel goes through multiple more rounds with a proofreader who makes sure that there aren’t any mistakes that may have been missed.

According to Leila, editing is learned through experience and takes a while to master. “Writing an editorial letter is an art and generally people consider editing to be an apprentice craft,” she said. “You start out being an assistant to an editor. You’ll read manuscripts along with them, you’ll discuss it with them, and then slowly you’ll write up reports for them, and then eventually you figure out how to write one of these letters.” In an editorial letter, you have to “give a lot of praise, [and] you also want to ask a lot of questions.” Because you cannot major in editing in college, it is something you pick up along the way.

It was great to have Leila talk to us! Lydia B. ’19, one of the three heads of Book Club, said, “it was interesting to get an inside perspective on the publishing industry. In Book Club, we obviously talk a lot about books, but we don’t always get to see the behind the scenes process of creating them.”

Thanks to Leila, we got to learn about the behind the scenes!