Revision update: On chapter 18 of 30. Getting a little behind my goal, so tomorrow, I’ve got to step up my game.
In my third report from the Houston SCBWI conference, Simon & Schuster editor Alexandra Cooper talks about submitting to an editor, including herself.
If you missed my earlier reports, Scholastic editor and author Lisa Ann Sandell talked about making your query letter package stand out, and Balzer & Bray editor Ruta Rimas talked about what makes a great book.
Alexandra said she works with picture books, middle-grade and young adult fiction, but not easy readers or non-fiction. The exceptions are a few non-fiction picture books that came out of an idea she had and she assigned to a writer and illustrator.
When considering manuscripts, she takes into account the balance of her list as well as the list of her imprint. She said editors are responsible for bringing in books to add to the company’s bottom line, so they can’t always publish everything they’re passionate about. They will turn down good books if the imprint already has similar books, for example. However, she said, outstanding books won’t be turned down.
Editors want a balance between backlist authors and new authors (looking for writers she can work with again), as well as a balance between commercial and literary books.
Right now, she’s signing more novels than picture books, but it’s cyclical, she said. One of the reasons publishing companies are more cautious on picture books right now is the cost and economy. Color picture books are printed in China, and the weak dollar is making printing costs rise.
Finding an editor is like dating, she said, and as such, writers should want someone as committed to the book as the writer is.
The Internet and conferences such as the SCBWI ones are good places to find out about editors, she said. (And I fully agree. These conferences are great!)
As for the issue of most publishing houses not accepting unsolicited manuscripts except through conferences, Alexandra said a lot of the time it’s because of legal reasons. The company doesn’t want to open itself to a lawsuit if they turn down a book that’s similar to one they’re already working on.
However, she said the first book she acquired was from a query, so they do work.
Check back tomorrow for notes from National Geographic‘s Nancy Feresten.