While in college, I did a number of internships both in magazines and then in book publishing. I thought my dream job would be writing columns on love, fashion, and pop culture (think SJP in Sex and the City). But after interning for a magazine and not having very much enjoyed the experience, I worked for Carol Fitzgerald at The Book Report Network and fell in love with the publishing world. I realized some of my best childhood experiences revolved around books. I had no idea there was such a complex, fascinating and creative process behind a book’s publication. Whole teams of people working together to spread the word about beautiful works of literature. And one person who gets to read endless stories and shepherd them out into the world.
I’ve been fortunate enough to work with many brilliant editors, writers, agents, and colleagues who have made my eleven years in publishing such a delightful experience. I was lucky enough to work on a wide range of projects and learn an array of editorial styles that have helped shape my editorial vision and execution today. I started my career at Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, and was able to work on commercial successes such as Lauren Kate, Ann Brashares, Carrie Ryan, Nicola Yoon, James Dashner, Tyra Banks, and Zayn. I edited a nonfiction project by famous chef, Andrew Zimmern and was a part of the repackaging of Sweet Valley High. (The mass market editions of those books are still sitting in a box in my parent’s attic.) It was a dream come true!
While I’ve always enjoyed a dark teen mystery or coming-of-age novel, I have a deep love of middle-grade and this is the space I’ve been living in for the past three years. (I moved over from Delacorte Press to Books for Young Readers at Simon and Schuster in November 2016.) There is something so very special about this time in life. We begin to ask more questions and gauge our autonomy yet still want (and need) the guidance of our parents; we start to see the world around us in a new light—a playground of opportunity and promise just waiting for us to take that leap of faith. We still believe in magic, albeit in a more practical way, and we start to feel the ties of childhood friendships fray and perhaps tether themselves to different individuals. I could go on and on. At times I find it interesting that I want to dwell in the world that was so unpleasant for me growing up, yet at the same time I know it was the books I read and the adventures I took each time I cracked open that worn library binding, that helped me to escape the everyday nonsense that is middle school.
My area of expertise falls in the middle-grade to teen spectrum.
As I mentioned, I focus on middle-grade and teen but within that scope, I love to commission interior art to accompany the prose whenever I can. I have a novel that came out this past spring titled Meena Meets her Match that follows an elementary school-aged girl who finds out she has epilepsy. It’s perfect for Junie B. and Ramona Quimby graduates and the author, designer, and I just knew we needed to visually share Meena’s journey throughout the novel. Meena’s energy and love of color and art sings across the stage with a series of spot art illustrations that capture some of the key scenes in the story. I also love a good map.
I think it really depends on the content—sometimes a dynamic scene works, other times it’s an iconic image from the story. Whether the novel is poignant or more adventure-driven, I do feel the color palette should be bright and dynamic. You want the image to pop off the shelf, not fade into the backdrop.
The absolute best part of my job is asking my authors questions that inspire them to think about their plot threads, characters, situations, and themes in a new light. My goal as their editor is to provide them with the tools to reshape their novel to its highest potential. So I’m going to say that on a daily basis I communicate ideas that spark in my mind when I read drafts of manuscripts and look at title suggestions and sketches and then I provide the necessary conduit for the author to turn that lightbulb on to its highest wattage.
This is hard! I’m so proud of all my authors and their stories. Alright, if I’m forced to choose, one of the first novels I acquired at S&S was a touching coming-of-age story about a girl who finds mean notes about her on her classroom floor titled If This Were a Story. It touches on so many real and raw experiences in a delicate and moving way. The next would be a historical novel in verse called Lifeboat 12. Atmospheric and gripping, readers will learn about a little known WW II story packed within a sea faring adventure. And finally, The Paris Project, which comes out in a few weeks. I’ve worked with Donna for a long time and her pitch-perfect middle-grade voice wins you over from the first page. Full of family and heart, this is a story I would have read over and over again as child.
I’ve truly had some of the best bosses in the business. Their superb editorial skills, excellent methods of communication, and overall warm personalities have shaped the editor I am today. I’ll start with Beverly Horowitz, whose in-depth editorial phone calls could be works of art. Wendy Loggia, whose attention to detail helped me to realize there is no small act that goes unnoticed and that the smallest actions have the biggest payoff. Krista Marino, whose editorial letters are genius and help to bring out the very best in her authors in addition to her kick-ass presence. And my current mentor, role model, and boss: Justin Chanda, who knows how to capture an audience—whether it be by phone, email or in person. I hope I can effectively communicate such publishing passion and knowhow one day.
