Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Interview with an editor of awesomeness

Continuing my Interesting-Folk-Who-Work-in-Publishing feature, I have ANUTHA interview with a real live commissioning editor bod. It's the completely awesome Sarah Stewart of Scholastic Children's Books.

And yes, it's the same questions as last time, but hey, if it ain't broke... (I was indeed too busy to come up with new questions. Please accept my humble apologies.)

So, who the heck are you and where do you work?

I work at Scholastic, a large international publishing house, who create amazing books for kids of all ages, from teeny-tiny to teenage. We have dedicated non-fiction, picture book and fiction lists. ­ I'm one of the editors on the fiction list.

Do you get bucketloads of unsolicited manuscripts?
We're one of the very few publishers who still accept unsolicited MS. But I rarely have time to look at our slush pile. ­ I have enough manuscripts to read from agents. Most editors have a huge pile of reading to get through at any given time. ­ I can't remember the last time I had a bus or train journey without submissions to read!

Is there any particular genre/type of manuscript you'd really like to land on your doorstep right now?
I would love to see more fiction for girls aged 8-10 ­- really fun stuff with a good unique voice. I quite fancy reading some good detective fiction, but haven't seen much of that lately. And I'm always interested to see great YA ­but I think I've probably had enough of vampires for now!

What advice would you give to someone looking to get a book published?
Buy the Artists' and Writers' Yearbook and read it cover to cover. Find an agent: ­ approach all agents in a courteous and professional way, as they are the key to getting noticed by a publishing house! Believe in yourself, but don't pester!

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Finding new talent ­- it is so exciting when you read a book and fall in love with it. I also really like that magic moment where you make someone really happy by offering to buy their book!

And least?
It's tough when you have to break bad news to an author; for example that their sales have dipped, or that a book is going out of print. Fortunately we don't have to have those conversations often, but they're always difficult.

Top three children's books?
There are too many! Today I'll say:
Daddy Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
A Pack of Liars by Anne Fine

I also used to devour school stories like Chalet School, Malory Towers, St Clare's, Trebizon, Dimsie, you name it. Which is quite odd when you're a kid going to a normal state school who rarely encounters lashings of ginger beer:)

Which book do you wish you'd published?
Recently? Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. And When I Was Joe by Keren David.

Finally, the most important question of all: chocolate or cheese?
Cheese. But if I'm being asked to give up one of them forever, I'd start crying.

Cheese was the correct answer. Thanks for your time, Awesome Sar!


  1. Wonderful interview! And When I Was Joe is a wonderful book. I loved reading this - thank you, both of you!

    Cat, your site should be re-named "Choose Cheese" ;)

  2. sure I should be able to come up with a more intelligent response than that...struck dumb. For once. Thanks!

  3. Oh! Daddy Longlegs! She is SO right about that (and about Joe, of course!). I've just had some chocolate (and now I want some cheese).

    Lucy Coats @

  4. When I Was Joe is a book that has really stayed with me, leaving me asking more and more questions, realising how intelligently it deals with the issues that contemporary teenage boys deal with.

  5. Loved When I was Joe, especially good with a side order of cheese, mmm....must just visit the fridge...

  6. I love writing and reading books. I love the notion that people can make things up in their mind and then make them real on a page, for the pleasure or utility of someone else. One of my favorite mentor on learning how to write a book is Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

  7. I'm loving this series. It's fascinating.
    Can I ask a question? I'm interested in the different reasons that books go out of print. How does the decision get made to stop printing? How many factors are involved? What methods would you recommend trying to get a book back in print?

    Thanks and sorry for the bombardment!

  8. Thanks for all your comments, folks! Consensus seems to be that we all heart When I Was Joe!

    Luisa- my second novel will now be called Choose Cheese, even though, thus far, there is only ONE cheese reference in the manuscript. I intend to add more cheese as I go along.

    Becky- the reason a book goes out of print is usually quite simple - people stop buying it, and it's no longer financially viable for the publisher to keep printing it. This doesn't necessarily mean that the book will stay OP (out of print) forever though. Sometimes trends change and an old book is brought back to life for a fresh new audience. Not sure how you'd go about getting a book back in print though, sorry!

  9. Cat, thanks for answering my question. Trends...they are so flipping annoying. I love paranormal but I swear there is such a thing as overkill.