Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Giving a Gift They Will Never Forget

Let's be honest. Children's books are devastating. Each of us, at some time in our lives, must come to terms with the fact that the owl sent to deliver our letter from Hogwarts didn't just get blown off course by the westerlies, that checking the back of every wardrobe won't one day let us into Narnia, and we will never find that little fairy who will give our happy thoughts wings to Never Never Land

If you're anything like me, your heart just broke all over again, but isn't that the point? Children's books let us believe the impossible. They make us think that The Nothing is coming to destroy everything, that the Wicked Witch of the West is going to get us and our little dog too, and that bad days exist, even in Australia. They give us imagination and emotion. They teach us about love and hate, fear and adventure--and when it is all over, we put them away on our bookshelves to revisit later and experience it all over again. They are always there for us no matter what it is we need from them.

This love and admiration for children's books is what pushed me into the world of publishing and Peachtree Publishers in the first place. It is also why, when it comes to gift giving, I always go with books. I like to know that I am helping to build a library that will show kids what a real Library Dragon is like, that raptors aren't just dinosaurs, and that even the president has something to learn in kindergarten. 

It is in this spirit of giving I offer my list of Perfect Peachtree books for Christmas for the kiddo in your life that could do with a bit more of the fantastical:

  • Immi's Gift by Karin Littlewood-This is a book that celebrates imagination and the interconnectedness of the world.
  • Snow Day! by Lester Laminack-Everyone looks forward to that glorious time of year when snow days are imminent... even grown ups.
  • Little Rabbit's Christmas by Harry Horse-Little Rabbit is the brattiest bunny around, especially when Santa brings him a coveted red sled for Christmas. However, even little rabbits can learn the benefits of sharing.
  • Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart-the budding scientist will love learning about the vibrant world beneath the snow.
  • Where Teddy Bears Come From by Mark Burgess-When the Little Wolf (not to be confused with the Big Bad mind you) can't sleep, he goes in search of a teddy bear and meets all sorts of characters along the way.
  • Santa's Eleven Months Off by Mike Reiss-The age old question is finally answered... What does Santa do with all of that time off?
  • Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon-The true story of the Christmas truce during World War I. Sometimes truth can be more unbelievable than fiction.
  • To Whom the Angel Spoke by Terry Kay-A look at the story of Christmas and the unifying power of belief.

What are your favorite holiday books? Which children's books have had the most profound effect on you as a reader? Do you have a great book disappointment? I'd love to hear all things children's books!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Life of a Children's Book Author

We got a great e-mail from Kyle Mewburn, author of Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! all about his recent book tour. For those of you interested in what it is like to be a children's author on the road, here is a bit of insight for you.

"I've been back home for 2 weeks now, so thought it was about time I sent a little de-brief to keep you up-to-date. I've also asked the schools I visited to send me some feedback, so I thought I'd pass some of them onto you as well.

My trip all went without a hitch (I was driving myself mostly - haha!) apart from the almost mandatory cold with subsequent almost-loss-of-voice. Possibly having to do 8 talks most days, including a couple in an echoey gym-full of 600 kids without a microphone, had something to do with it!

I had an amazing time, and got a wonderful rsponse from the kids. Everyone from Salisbury to North Dakota were very friendly and warm, and went out of their way to make sure everything went smoothly. They couldn't do enough for me. Much of the time I felt like a rockstar!! 

I visited at least 2 schools a day most days, sometimes 4. In Salisbury, I did 15 talks in 2 days - everything from Kindergarten to Elementary, to Salisbury Uni students and the Eastern Shore Reading Council. My presentations went down really well, especially once I'd mastered the art of using a microphone and reading my stories from a powerpoint! 

I signed several hundred books while I was there, and all the librarians were very keen to get more copies of Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! plus my other titles.

My 3 hour presentation at the library conference also went well... sort of. Actually, my blender suddenly developed a leak towards the end, and a pool of pink milk started spreading across the table. Minor pandemonium broke out as all the librarians rushed to get paper towels etc to stop the stuff dribbling onto the carpet. Not sure how it happened, but  we guess a jelly snake got caught around the blade and instead of getting blended, started unscrewing the bottom seal.