I’m happy to help a fellow writer navigate the publishing waters and attend conferences year- round to meet new talent. The world is always in need of more beautiful stories. For both illustrators and writers, it’s immensely helpful to attend portfolio workshops and presentations at conferences available in your area; this will also grant you the opportunity to meet agents and editors who acquire content similar to your style. The faculty will be there with fresh, proficient eyes and insight into the marketplace to help steer your talent in the right, most successful, direction.
Finding new voices and seeing stories change and grow, to when they finally reach their audience, has been an excellent adventure . . . and a dream thus far.
My first job in publishing was with First Second Books – I started there as a Marketing Associate, working with Mark Siegel and Lauren Wohl. I started six months before they published their first books and then stayed there working in marketing and publicity until I moved to Random House Children’s Books last year as the Publishing Director of Random House Graphic.
Our mission statement at Random House Graphic is, “a graphic novel on every bookshelf.” What that means is that we want graphic novels to be everywhere – and read by everyone.
As Publishing Director, I do a little bit of everything at the company – from editorial to marketing to systems to public speaking. The job of a Publishing Director is really to support everyone else in doing the best work possible.
My passion for graphic novels stems from the fact that they’re awesome! I love the combination of writing and art. And the community around graphic novels – from the authors to the booksellers, teachers, librarians, and media people I work with on a day-to-day basis – are some of the most enthusiastic and supportive people I’ve ever met. It’s a wonderful space to get to work in.
I can’t wait for our spring 20 list! What we’ve got coming up is:
The Runaway Princess, by Johan Troïanowski – this princess doesn’t want to stay home and be polite. She wants to have adventures – so she runs away!
Bug Boys, by Laura Knetzger – in which you’ll meet the nicest, kindest bugs yet. And they go to the library (as well as having other adventures).
Aster and the Accidental Magic, by Thom Pico and Karensac – when Aster’s parents move their family to a small rural town, she expects the worst; when she meets a magical trickster spirit, things only go downhill from there.
Witchlight, by Jessi Zabarsky – magic and loss permeate this graphic novel about a girl and a witch who go on a quest together – and gradually fall in love along the way.
And then coming up in the summer is an amazing autobiographically-inspired middle-grade graphic novel by Lucy Knisley, Stepping Stones!
Kids and YA graphic novels are a growing part of the children’s publishing market today. Publishers – and readers – are really enthusiastic about this format.
The first thing I always recommend to graphic novel artists is to read kids and YA graphic novels! There are so many amazing books out there – knowing what’s being published and what’s happening in the market is essential.
Next, draw comics! With the small press comics convention scene and the online webcomics community, comics are one of the easiest formats of books to find a community and share your work with to improve your skills.
Random House Graphic is a dedicated imprint at Random House Children’s Books; we publish exclusively graphic novels.
Our sister imprints at Random House Children’s Books publishe many amazing graphic novels as well – including Babymouse, The Cardboard Kingdom, 5 Worlds, and Hilo. We’re graphic novel publishing siblings – and in many cases, we’re right down the hall (or next door). We all work to support each other!
To get “a graphic novel on every bookshelf,” we want to appeal to all kinds of readers! That means we’re interested in books for different ages – from ages five up through YA – on all different genres, and both fiction and nonfiction. We’re looking for great stories with wonderful artwork.
Diversity is important in every part of our world today.
Any publishing for kids – including graphic novels – has the potential to make a vital impression on kids as they figure out who they want to be.
When all of the elements – writing, art, story, characters, design – come together perfectly, that’s a great graphic novel!
I set up Cicada after the birth of my daughter, Edith. I had been working as an editor for a small independent company but had handed in my notice when I got pregnant. I wanted a part time editorial job with another design-oriented independent but there was nothing available. I had had a couple successes at previous companies, so slightly foolishly assumed that it would be no big deal to set up my own company. It’s been a lot harder than I ever expected, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. But I’m still standing, and that makes me pretty proud.
The company has been through various stages. We started out making design/gift books for adults, then moved into activity books for children and finally into picture books.
The picture books are a new venture for me and I’m still bursting with enthusiasm, so it’s hard to pick a favourite. Sock Story is probably my most successful picture book to date. It’s about a pair of socks that get separated in the wash and then have to decide what it means to be a pair if one of you has changed. It’s got a philosophical touch and a lot of humour and it’s beautifully illustrated by Eleonora Marton. It’s printed in pantones with a die cut cover, so quite a wow factor. We had a great critical response, including a review in the New York Times, and it’s selling through really well.
