Seventeen years ago, while the ink was still drying on my philosophy degree, I started working as a nonfiction editor. I wanted to be a writer, a novelist actually, but publishing looked like an ivory tower I would need to sneak my way into. Sure, I didn’t know a serial comma from a hole in the page, but getting a job as an editor at least felt possible. Thinking I could land an agent and a book deal, on the other hand, seemed deluded.

I worked at a number of houses for about a decade before starting Tandem Books with a design partner. We weren’t quite packagers, but we weren’t quite not packagers, so we called ourselves a “publishing studio.” We did a ton of projects, working on books that ran the gamut from mid-list titles with first-time authors to big-deal books with heavyweights like the New York Times and Mel Brooks—all while I wrote for our clients.

The business was certainly a success, but I was neck deep in a career that was supposed to have only been a backdoor into the industry. Yes I was writing, but it was all commissioned work that burned up most of my creative energy. So I made a bonkers decision. I left the flourishing business we had built to take a crack at being a writer instead of an editor who also writes.

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