ASU graduate edits best-selling book
When she was a student at ASU, Jessica Wong dreamed of working for a book publisher. But her dream didn’t include the stereotypical way of “making it” in the publishing industry: moving to New York City, working as a waitress and pounding the pavement looking for a job.
Instead, she attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute after graduating from ASU Summa Cum Laude in 2007, with a bachelor's degree in English linguistics and a minor in Chinese language, and tapped into the institute’s network to find a job.
Today, she is an associate editor at Howard Books/Simon & Schuster, and already has one big book to her credit: the best-seller “An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-year-old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting With Destiny.”
“That book is special to me,” Wong said. “Every week we’re assigned to review a bunch of proposals, and that was one of them. I said, ‘I really like this one. I want to publish this book.’”
Her boss told her to “go for it,” that she could do it on her own. “It was an awesome experience. It was on the best-seller list for 10 weeks,” Wong said.
What attracted her to the book was its story. “It was such a powerful story of redemption. It was such a challenge. It wasn’t just sad. It will challenge you to see what can happen when you choose to say yes.”
Editing the book, which meant she had to read the whole story, of course, did change her, Wong said.
“I’m very drawn to different causes and volunteer things. I had gotten so busy I had lost sight of that,” she explained. “This year I’m renewing my love of that. I’m looking for an opportunity to do volunteer work.”
Editing “An Invisible Thread” was easy, Wong said, because Laura Schroff, whose story was being told, had “a great co-writer.”
“Alex Tresniowski is an experienced writer, and his work was a lot cleaner than others might be. I was working on the big-picture stuff – this isn’t clear, move this maybe?”
Wong’s first job after she graduated from the Publishing Institute was with Thomas Nelson, the publishing company that owns the New King James Version of the Bible, in Tennessee.
“I worked with every division in my first job, and at my annual review they told me they were going to promote me. Then Nelson started going through a series of layoffs. They cut my department, which was only about a month after my promotion. They still had all the same books they needed to get done, so they brought me on as a freelancer while I was looking for a new job.”
Fortunately, her boss at Thomas Nelson knew someone at Howard Books (which is also in Tennessee), so she was hired there.
She learned about publishing institutes when she took an internship class through the Department of English at ASU. Going to the publishing institute “gave me a leg up,” both her current and former bosses told her.
Wong said her career goal when she graduated from ASU was to be an editor in book publishing. Why a book editor? “Because I’ve loved books my whole life – I thought it would be fitting for me. I’m the girl who carries a book around in my purse.”
Editing is a good fit for her, she added, because “I like to refine things. I’m always editing things like college papers for my friends.”
Wong said she works on about 30 books a year, which are all in various stages of publication. “We work a year ahead,” she said. “We’re now starting on spring 2013.”
She does get to read books outside of work, and she’s in the middle of two at the moment – “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey, and "The Centurion’s Wife” by Janette Oke. The latter is actually “market research,” she said. “It’s from another publisher.”
Wong, who was born and raised in Chandler, Ariz., said Tennessee is “quite a change from the Southwest. I can’t get used to these winters – it’s dark all the time. But people are very friendly.”
She is in Tennessee for a purpose, she firmly believes. “The only reason I am where I am is that God had a plan for me.”