I’m working on a couple non-fiction titles with two great illustrators. Sophie Williams is illustrating a book about natural disasters. She’s got a really warm style that is perfect for conveying information. I’m also working with Katie Brosnan on a book about the microbiome. Her style is very narrative and imaginative, which is unusual for non-fiction, but actually works really well – and makes a complex topic very accessible and inspiring.
After these books go to print it’s back to the picture books with a gorgeous book of Alice Bowsher’s about a dog called Scruff who hates being scruffy. I’ve also got one with Daniel Gray-Barnett called the Pocket Chaotic, about a kangaroo joey who’s mum is very messy. I love books that make me smile.
Wow. Where to begin? I’m an editor, not a business woman by nature, and it’s been a long hard journey getting to grips with the nuts and bolts of running a company. Many, many mistakes have been made along the way. My main challenge is making it all add up. Books have a low profit margin that seems to only get lower as paper prices increase and the value of the pound decreases. It’s a constant battle between the head and heart. What can I afford to do, how much can I afford to pay, how many copies will realistically sell, how commercial is the idea. I have to say, mostly the heart wins!
A typical workday is a balance between doing the stuff I love – writing and editing, communicating with illustrators, researching new projects, planning the future lists. And the other stuff: foreign language rights, shipping, production, checking on sales figures and stock levels… posting books out…. It’s certainly never dull!
I love the moment when you can feel a book in your head. You have the story, you’ve attached the right illustrator, you’ve discussed the visual approach and suddenly you see exactly how it’s going to look and you know exactly what you have to do to get there. Of course it’s a long road, but I know that if I have that clarity of vision at the beginning of the process, the end product will be a good ‘un!
I don’t really know. It’s hard for a small publisher to survive, but I think that’s true for any small business in a globalised world. I sometimes feel like the mainstream industry leaves it to the little guys to take all the risks and the risks that pay off are effectively stolen and commercialised, which can be very frustrating. But again, I think that’s true for a lot of industries, not just publishing.
It depends on the book, but I’m always looking for warmth and expression. For the picture books I want illustrators who can convey emotion in the faces of their characters, and also a sense of movement that can draw readers into the story. On the non-fiction side of things I’m looking for an illustrator who can convey information with a human touch.
On the non-fiction side of things I’m always on the lookout for science or geography topics that can be presented in a new way.
On the picture books, I’m looking for funny. I like books that make me smile and that have a touch of the subversive. Once they’re of school-age there’s a lot of pressure on kids to conform and I like books that challenge that either directly or indirectly.
Illustration styles – I’m open to anything really. I work with all sorts of illustrators working in any number of styles and mediums. I don’t know what exactly I look for, but I know what I like when I see it!
I love all Mo Willems books – Pigeon, Elephant and Piggie and Knuffle Bunny. You can’t beat him for the lol-factor.
I love the American I Can Read books from the 1980s, including Go Dog Go, the Best Nest and Hand Hand Fingers Thumb.
Jon Klassen is amazing. This is not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back are brilliant.
Lucy Cousins is a favourite – I love the Maisy books and Peck Peck Peck is a book I always buy for small children. The die cut holes are so clever. Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is a book I wish I had published.
I left a promising career with advertising giant Leo Burnett, cashed in $17,000 from my 401(k) plan, and launched a publishing house from an upstairs bedroom in my home in Naperville, Illinois. I started with just one book, and was initially focused on publishing professional finance titles, books for bankers, and how-to books for small-business owners.
It’s pretty wild that the company I started 31 years ago has become a Top 10 U.S. publisher and the largest woman-owned publisher in North America. We have over 100 employees and now publish hundreds of books each year in a variety of categories.
We are a data-driven company in an industry that is way too rooted in the notions of “taste” and “instinct.” I’ll take data over my gut any day of the week. We gather and learn from data wherever possible, even if it’s on the smallest of scales. We use data in every single department of the company. My background has certainly helped drive us in that direction, but all areas of the company have embraced the use of data.
In terms of innovation, our personalized books platform came from the discovery that readers were already customizing our bestselling kids and gift books on their own. We launched Put Me In The Story as an app, and quickly realized that readers actually wanted a print copy featuring their child’s name and photo, as a gift or keepsake. We are constantly adapting to better suit the needs and wants of readers.
We know books change lives because books changed my life at a young age when I first came to America. I was 9-years-old and did not speak English. I found refuge in the library, where books helped me to understand the culture and the language of the world I now found myself in. I have seen over the last 31 years how books can make a profound difference in peoples’ lives, and that is what continues to drive the Sourcebooks mission.