It was quite fun, really, especially once I realised I HADN'T broken the
borrowed blender. It was the talk of the conference the next morning, I can tell you! Great way to endear yourself to librarians - create a near-disaster!!  (I possibly should explain the talk I gave was called 'Spinach Ice-cream' and involved talking about my journey to becoming a picture book writer, plus my philosophy about what makes a good picture book etc.)"

And now for my favorite part. Here are responses from the kids that Kyle spoke with and told stories too:
  • "Thank you for Reading to us.  I liked Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!  My mom is the same way."   Preston (grade 3)
  • "I love Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! cause that kid is in a situation with his aunt.  I love the book!"  Gabbi (grade 5)
  • "I love your accent, and how you told us about your life.  I liked how you read your books.  You are full of humor."  Lakota (grade 5)
  • "I Love your book, Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!  You are hilarious!  Your accent is cool!  I think it's cool that you live in New Zealand.  Your house is really cool, and you have very funny jokes.  Thanks for coming to our school!"  Kali (grade 5)
  • "I like all of your books they are very funny, especially Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!   Awesome presentation."  Megan (grade 5)
  • "I loved your books,  they are cool."  Logan (grade 5)
  • "I loved your book Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! it is very funny.  I had a lot of fun listening to it.  Thank you for coming to our school, because I know you had a lot of choices.  I hope to read one of your other books real soon."  Brody  (grade 5)
  • "Thank you for coming to Lewis & Clark.  I love Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! You could write a book about a beaver in my bathtub."  Alex (grade 4)
  • "Thank you for reading to us."  Aracely  (grade 3)
  • "Thank you for reading to us!  Do you remember my Grandmother?  Her name is Paulette.  
  • "I like Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! it's my favorite book!"  Keegan (grade 3)

Clearly, Kyle had a wonderful visit to the states and really connected with the kids he was speaking to. What experiences have you had with authors? Which author stands out in your mind as your favorite? What made their visit so great?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fabulous Fishes... and CAKES!

I have to share this amazingly fun project with everyone! Susan Stockdale, author of Fabulous Fishes, partnered with the Ritz-Carlton in a community outreach program. They had local kids come over to the Ritz in Naples, Florida to decorate cakes inspired by Susan's book. Besides being creative and fun, Susan had an amazing experience herself. Below, hear what she had to say about spending the day with local kids making fabulous cakes.

"This summer, I worked with the Ritz-Carlton as a guest speaker for its “Community Footprints” program, in which Ritz guests and employees help organizations located near its hotels. I participated in its Naples and Palm Beach, Florida, programs to share my bookmaking process with disadvantaged children.

For the Palm Beach outreach, I spoke to a group of children from foster homes. Most of them had never been inside a hotel before and none of them had ever met an author. I didn’t “present” so much as answer questions like “how do you find your words?” and “how long does it take you to make a picture?”

More interestingly, some extraordinary collaborating started to take place. The kids and the Ritz clients and employees were divided into teams to put together bookshelves lying in boxes on the floor. Right away, we were all down on our hands and knees, reading the instructions and working industriously to put the shelves together. The kids were clearly elated to be working alongside the adults on such a tangible project. Within the allotted hour, we had assembled twelve environmentally friendly bamboo bookshelves for the kids’ foster homes. Even better, the shelves were then fully stocked with children’s books purchased by the hotel. Our group celebrated its collective sense of accomplishment by building huge ice cream sundaes.

For the “Community Footprints” program in Naples, I presented to children enrolled in ESOL reading classes at a local literacy agency. Then adults and kids worked together to decorate cakes, using the illustrations in my book, Fabulous Fishes, as inspiration. For me, this was literally the icing on the cake. I was honored! The final creations were delivered to a nearby hospice center, and the kids took home mini-cakes to enjoy themselves.

