Saturday, February 3, 2018

Editors’ panel: Jill Santopolo

Jill Santopolo is the editorial director of Philomel Books, where she has published such titles as A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff, The Secret Sky by Aria Abawi, and It’s Your World: Get Informed, Get Inspired & Get Going by Chelsea Clinton.

She loves to help writers share their stories and open young readers’ minds to possibilities “they might not know are out there.” 

She spoke on a panel called “How I Get to Yes,” explaining what inspires an agent to acquire a book for publication. 

The Philomel acquisition process doesn’t go by committee. If an editor is interested in a project, they send it to Jill. If reads is and thinks it belongs on their list, she brings it with the acquiring editor to the publisher, Michael Green. Then they do a projected profit-and-loss statement based on production costs, return rates, and other factors. They figure out financials, take it to their head of finance and the head of the children’s division. If everyone signs off, it results in an offer. 

Sometimes editors acquire books that they love, but still need a lot of work. When this happens, Jill looks for a book with beautiful writing. She can fix a plot. She can fix a character. But she can’t help someone “change the way they write.” 

“The other thing for me in that situation: I need to be able to see the book. I need to see what potential it has and what it can turn into.” 

Even if she thinks it’s going to take a while to get there, if she can see what it could be at the end, and if she and the author have aligned visions, then she’ll take on a book that requires a lot of work. “That’s when I know what this book could be.” 

Sometimes she does ask for an R&R—a revise and resubmit. This was to see if the author could take notes and make the work one step better. “Can you take in what I’ve given you? Can you translate that into revision? Can I see that work on the paper?” That’s what reassures her that your partnership will endure. 

“Editors are looking for particular things for them. Just because your book isn’t [X] doesn’t mean it’s bad or it’s wrong. It’s just not what that editor is looking for.” 

“Everyone in a publishing house loves books. That’s why we’re there. We all WANT to love books. We want to fall in love with a book.” 

Follow her on Twitter at @JillSantopolo.

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