Jevon Bolden

Years editing: 18
Job title: Founder, CEO, principal, Embolden Media Group 
Job description: Leads a publishing consulting firm and literary agency
Location: Central Florida

How did you get your current job?
Short answer: After 14 years working as an editor for traditional publishers, I started a company and hired myself.

Longer answer: After 12 years working for Charisma House as an editor and building really great author relationships, I felt my time there had come to an end. What I wanted to contribute to Christian publishing was different from what Charisma House was publishing at the time. After having such great training there, it was time for me to expand beyond the categories they published.

I searched high and low for another senior editor position — or even editorial director, managing editor, executive editor, or associate publisher position — but there were very few opportunities I could leverage, having signed an NDA at Charisma House. This meant I essentially could not work for another Christian publisher and created a challenge for me over and above the industry-level limitations I faced as an editor of color seeking a new position.

I eventually found a nice position with the largest children’s book publisher in the world: Scholastic. And it was local! I didn’t have to move to New York, so I applied. After working with the recruiter, I negotiated for a higher title and higher salary range due to my previous experience. I was hired as a senior editor for Tangerine Press, a nonfiction children’s book-plus imprint that produced book products for kids ages 7-12 and sold directly into Scholastic Book Fairs. It was an incredible opportunity.

Because I had built such strong relationships with the authors at the previous publisher, word traveled that I was no longer working with them. The authors I had worked with began requesting my help with their books. One of those authors, who had a significant platform, hosted a writer’s conference, for which they asked me to lead the entire publishing track. I brought in my diverse group of publishing friends — editors, marketing specialists, and more — and we served hundreds of writers of color, about 98% of whom had never attended a writer’s conference before.

We taught sessions on writing, editing, and marketing. We also sat with them for one-on-one publishing appointments. It was a huge success, so much so that I received an influx of interest from authors who wanted to work with me writing, editing, and publishing their books. Over the next few months after the writers’ conference, I was inundated with so much work, I was earning more at the side hustle than I was with my full-time work. 

This realization led me to a decision to resign from Scholastic in 2017 and launch Embolden Media Group full time.

Have you faced any hurdles in getting into/advancing in the copyediting profession because you are a person of color? Or have you observed such barriers for others? 
It is no secret that the editorial part of publishing is 85% white, according to Lee & Low’s 2019 Diversity Baseline Survey. I am part of the 1% of Black, Afro American, Afro Caribbean editors in all of publishing.

The first issue in becoming a copyeditor is that there is very little information about publishing at the collegiate level. I didn’t even know anything about book publishing while I was pursuing an English degree. I just knew I loved literature and books. I stumbled upon the potential to get a job in publishing because I was aggressively job hunting based on positions that matched my degree. No recruiters from publishing houses came to my university.

Publishing is also very regional. The chances of entering book publishing decrease if you do not live in the northeast near New York — or in Nashville, Grand Rapids, or Colorado Springs for Christian publishing. I lived in Huntsville, Alabama, at the time. I got a job at a small Christian publisher in Florida and moved for the entry-level position at my own expense. It was incredibly challenging financially. What I risked and sacrificed as a young professional with a young family can be a pretty big turnoff for new professionals of color.

But let me say this, and it’s very important: I absolutely love publishing. I loved everything in those days about being a new editor. The sacrifice still feels worth it to me.

I moved up quickly within the company I started with (at the time, I was the only person of color in the department and the only one with a college degree in English), but then there was nowhere else for me to go. Their career path was not clear, and once you got to a certain position, there wasn’t much more room for advancement. I wrote more about this here.

What lessons would you have liked to learn at the beginning of your career?
Outside of being better educated on the career path for an editor and being allowed to explore the publishing industry as a whole, my direct and necessary on-the-job training was superb — better than most. I am grateful for that.

Any suggestions on what offices/employers could do to increase diversity in your field of editing?
Yes, I wrote about five best DEI practices for organizations here.

Tell us about a project that you’re proud of.
Too many to name. You can see a list of books I’ve worked on here.

What resources would you share with fellow editors?
See the image below, from my editorial bookshelf to yours. Also Conscious Style Guide is a great online style guide for issues regarding race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. 


Are you an editor of color who would like to be featured on Outside-the-Book.com? Email Info@StyleSheetsEditorial.com

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