These two programs demonstrated the rich rewards of children and adults working together to accomplish a common task, and having great fun in the process. It was pure pleasure to be a part of these positive teambuilding efforts, which surely left a “footprint” on this author’s heart."

How wonderful are those cakes?! Why not try making your own Fabulous Fishes cakes?

Here are a few more notes from Susan about how they made their fishy treats!

"The Ritz baking staff presented each team (made up of adults and kids) with two large, rectangular sheet cakes and a copy of Fabulous Fishes. We were also provided with knives, spoons, a huge vat of butter cream frosting, lots of tubes of different colored frosting, a variety of candies and sprinkles, and straws. The organizer asked the teams to look through my book and find a fish image they wanted to recreate. Then he suggested that each team cut out the fish shape from one of the sheet cakes, and place it on top of the other sheet cake.  Most of the teams picked the porcupinefish (spelled as one word), probably because it was easier to cut out the circular shape than the other fish shapes (though the swordfish came out really well!) From that point on, each team did its own thing with the frosting and decorations. Some of the porcupinefish shapes were propped up, as seen in a few photos, with straw sticks (like what you stir coffee with) in the back of the cake. Both the adults and the kids had a blast."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Did Somebody Say Monsters?!

October is here, which means that my favorite holiday, Halloween, is almost upon us. For one night, kids get to dress up as ghouls, ghosts and goblins, trying to scare the daylights out of each other while carrying pillow cases full of candy from strangers. Kids always know which houses to visit first before all the best stuff is gone. Then, there is that glorious moment when you get home and trade and barter your booty. Brothers and sisters will argue about whether or not they got a fair trade, as there are always discrepancies about whether a Kit Kat Bar is really equal to a Krackle Bar. In the end, there is the joy of crashing into bed with your face still covered in chocolate and plastic vampire fangs in your pocket.

I don't know about your kiddo, but if they are anything like me, they are impatient, monster starved children that can't wait for October 31st and the fabulous frights and candy rush that come along with it. What is a parent to do with that much Monster Madness for a whole month?


There are so many amazing monster books out there that are wonderful the whole year round. Some of my favorite Peachtree monster books are by author Danny Schnitzlein. I like to think of them as monster books for any occasion. Your kid won't eat his veggies? No problem! Sit him down with The Monster Who Ate My Peas. Having trouble with math home work? Easy! The Monster Who Did My Math has the answers for you. Maybe you simply want a fun book for Halloween. Trick or Treat on Monster Street is just what you need. Besides, what is more hilarious than a Halloween book about monsters "Trick-or-Trouting" dressed as humans?!

Once you've read the books, you can always do fun activities like have your kids draw their own monster, let them write their own monster story, or even help them make a Halloween costume inspired by the books.  These are also particularly great read-aloud books, with fun rhymes and excellent words like gruesometentacle, and writhe. Enjoyment of a book doesn't end when you close it, so keep looking for ways to explore books more deeply through language and activities.

What other fun activities do you like to do for Halloween? Do you have a favorite Halloween book? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Other fun Links:

Monday, September 13, 2010

In My Fantasy World, I am a Celebrity Chef

As many of you know, we recently had a contest on our blog for our new fall title, Three Scoops and a Fig. A lot of people submitted recipes for us to try out. I made a couple and had everyone in the office try them and vote for whichever they liked most. The winning dessert? Fruit Pizza! Congrats to Lichen from the Blink Blog, and thank you to everyone who entered! Below is a copy of the recipe, along with pictures from my successful Fruit Pizza attempt!

I have a tiny kitchen with no counter space, so I was mildly worried, but this recipe was so easy and needed very little room to make it. It's a perfect recipe to make with your kiddos.


  • One package of sugar cookie dough
  • assorted fruits. (I went with mango, kiwi, and strawberry)
  • one 8oz package of cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • lemon juice (I substituted this for lime, since I tend to prefer it.)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.      Cut the cookie dough into 5" sized cookies and place them close together onto a baking sheet (I used my baking stone) in the shape of a circle.

