Introducing AMACOM… Erika

Next in the “Introducing AMACOM” series is Copy Manager and Associate Editor Erika Spelman. She joined AMACOM in March 2001 as as an associate editor.
Photo of Erika Spelman
What are some of your responsibilities as Copy Manager and Associate Editor?

The responsibilities of an associate editor are what many publishing houses would call the duties of a production editor. I arrange for, monitor, and double-check the final stages of a book before it is published, including copyediting, proofreading, design, and composition. A great account of what I do in terms of explaining it to new authors can be found in Andy Ambraziejus’s post “A First-Time Author’s Guide to the Production Process,” and an irreverent but also accurate portrayal of additional aspects of the job can be found in Jim Bessent’s posts “A Day in the Life of a Production Editor” parts 1 and 2. As copy manager, I oversee the updating of AMACOM’s style guidelines, proofread the titles of all of our books, and serve as a resource regarding matters of grammar and style.

What were you doing before you joined AMACOM?

Prior to joining AMACOM I was a principal manuscript editor at West Group, a legal publisher. I copyedited and proofread legal treatises and their updates and, in the latter half of my tenure there, worked with SGML coding in electronic manuscripts and had various other responsibilities.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

A production editor’s workflow is different from that of a manuscript editor. As a principal manuscript editor, I helped set and monitor schedules as a production editor does, but I generally worked on one task for one particular title at a time for a period of several days to a couple of weeks. As a production editor, I farm out many of the tasks I used to perform myself and keep track of the schedules of many books at once, working on aspects of several of them within the course of the same day.

What AMACOM book are you really excited about right now?

Clean Energy Nation
by Congressman Jerry McNerney and journalist Martin Cheek offers straight talk about the consequences of remaining dependent on fossil fuels. In an era in which many simply do not want to believe these consequences are possible because believing makes things complicated for business in the short term, I hope people will sit up and take notice of the long-term positive effects these experts say would go along with loosening the grip these kinds of fuels have on the United States—including environmental, job-creation, and national-security benefits.

Another AMACOM book I find noteworthy is Managing Online Forums. When I perform a Web search for information, I am often directed to threads in forums where people have posted questions and answers on topics in which I am interested. Author Patrick O’Keefe gives a fascinating look at the inner workings of these kinds of forums along with admirable advice on how to deal professionally with difficult situations involving users and staff. I would think this would be a much-needed book, albeit on a very specialized topic.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Right now I am studiously putting off reading The Wild Rose by Jennifer Donnelly. It is the third in a series, the first two of which are The Tea Rose and The Winter Rose. I enjoyed the first two so much that I was having trouble managing my schoolwork (I am in a master’s degree program), so even though I have downloaded The Wild Rose to my Nook, I have exercised a great deal of restraint in not beginning it.


These books are set at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and are reminiscent of Dickens (one of my favorite authors) in terms of having intricately connected threads and coincidences that require a certain amount of suspension of disbelief. Donnelly has also written a couple of great novels for young adults.

Which book do you want everyone to discover?

My favorite book from the time I first read it and one that still resonates with me today is Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. The language in this book is rich and poetic, and as one reviewer said, is not to be read quickly but to be savored. Consider the following quote:

To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know anything so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing—the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smoothes our hair, and brings us wild strawberries. —Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1980), pp. 152-153.

After reading it, I watched for a new book by Robinson for a long time, and when one finally came out, it was a nonfiction book called Mother Country about the improper disposal of nuclear waste in Great Britain. Although the subject would not necessarily have grabbed my interest, of course I read it, and I was again captivated by the language. It also forever changed the way I thought the history of socialism in Britain. Somewhere in Mother Country Robinson says that her passionate concern for this problem was so great that writing fiction seemed like a frivolous pursuit, and I mourned to think she would not write another novel. She eventually did, however, and a subsequent book, Gilead, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.

What would you be doing if you weren’t an associate editor and copy manager at AMACOM?

I would love to be a full-time student. I went back to school a couple of years ago and liked it so much that I didn’t want to stop. Going back as an adult feels very different from the way I felt in college right out of high school—my learning is much more self-directed and satisfying.

Final words?

AMACOM is a great place to work. It seems that over the years I have worked here we have become more and more of an integrated team, working out kinks between departments and respecting one another’s needs, all in the name of getting the job done well. I’m glad to be part of that team.

Thank you Erika! Read more “Introducing AMACOM” posts here.

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2 responses to “Introducing AMACOM… Erika

  1. Thank you for mentioning my book, Erika. It was a pleasure to work with you on it. :)

  2. Pingback: Erika on Don’t Forget! What to Submit with Your Final Manuscript | AMACOM Books Blog

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