Nancy Mercado Embraces Collaborative Approach to Editing 'Star' Titles

Nancy Mercado, associate publisher and editorial director at Dial Books for Young Readers, learned on the go as editor of books including SLJ starred titles 'Because Claudette' and 'When We Make It.'


Nancy Mercado describes her path to publishing as “a little bit unusual.”

“I started as a book club assistant at Scholastic Book Clubs and then moved on to club manager,” says the associate publisher and editorial director of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers.

As club manager, she selected titles for the Scholastic Book Clubs’ iconic monthly flyers. Mercado loved the job, but after four years, wanted to “get my hands on [books] earlier.” She found a home as an editor at Dial in 2002.

With stints at Scholastic and Macmillan, Mercado has worked with a long list of authors, including Paul Acampora, Cecil Castellucci, Veronica Chambers, Paul Griffin, Diana López, Jennifer Mathieu, Caragh M. O’Brien, Kevin Sherry, Isabel Quintero, and Taeeun Yoo, among others. Recent books singled out for an SLJ star include Tracey Baptiste’s Because Claudette (Feb. 2022) and When We Make It (2021) by Elisabet Velasquez.

Mercado learned on the go. She credits the “circ file” as an early teacher. Rare in the digital age, the circ file is a folder with a department’s editorial letters and documents shared among editors. “I was writing out lines [from editorial letters] that I thought sounded really good or reading [the other editors’] rejections,” she says. “The file was where I got my greatest editorial education.”

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Mercado searches for something specific when taking on a new project. “I look for authors who really want to dig deep and who are OK with a very organic process of uncovering the story as it goes along,” she says. While her approach isn’t always structured or scientific, it is always collaborative. “I feel my way through a manuscript, and I depend on my authors to feel their way through it, too.”

Every book brings its own challenges and emotional connection. From acquisition to revision, so many things can impact how the project resonates, or is going, with Mercado and the author. With each project, “I’m in a different place a year later. I have a different skill set, or I have a different bandwidth. It really depends on the book.”

Though editing is a solitary craft, Mercado believes the authors she has worked with have shaped her as an editor. “Seeing how they respond, or don’t, to my feedback, making our way through the book, and learning more about it together—authors have been my greatest mentors.”

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