3.      Press the cookie dough together to make one giant cookie. (This was my dream as a kid!)

4.      Bake in the oven until light brown. The middle may be slightly more gooey. If you accidentally burn the edges, just cut them off once you pull the cookie out.

5.      In a bowl, mix together the cream cheese, powdered sugar and lemon juice. It helps to take the cream cheese out of the fridge a few minutes before mixing to soften it. You can add more (or less) sugar to your taste. 

6.      Once the cookie has had a chance to cool, spread the cream cheese mixture over it like the tomato sauce on a real pizza.

7.      Cut up the fruit and place on top of the pizza.
8.     Eat and enjoy!

Lichen noted that it just isn't a Fruit Pizza without bananas and strawberries, I stand by my choice of mango and kiwi though. You can see their own version on their blog here.

Do you have your own version of Fruit Pizza or another dessert you love? Share it with us!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It's Time to Name That Team!!!!

Have I got a contest for you! Fred Bowen, author of the All-Star Sports Story Series, has teamed up with KK in our School Marketing Department to bring you the Name The Team Contest. You, the reader, have the chance to name a basketball team in Fred's upcoming book Real Hoops. Check out the poster below for the details. Go here to enter!

Monday, August 23, 2010

#DearPublisher... an Introduction

Last week, I had the privilege of being a guest on the #BBlog chat on Twitter, focusing on Publisher/Blogger relationships. It was a wonderful and fun conversation that allowed book bloggers to ask questions and make comments about working with publicists. One thing that came up several times was: 

"As a book blogger, how should I introduce myself to a publicist and ask for review copies?" 

Understandably, this was difficult to answer in 140 characters, so the host of the chat, @BookaliciousPam, asked if I would mind writing a sample letter as an example of an ideal way to contact a publicist. As usual, Pam was right, so below I've written a sample letter for the book bloggers out there.

Dear ______, (You can write Publisher, Publicist, or use their name if you have it.)

My name is _______ and I write for  _______ (include name and link to blog). I review ___________ (Children's Picture Books/Middle Reader/Young Adult Books etc.) and would love the opportunity to receive review copies for my blog from Publishers Name. I have reviewed _________ (include two or three links to your reviews of books  from that publisher, or similar titles), which makes me think that my blog would be a good fit for ________ (list the book or books--only 2 or 3--you're interested in reviewing or simply say "upcoming titles from Publisher Name"). In general, I tend to focus on _______ (fiction/non-fiction/SF/Historical etc.), but I am (or am not) willing to look at books outside of those genres. I will review a title within ________ (2 weeks/one month/two months etc.) of receiving it, unless a specific date is set prior.

Along with posting reviews on my blog, I also:
  • participate in blog tours
  • do author interviews
  • host giveaways
  • post all reviews on Good Reads, Library Thing, and

For review copies, I am happy to receive:
  • ARCs
  • Galleys
  • Finished Books
  • E-Books
On days that I blog, I get between ______ and ______ unique visitors, while on days I don't post, I get an average of ______ unique visitors. I post ________ (daily/bi-weekly/weekly) and am active on Twitter, Facebook, and GoodReads (include links to any sites you're on) and promote my blog and new posts through those sites. 

Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with you.

Best Wishes,
Twitter Name
Mailing Address

Hopefully this form letter helps to give you an idea of what information a publicist is looking for. I know that the subject of blog stats is a touchy one, but it really is very helpful for us to know the reach of a blog, just like we do with print media. Having a smaller readership will not keep you from receiving review copies. It is much more important to get the word out about a book to the right audience, as opposed to posting on a blog that gets tons of hits, but has an audience that wouldn't be interested in that particular subject.

If you have other questions, leave a comment and I will be sure to answer them for you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enter Peachtree's 3 Scoops Dessert Contest!

For those of you who have been following along, you may remember that we had an ice cream maker give-away at Book Expo America this past May in celebration of our new fall release, Three Scoops and a Fig, out this month. Well, we’ve decided to open up the contest to those who couldn’t make it to BEA, but this time you’ve really got to earn it!

