Emily C Feinberg
Editor, Roaring Brook Press
At what point did you know you wanted to work in publishing and how did you get your first break in the industry?
I knew when I was living in Boston, working in a different field. I was feeling restless and decided to go to grad school and that’s when I came across the Simmons University program. My first break was when Julie Bliven hired me as her intern at Charlesbridge.
In what way is today's political climate affecting the kind of books you are publishing at Roaring Brook Press?
We’re all women at Roaring Brook and of course, we talk about the political climate we’re in a lot. It’s hard not to. I think all across the industry editors are looking for books that help balance the nonstop deluge of news we get around the clock. For me, that’s manifested in the form of feminist books, from Jane Against the World, a nonfiction history of reproductive rights in America (Feb 2020) to Go With the Flow, a middle grade graphic novel about four best friends protesting menstruation stigma.
Talk us through the journey of one of your titles, from acquisition right through to publication, explaining the various steps along the way.
It’s a pretty long process and for picture books, it usually takes between 2-3 years. An agent will submit a dummy (or a text) to me and if I absolutely love it, I’ll take it to my weekly editorial meeting and share it with my team. They’re all brilliant editors and it’s good to get those different perspectives right at the beginning. If it passes through edit meeting, I’ll do a bunch of behind the scene paperwork (profit & loss statements; comp title (market) research, etc.) and send it out to our acquisitions board which consists of our sales, marketing, publicity, school and library marketing teams, as well as our president, head of finance, and my publisher. We have an acquisitions meeting every week and if it passes through that meeting, I call the agent and make an offer. After that, we get to work on a particular schedule. It will take the illustrator longer to make art than it will the writer to make revisions so I want to get them started as early as possible. I’m a fairly hands-on editor so I like to get in there at every step. I work with an art director and we go back and forth until we get the sketches to where everyone is satisfied and then send the artist off to make final art. Once that comes in, we go through the proofing process, which is where you get to see the book laid out on the exact paper it’s going to print on. This usually takes 3-4 tries but once the book is ready, we send it off to the printer!
What are some of the biggest pressures associated with your job?
Time is probably the biggest one. I think people think editors sit in a bubble all day, quietly editing with a red pen but the majority of my work day is not spent editing at all. We have a lot of meetings, and a lot of books in the works at different stages at all times. The editor is also like the project manager—you manage every part of the process for each and every book and that work can build up. I often do my editing at home on my free time.
Another pressure is the amount of public speaking editors have to do. I always thought it was funny that they expect a bunch of nerdy book readers to speak in public and command rooms with tons of people. But they do! And it’s a lot of pressure but you kind of get used to that.
What portfolio advice would you offer illustrators looking to appeal to Roaring Brook Press?
Make sure you show a range - you never know what an editor is looking for but if you show a range (animals, people, atmosphere, etc.) and give an editor more options, they'll remember your portfolio when they're looking for different types of books.
Name some of your favourite children’s book characters and explain what makes them so memorable.
Choose 3 titles you are most proud of to share with our audience.
If Sharks Disappeared (series) by Lily Williams
Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights (YA nonfiction) by Karen Blumenthal.
Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet by Curtis Manley and Jessica Lanan
(I want to name like 20 more but you said only 3.)
Tell us about a) the most daunting and b) the most exhilarating experience you've ever had in your career.
A) Daunting: When my former boss Neal Porter moved his imprint to Holiday House. Overnight, I went from being an assistant to being a full editor without assistant duties and it was terrifying but I ultimately learned so much about the business and myself and I’m very grateful for that.
B) Exhilarating: When Big Cat, Little Cat won the Caldecott Honor. I’m not sure I have experienced pride like that before and it was marvelous and scary all at once.
What kind of stories are you looking to acquire at the moment?
Right now I’m looking for character-driven, off-beat picture books and solid, risk-taking nonfiction.
Which titles from your forthcoming list are 'ones to watch'?
- Starla Jean by Elana K. Arnold and A.N. Kang (a new chapter book series!).
- A History of Underwear (with chickens) by Hannah Holt and Korwin Briggs (nonfiction/chickens).
- Two Many Birds by Cindy Derby.