Agile, transparent and collaborative. We’ve also incorporated “growth mindset” throughout our corporate culture. It’s meaningful when every person on the team is pushing themselves to recognize that “you don’t know what you don’t know” and strive to understand something new. We publish 400 new titles each year.
In 1998, we broke all boundaries with We Interrupt This Broadcast by Joe Garner, a mixed-media book featuring two compact discs with integrated content. It was our largest first printing, and it went on to become Sourcebooks’s first New York Times bestseller. The brilliant pairing of live audio with photographs and the written word generated enormous interest within the bookselling community.
Three years later, we reinvigorated the way readers experience poetry with Poetry Speaks, a book and three-CD combination featuring noted poets like Tennyson and Plath reading their own work. This anthology, a Los Angeles Times and New York Times bestseller, was lauded by Publishers Weekly as having “the potential to draw more readers to poetry than any collection in years.”
After saying I would never publish a children’s book, we released our first children’s picture book, Poetry Speaks to Children, in 2005. The unique grouping of poems, illustrations, and a CD of poets reading their work delighted booksellers and found its way into the hearts of parents, teachers, and children alike, landing it on the New York Times bestseller list for ten weeks. The title eventually marked the springboard for the launch of Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, which started in 2007. A decade later, we’re the 11st largest children’s book publisher.
When I first started the company, my husband came with me to the bank to take out a loan. The banker only talked to my husband. He didn’t pay me any attention, even though my husband made it clear I was the founder and CEO of the company. On the next visit, my husband came with me again, but this time he sat at the back of the room and read a book. When the banker asked for his attention, he said, “you need to talk to her.”
Sourcebooks is the largest woman-owned publisher in North America. Our staff is 70% female, and our leadership team is 70% female. We publish books that empower, recognize and celebrate women who have made a difference.
Sourcebooks Kids is the umbrella under which four children’s imprints live including:
The viral picture book P Is for Pterodactyl, by Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter and illustrated Maria Tina Beddia, skyrocketed to #1 on the New York Times Children’s Picture Book bestseller list in December, selling 63,000 in eight weeks (NPD Bookscan).
Reading a print book will always be an incredibly special experience for all ages, but there are absolutely some areas where technology can really create major impact.
Some questions we asked ourselves years ago were: How do we engage reluctant readers? How do we turn every child into a reader? With those questions in mind, we created Put Me In the Story, which takes bestselling books and personalizes them with children’s names and pictures. We work with bestselling authors, award-winning publishers, and blockbuster brands to shape each personalized story into the best reading experience possible. For parents and children, these books become very special bonding experiences that they cherish for years to come. It also engages children at a much higher level, and helps their love of reading grow.
Another example for us is our Fiske Guide to College, the #1 going-to-college guide. It features 316 of the best schools in the US, Canada, and Great Britain. We wanted to find a way to enhance the overall experience for parents and college-bound students, so we created the Fiske interactive app. This allows individuals to browse the curated list of schools and create personal college lists, flag schools for a second look or visit, add notes about each school, email admissions departments directly, and so much more. The college search can be very daunting, and this app really helps families organize all of the information that they need so that that can make more informed decisions.
The future of publishing isn’t a far away concept; it’s actually happening right now. Books are unique, and the publishing is incredibly different than the music or magazine industries. When you buy a book for yourself or as a gift, that book tells the people around you what you like and what’s important to you. It’s another social way to share who you are with the world. That’s why platforms like Instagram are becoming vital to booksellers, librarians, and influencers. It helps them communicate their brand, and it helps them connect to the customer or reader.
As publishers, we have to be innovative and agile, and we have to constantly be thinking about what books mean to readers. We have to uncover new ways to reach them. The future of publishing involves changing and evolving. It means being brave enough to say that you don’t know the answer or the best solution – but that you’re going to ask questions and experiment until you find it. You have to stop believing everything you think you know, and you have to listen to what readers and saying and watch what they’re buying habits are. Then you collect your data, you experiment, you learn, and you move forward. And then you start the process all over again.
The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs by America’s Test Kitchen, which launched in October with a story on National Public Radio, spent 11 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and three weeks in the #1 spot on the Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover list.
Love: from Sesame Street by Sesame Workshop also debuted on the New York Times Children’s Picture Book bestseller list, the first time a Sesame Street book has made the list in 49 years.
In addition, with more than 850,000 copies sold of Baby University, the breakout series of science books for kids by Chris Ferrie, Sourcebooks Kids has quickly established itself as a leader in the preschool category.