Three Scoops and a Fig is about a little girl named Sofia who is tired of always being in the way in the busy kitchen of her family’s Italian restaurant, so she comes up with a delicious new recipe of her own: The Italian Flag Sundae. The sundae includes gelato and some juicy figs from the tree outside her house.

Inspired by this delicious dessert, we've come up with a fun contest for the other foodies out there. We're asking you to submit your favorite dessert recipe to us. We will pick the two that sound the best and make them ourselves for a taste test in our office! It can be anything you like! Cakes, pies, tarts, anything!

Prize: A free copy of the book, Three Scoops and a Fig, a set of cookie cutters and a fabulous new kitchen apron.

1) Submit your recipe by filling out the form below. We’d also love to hear a brief description or anecdote about how this recipe is meaningful to you and your family. 

2)   Entries are due no later than 5PM, September 7, 2010. We will announce the winner the following week in a blog post, complete with pictures of the cooking process!

So come one and come all, foodies, chefs, and culinary klutzes alike, and remember:

No one’s troppo piccolo to send in a recipe that will sate the @PeachreePub sweet tooth!

Buona fortuna!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dear Publisher Part Three: Art Direction.

"Interesting, varied, and unusual points of view separate the merely talented from the truly gifted."

Great artwork, or a compelling cover, can make you pick up a book you might have otherwise walked right past. Did you ever wonder who is behind all of that? Today we have a great interview with the woman behind the curtain, our Art Director, LJ.

1. How do you choose which illustrator will work on which book? 

In choosing an illustrator, we usually look for artists who have been published, though that in itself is not an absolute requirement.

Sometimes the author or editor will have a style or a specific illustrator in mind, so we will look at them first, as well as other illustrators working in that particular style or something similar.

We do occasionally publish first-timers, working closely with them to encourage their vision, to infuse them with confidence if they need it, and bring them through the publishing process successfully.

2. How do you decide what medium/style would work best for a manuscript?

For picture books, the tone of a story will almost tell us what the medium needs to be. A quiet, tender story suggests a softer medium such as watercolor or pastels and the style and colors will usually be softer as well. A wild and crazy story wants to have lots of lively motion, movement, brighter, more saturated colors, exaggeration of postures and facial expressions, and might be rendered digitally or in acrylics.

3. What makes an artist really stand out to you? Is there something that you recommend to new artists when submitting samples?

My number-one criterion is mastery—of their chosen medium and their drawing ability. Second, I look for consistency in every detail such as the ability to sustain a character in any pose or activity, any emotional expression or reaction, and to remember to remain constant with secondary elements like backgrounds, and who wears what clothing, or is the pirate’s patch always on the same eye throughout. Interesting, varied, and unusual points of view separate the merely talented from the truly gifted. I’m forever amazed at people who can draw straight out of their own imaginations without relying on seeing something in front of them.

As to new artists submitting samples: 
  • Never, ever send originals of anything; photocopies are fine. 
  • Send only your very best pieces that you enjoyed doing and that truly represent the way you want to work. 
  • Sending six to eight samples is plenty. 
  • Label everything with your name and phone or email. 
  • Send an SASE if you want samples returned. 
  • It’s a good idea to have your own web site or blog. 

4. What is the relationship between artist and art director like?

You always hope the relationship will be cordial, professional, collaborative. A finished book is the product of many and varied talents, of course. The artist “owns” the visual storyline as much as the author owns the words. Often the artist can create an even greater economy of words by showing something in the picture that the author can easily delete from the text. Or the artist can add to the richness and texture of the story by including something in the visual story that may never even be mentioned in the text. The creative process is intimate and revealing, and it isn’t unusual for a writer and editor to develop a strong connection. The same can go for an illustrator and art director—you just develop a sort of mutual admiration for the process and the end product and the people who help you get there.

5. What type of art direction is required for a picture book? 

Once contracts are signed and a project is underway, the first thing to do is develop a storyboard based on page breaks and the rhythm and pace of the story. This happens within our editorial and production group.

