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Julie Rosenberg Interview

Julie Rosenberg

Editor, Razorbill (Penguin Young Readers Group)

How did you discover you wanted to work in publishing and what has been your career path to date?

I’ve always been a huge book worm. When I was a kid, my local Barnes & Noble even kicked me out of their reading challenge after I won too many free books (I think you got one for every ten you read), so the fact that I ended up working in publishing probably isn’t surprising to anyone who knew me growing up!
 
In college, I studied creative writing and communications, so I was considering going into marketing or PR as well, but being a book editor was always at the top of my list. I was interested in working in children’s literature specifically since kids have a never-ending well of fascinating, relatable stories to tell, and the best children’s books tend to stick with readers long into adulthood. (Plus, I’ll never get tired of watching first love unfold!) Luckily I landed an internship at Scholastic during college,  and from there I was happy to be hired after graduation as a production editor. I worked there for three years before moving over to an editorial role at Disney-Hyperion. Starting in managing editorial gave me a lot of insight into the book-making process which proved to be invaluable when I made the switch to editorial. I loved my time at Hyperion, and I worked there for four years before moving over to Razorbill’s editorial team in 2017.

Razorbill is a Penguin imprint that is home to many award-winning and New York Times bestselling books for children and young adults. As Editor what does your role broadly entail and how is the team structured?

Razorbill has a publisher and associate publisher who edit their own books as well as overseeing our publishing program at large. On the editorial front, Razorbill has another editor, two assistant editors, and an editorial assistant. We also work closely with our design, marketing, publicity, sales, managing editorial, production, and publishing teams to get our books out in the best way possible!
 
In my role, I spend a lot of time reading submissions in order to find projects I’m excited about, so I’m always in communication with agents regarding negotiations or potential new projects. After acquisition, I love to work with authors to finesse their books through all stages of the editorial process. In a broader sense, my role is to be a book’s biggest advocate and fan as I work across divisions to make sure it has a great cover and copy as well as a strong marketing and publicity plan so that our sales force will have a dynamic product to work with.
 
In addition to traditional acquisitions, I also work with the other editors on my team to develop IP projects, which entails coming up with the concept and outline for a book as well as pairing it with the perfect author.

How many titles does Razorbill publish per year across middle grade and YA?

Razorbill publishes 20+ frontlist titles per year across middle grade and YA fiction and nonfiction.

What portfolio advice would you offer to illustrators looking to appeal to Razorbill, are there specific styles and themes you're particularly interested in?

Since most of our books are geared toward older readers, we are always looking for illustrators with a fresh and sophisticated style. I look for range in terms of emotion in particular since I love to find artists who can gives readers a glimpse into the characters’ personalities. We also work on a lot of type-driven covers, so artists that demonstrate unique hand lettering abilities tend to stand out as well.  

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Razorbill is "committed to taking risks and exploring new ways to tell stories." Tell us more about this philosophy, using specific examples from your list.

One way we do this is by experimenting with different formats and design styles in order to differentiate our books. While I wasn’t the editor of this project myself, Razorbill recently published STILL HERE by actress and humanitarian Rowan Blanchard, which is an authentic look at Rowan’s life, featuring her own photos, poetry, and letters, alongside art and writing from her friends. The goal was to make this look like an actual scrapbook, and the final product provides readers with a really immersive experience.

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Artistically-speaking, what are some of the key differences when it comes to illustrating for middle grade versus YA audiences?

While there are always exceptions to what I say here, I generally think of middle-grade illustrations as being more detailed, particularly when it comes to the appearance of the characters. Young Adult audiences seem to be drawn more to illustrations that look a bit more offbeat or show less of a character’s specific features. Middle grade covers also frequently showcase full-page scenes, whereas YA illustration is often more iconic.

Which books from your own childhood really stand out?

It’s always so hard to narrow my list down for questions like this! I think I’d have to say these books were my top favorites as a child (and still are today):
•         One Morning in Maine
•         The Westing Game
•         Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
•         Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging
•         The Princess Diaries

I was also completely obsessed with a series called Replica by Marilyn Kaye. I must have at least 20 of those books in my childhood bedroom! They feature genetically superior clones, an evil international conspiracy, and romance with the boy next door. What more could you ask for?

Which projects are you most proud of and why?

This is another list that’s too long for me to narrow down! But, I suppose I will give it a try. ;-)
 
I recently finished editing SONG OF THE DEAD by Sarah Glenn Marsh, which is the sequel to REIGN OF THE FALLEN. I’m proud of this series in a lot of ways since both books are such engaging reads with immersive worldbuilding and relatable characters, but Sarah is also a champion for LGBTQ+ representation in her work. The series’ protagonist is bi, and it features other bi, gay, and lesbian characters throughout, which is especially refreshing to see in fantasy. I’ve loved watching children’s literature become more inclusive as a whole, and it’s been wonderful to publish this series as we continue to work on bringing all readers books that reflect their lives and experiences. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Sarah is the queen of make-out scenes!)
 
I also edited a board book called FEMINIST BABY by Loryn Brantz while I was at Hyperion, and it’s definitely one of my favorite projects to date. Through her personality-packed illustrations and witty and playful text, Loryn’s book shows how much strength there is in just being yourself. I’ve loved watching this book take off, and it makes me happy to see how many young readers are being introduced to feminism.

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What exciting new releases can we look forward to from Razorbill over the coming months?

LIES YOU NEVER TOLD ME by Jennifer Donaldson just hit shelves, and this thriller is the perfect binge read for summer. It has an amazing twist and it’s impossible to put down—I actually don’t want to say more since I don’t want to ruin it!
 
I’m also really excited about THESE WITCHES DON’T BURN by Isabel Sterling, which will be coming out in Spring 2019. This is the first book I signed up when I came to Razorbill, and it has magic, snark, and romance all wrapped up in a murder mystery—basically everything I like in one! Hannah, the main character (who also happens to be a teen witch), is having trouble getting over her ex-girlfriend since they keep being thrown together after their coven is targeted. And when a new girl in town catches Hannah’s eye, she has to figure out how to balance fending off a terrifying foe with agonizing over texts to her new crush. This book is such a treat, with lots of swoony scenes mixed in with tense action sequences, and Isabel Sterling is a debut author I can’t wait to introduce to the world!

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