Saturday, January 29, 2011

Alexandra Cooper, Senior Editor: What Makes Your Work Publishable

Alexandra Cooper speaking to the first of her three breakout sessions

Alexandra Cooper is a Senior Editor at Simon and Schuster Books for Young Reader, and was the editor of the #1 New York Times best seller "Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope" by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier, among many others. Her focus is picture books, middle grade fiction and young adult novels.

She's talking about how much of a commitment it is for an editor to acquire a manuscript - a relationship that's going to be long term, quipping "longer than some celebrity marriages." That gets a big laugh from the capacity crowd!

So what makes her take the plunge?

She's sharing about some of recent picture books she did buy and publish, explaining the reasons behind why she was convinced.

"Not All Princesses Dress In Pink" by Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi Stemple, and illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin.

Love the opening line:

'Not all princesses dress in pink,
some play in bright red socks that stink,"

"Chicks Run Wild" bu Sudipta Bardhan Quallen, illustrated by Ward Jenkins

This one is a SCBWI success story, as Alexandra met the author at a New Jersey SCBWI conference 5 years ago, knew she wanted to work with her, and the book just came out (Spring 2011)!

On Novels -

to really succeed, a manuscript needs to have both a high concept and be literary [really well written]

Now Alexandra is doing the same with novels, explaining what made her commit:

"Blood Ninja" by Nick Lake - Which took the high concept idea of "What if ninjas were really vampires?"

She signed it up as a single title, and once it did well, they signed up the sequels. ("Blood Ninja II: The Revenge of Lord Oda" is out, and another two are coming...)

"The Mother Daughter Book Club" by Heather V Frederick

another book that you know what it is from the title - four very different girls are lumped together in a book club by their mothers. (four books in the series are out, more coming...)

So now she's going to the heart of her talk: how do we use these criteria and look back at our own work... What are the things we can do to made Alexandra (or other editors) take the plunge on committing to our manuscripts?

Some of her tips:

Read what you want to write, so you know what's out there and how your work fits (and how your work is special)

Submit to agents and editors that make sense - if they don't do picture books, it won't help to send your rhyming picture book to them. You want to aim your pitches to find a good fit!


Ask yourself: what is your hook? Your elevator pitch? What other books is your book like? What's your twist?

But remember, as Alexandra said of herself and every other editor:

"Everyone's looking for the next sparkling debut"

So much great information!

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