Notes are written establishing the characters, time period, settings, costuming, and other important visual details we want to point out to the artist. The notes are meant as a starting point only, to share our thoughts with the artist.

From there, each artist works in whatever way best suits him/her, but generally we will see “thumbnails,” small rough pencil sketches blocking the positions of objects, characters, and actions. We review them and offer feedback to the artist.

Round Two is the development of rough sketches at full size and with more detail. Again, we review and offer commentary.

Next are the working drawings that will incorporate all the comments so far. These are reviewed and we again report back to the artist. If revisions are still needed, he/she will do them. And then it’s time to paint.

The entire process can take 6-8 months or longer, depending on how elaborate the illustrators are.

6. What about art direction for a chapter book? 

We concept and design almost all our chapter book jackets in-house. Two of us, and sometimes three, are handling layout, composition, and type-styling. The process is somewhat similar to picture books, but not nearly so time consuming. We toss around ideas and talk them through, work up a number of concepts in rough form, and hold hallway contests [i.e covers are posted in the hall for all the staff to see and weigh in on] to see which ideas appeal to the most people and why. The winners are developed even further, with several variations, and we run the contest again. We will often email the author and perhaps some of our book reps to solicit their opinion once we’ve really narrowed down the field. This process of elimination continues until we have an image or concept that best represents the tone and content of the story.

7. How do you choose a cover for a book? How much say do the book's editor and author have in this decision?

Sometimes a cover image is taken from one of the interior illustrations for a picture book. More often a picture book cover will be reflective of the story’s theme or will introduce one or more of the characters. Chapter books will usually have jacket art that is somewhat symbolic or representational of the theme rather than something literal. The editor’s influence is strong within the elimination process, as is that of key senior staff, especially in the case of nonfiction with a science or history theme.

8. Do authors and illustrators work together?

The two rarely ever meet, unless they’re booked together for a signing or trade show, but they do sometimes collaborate closely via email or phone where the illustrations require precise accuracy such as science and nature, or historical themed books. The author will have collected many sources of reference for his/her own use and can be an invaluable aid to the illustrator.

9. How does the editorial process overlap with the art direction when making a picture book?

The editorial process is usually about 99% complete when a project is sent to production, and only minor editorial changes are made after the text is typeset and proofread. In some cases, in earlier stages we may create a page layout file and do a preliminary castoff of the text to help determine whether more editing is in order or not. Some authors will make suggestions for visual elements they’d like to see included, but traditionally they leave those creative decisions to the artist. Though it isn’t required, Peachtree Publishers' editors do like to keep their authors in the loop as sketches and finishes come in.

10. What is one thing that you wish people knew about the process of making a picture book, in regards to art direction?

How long it really takes, start to finish. How important continuity and accuracy are. How important scheduling and deadlines are.

11. What has been your favorite book to work on and why?

After 17 years at this, it’s difficult to narrow hundreds down to just one. Among the more memorable are Michael Austin’s illustrations because he was new to children’s book publishing and turned out to be a pure genius. Constance Bergum’s art for The Sunsets of Miss Olivia Wiggins contained many visual hints and clues that were not mentioned in the text but were interesting to find. As we grew and could finally afford them, it was a thrill to work with a few of the bigger names in illustration such as Ted Lewin, Chris Soentpiet, Bill Mayer, and Stephen Alcorn. Stephen illustrated Keep On!, about the discovery of the true North Pole, and somehow brought incredible color and fantasy to a land of nothing but pure bright whiteness. I’m still working toward that Caldecott.

Thank you LJ for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Is there something else you want to know about art direction? Leave us a comment and we'll get it answered!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

#DearPublisher Part Two: Straight from the Editors Mouth

One thing that really stood out to me during the #DearPublisher conversation was the idea that some people believed that editors are glorified proofreaders. This couldn't be farther from the truth. Any writer can tell you that the editor/author relationship is an incredibly important one and that a great editor can take a good book and push the author to make it into something truly amazing. 

