Lydia Stevens, the U.S. acquisitions editor for Urano Publishing, at her office in Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — Lydia Stevens spends her days in front of twin computer monitors at her small office, editing, emailing and doing the dozens of tasks required of an acquisition editor at an international publishing company.

Behind her, sitting face out on one of the many bookshelves that line the small room, are the first fruits of the labors of Stevens and her colleagues as they launch the U.S. branch of the Spain-based Urano World Publishing this week.

Four books — “How to be a Grown Up,” by Daisy Buchanan; “This Working Life: How to Navigate Your Career in Uncertain Times,” by Lisa Leong and Monique Ross; “Grief and Renewal: Finding Beauty and Balance in Loss,” by Hector Miguel Ruiz and Barbara Emrys; and “She Who Wins: Ditch Your Inner ‘Good Girl,’ Overcome Uncertainty and Win at Your Life,” by Renee Bauer  —  are the debut titles for U.S. branch of the company and represent the result of some of the work Stevens has done since she was hired nearly two years ago.

“She Who Wins,” is to be released Tuesday, and “Grief and Renewal” on Sept. 25.

And that marks the official start of Stevens’ dream career.

“It’s taken 10 years to get here,” Stevens said recently.


It has actually been longer than that, if you count back to the days of Stevens’ childhood, when she wrote in journals and snuck out of bed to sit at the top of the stairs to read by the light from the hallway. And when her parents caught her at it and sent her back to bed, she would retreat to the back of the closet with a flashlight.

“I used to think nobody knew it about it, but, yeah, they knew I did it,” she said. “My mom was like: Why do you think I give you an hour before I tell you to go to bed?”

After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University, the Gardiner native worked as a ghostwriter before switching to developmental editing, helping writers with issues like structure, form and plot.

She also served an internship for Paige Wheeler, founder of Creative Media Agency, and for Anthem Press in London. Among her other experiences, she returned to Creative Media Agency as a freelance editor.

When the position at Urano World Publishing was announced, Stevens applied. With her hiring, the U.S. branch and seventh branch of the publishing company outside of Spain would be launched. And with her location in Gardiner, it would join about a dozen other publishers based in Maine.

The plan is to release two titles a month for the first year as the business progresses.


And it appears there is room in the marketplace for more titles, because demand for books remains resilient, despite fears about the economy, COVID-19 and changes in consumer demand, according to Statista, a global data and business intelligence platform.

Book publishing in the United States has topped $25 billion in revenue, which includes the growing digital audiobook sector.

Stevens spends her days reviewing nonfiction, self-help and inspirational proposals and manuscripts that come by an author query or through a literary agency. Manuscripts that pass that screening will be reviewed by the editorial board, which considers the merits and marketability of the proposals. If a deal can be struck, that begins the editing process, which can include making sure the manuscript is in good shape, and the author’s claims are appropriately supported.

Even as Stevens works on the words of other authors, she has written some of her own. She is a self-published author of four books and has a manuscript with a literary agent. On top of all of that, she is now enrolled in a doctoral program for humanities and culture, with a specialty in women and gender studies and creative writing at Union Institute & University in Ohio. Her creative dissertation is titled “Beautiful Souls,” to encourage women to pursue their creative mediums and look at how that contributes to the arts and humanity and helps women with their mental and emotional well-being.

“What could women do for society if we said to ourselves that we don’t have to put these creative ideas on the back burner because we’re busy with a career or a family or a spouse?” Stevens said.

The completion of the manuscript is still months away. In the meantime, Stevens said she will continue working with authors on their manuscripts and on public relations and marketing, working with cover designers and copy editors and setting up distribution and production — essentially, building the infrastructure that will support the pipeline of ideas that are waiting to see the light of day.

Stevens does not rely solely on queries. She often gets into discussions about books, especially if she is at the Gardiner Public Library. When she is wearing one of her Union Institute T-shirts, a conversation might start with a question about what she is studying and slide right into a book idea.

Stevens also works on outreach and making contacts more formally by attending conferences, including the Writer’s Digest conference in New York she attended in her first year working for Urano.

“I was pitched in the bathroom through a stall door. Please,” she said, “just email me.”

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