Friday, August 1, 2014

Alessandra Balzer and Allyn Johnston: Editor's Panel

Alessandra Balzer is Vice-President, co-publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Children's Books. She edits everything from picture books to novels for teens.

Alessandra Balzer

Allyn Johnston is Vice-President and Publisher of Beach Lane Books, a San Diego-Based imprint of Simon & Schuster. She publishes books "for all ages and across all genres" with a "primary focus on lyrical, emotionally engaging, highly visual picture books for young children."

Allyn Johnston

The theme of the panel is for each editor to share their three must-sees and their three really-don't-want-to-see elements of a manuscript. Here are highlights of Alessandra and Allyn's comments:

Alessandra shares "I'm a sucker for voice." She needs to see voice, it conveys age, point of view, gender… it all comes through voice, and she must see that.

Allyn Johnson shares that she's looking for the unexpected. "If it has the ability to give me goosebumps" that's a really good thing. She also says that she's not a fan of long cover letters (she'd rather be surprised by the manuscript,)

As far as the what not to dos,

Alessandra cautions that the effort to not be boring can backfire if you overload the start of your manuscript with so much action and sex and drama that it's overwhelming… "introduce us to your characters."

And Allyn says, "Don't be weird." Don't submit your manuscript inside a plastic toy fish - which she s now holding up to prove that actually happened to her! [translation: your manuscript shouldn't need the gimmick to grab their attention.]

There's so much information and insights being shared!

Two last points, one for each:

Allyn Johnston - she asks herself of a picture book manuscript: Is it irresistible to read aloud? It must be, for her to acquire it.

Alessandra Balzer - in talking about having a hook, says, "what hook really means is the ability for the book to stand out." There's so much out there, what's going to make someone say, oh, you have to read this book - and that's yours?

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