So today, we have a great interview with one of our very own editors, J.A., to explain to you a bit about what goes in to the editorial process. If you have follow up questions, be sure to leave them in the comments section for her to answer for you!

And off we go...

1. What are some different types of editors? What are their roles? 

Different types of editors who might work on a book could include a copyeditor, a managing editor, and the book’s main editor (who will sometimes have a designation like Associate or Assistant Editor, Senior Editor, or Executive Editor, which are just different steps in the editorial chain of command). 

Editors can shape a book in various ways. We work with the author on developing and balancing plot, character, pacing, setting, and all the elements that go into a book. Over the course of development, we will look at every word in every line of the book multiple times, checking for style, clarity, and meaning. We make sure the story is constructed and communicated in the best, most authentic way possible. This is true for all books, from novels to picture books. 

With a picture book, the editor will also have some role in shaping the look of the book, working closely with the art department on elements such as illustrator selection, storyboarding, and text style and placement. A copyeditor takes a nearly finished text and adjusts its mechanics—everything from sentence structure to punctuation—and checks that everything is in keeping with house style. 

2. What is the relationship between the editor and the author? Who contacts who, and what kinds of things do you and the author need to keep in touch about through the editorial process? 

The editorial process officially begins when a contract is signed between the author and the publisher. The editor will usually contact the author at this time and a time line will be established for getting the book to print. Depending on how much work a manuscript requires, an author may hear from an editor very frequently, or hardly ever. Communication can be by phone or email or even in person. In all cases, though, it’s important to keep the lines open in both directions. An editor may contact an author about developmental issues or changes to the text, while an author may contact an editor with responses to editorial feedback or new ideas relating to the book.  

3. What is the relationship between the editor and an aspiring illustrator?  Illustrator and author?

Editors are always keeping an eye out for talented illustrators who might fit with the various projects they are working on, so maintaining a professional website is always a good idea. However, most of the final art decisions really rest with the art department, and much of what happens during the course of production would go through the art director. Often times, the author and illustrator will not communicate directly. It seems strange, but it’s not at all unusual for the author and illustrator of a book to never have met or spoken to each other.

4. What's the difference between the editorial process for picture books and chapter books? 

The editorial processes for chapter books and picture books are more similar than different, actually. Chapter books have more words to edit, of course, but picture books have illustrations, so in terms of time and effort, there’s not as much difference as you might think. 

In both cases, we ask similar questions: 
  • Is the story compelling? 
  • Are the characters strong? 
  • Is the plot engrossing? 
  • Is everything happening in the best possible order? 
  • Is the pacing effective? 
  • Are there any unnecessary words or ideas? 
  • Are there any necessary words or ideas that need to be added? 
  • Is the structure solid? 
  • What are the book’s themes and how can they be best expressed? 

In the case of picture books, there is the added issue of what the art is saying, and whether sometimes the text says something the art should be saying, or vice versa. Another thing that comes into play when editing picture books is checking rhyme schemes and patterns within the book. Someone needs to make sure that these are executed as flawlessly as possible. 

5. How many authors is an editor typically working with at any given time?  How patient should I be with my editor?

Please be patient with your editor! Editors mean well, but we are almost universally overburdened with things to read, things to edit, and things to manage. Our to-do lists are always miles long, and as soon as we scratch something off, another thing appears. That said, you should always feel free to initiate a conversation with your editor about anything that concerns you as an author. It doesn’t matter how many authors we may be working with at a given time, if you’re worried about something or have a question, send an email.

6. You liked my story, now what? What exactly are we editing here, and do I have to say yes to everything my editor tells me to do?

Just because an editor likes your story doesn’t mean it’s ready for publication. An acquired book is not always a finished book, by any means. Editors and authors have shared goals: we want your book to be the best, most amazing book anyone has ever read. This takes time and attention, and then more time and attention. It’s an ongoing process in which some books have a longer way to go than others. Different editors will change different things about a book. It all depends. And no, you don’t have to say yes to everything your editor tells you to do. However, I think that most authors and editors work to build the kind of relationship where they feel comfortable discussing their reasons for wanting to change (or not change) a text. Sometimes in these discussions, new options will arise. Better options. And, because of this, the book improves. Think of the process as collaborative, not adversarial.

7.  How long is a book in the editorial stage? (How long will I have to wait before I can buy copies for my friends?)  

There’s nothing like the excitement of waiting to see your new book on the shelves. How long any given book takes to get published depends on a number of factors. Does it require a heavy edit with lots of revisions? Is there art included? (If there is, the artist’s schedule will have a lot to do with it.) Is the book seasonal or does it relate to an upcoming event or anniversary? All of these things play into a publisher’s decision about when to release a book. Some books hit the shelves mere months after being acquired, but most take years.

 8.  If there was one tip you could give to aspiring authors on what NOT to do, what would you tell them?  

Don’t send off a manuscript the minute you finish writing it. Put it in a drawer. Take it out. Take it to a critique group. Revise. Put it in the drawer again. Wait. Think about it. Do market research. Go to the bookstore. Read. Read some more. Go back to your manuscript. Revise. Think about it. Then send it in—maybe.

9.  How often do you work with neophyte, slush pile authors?  

Right now, I have two first-time authors I’m working with. One of those manuscripts is a picture book I found in the slush pile. There’s nothing like the thrill of discovering a gem among the thousands of submissions we get each year. However, it happens a lot less frequently than I wish it did. Overall, maybe ten manuscripts a year from the slush pile make it further along in the acquisitions process, with only one of those (maybe) being likely to actually get acquired. Slush is not for the faint of heart! 

10. Do I have to work through an agent? 

No. Peachtree accepts unsolicited submissions. If you send it, we’ll read it. (It may take us six or seven or nine or ten months, but we’ll read it.) 

11. What kind of things are editors looking for from their authors?

The ideal author is willing to go anywhere and do everything necessary to promote their book. Professionalism, enthusiasm, and a willingness to work hard are at the top of any publisher’s wish list. Will you visit schools? Attend conferences? Do signings? Do you network? Are you personable and friendly? Are you serious about being an author? These qualities can make a bigger difference than you think! 

Thank you so much J.A. for taking the time to talk to us and let us know a little bit more about the editorial process. Is there something that we missed that you want to know? Now is your chance! Leave a comment and we'll get your questions answered!

And in case you missed Part one, you can read it here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

#DearPublisher Part One

As many of you may know, yesterday the Twittersphere exploded with a new hashtag #DearPublisher that was brought to us by @JennIRL and @HarperPerennial. It all started innocently with @HarperPerennial suggesting that the hashtag be started so that publishers could hear what readers, writers, bloggers and other publishers have to say. I am not sure that anyone realized that is was going to take over and ruin everyone's productivity. 

Here are a few examples of what people had to say:

  • @BethFishReads: #dearpublisher tell me about what *you* are reading, what *you're* excited about, not just what you think will sell well. 
  • @NovelNovice: #DearPublisher We love you. Really, we do. But can you make it easier for book bloggers to reach your publicity teams?
  • @iwilltweet: #dearpublisher If you have a Twitter presence it would be great if you could use it for dialogue rather than just declaration.
  • @TariaReed #DearPublisher You should really rethink how you design your covers. They are all starting to look alike.

  • @LitHousewife #dearpublisher How is it determined whether an older book is reprinted? Have several oop novels on my TBR that I fear I'll never find.

  • @annaleighclark: #dearpublisher Why so few books in translations? Why so few translated books by authors who aren't dead? Where are the global voices?
The conversation went on all day and continues even now. I noticed that a lot of the questions had to do with how publishing works and what the process is. For example, if you don't know the process that goes into a translation, then you may not understand why more are not done. Over the next few posts, I would like to change some of that and walk you through what goes in to making a book.

To start us off, you can view our previous posts with tips for submitting a manuscript and a look at what we look at during the acquisitions process. Next week we will learn more about what happens once your book is acquired and what the editorial process is like. If you have any specific questions you would like us to answer next week, leave them in the comments section.