Sunday, August 2, 2020

#SCBWISummerSpec Editors Panel: Jill Santopolo

Jill Santopolo is the VP & associate publisher of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers. She’s edited many award-winning and bestselling titles, including the #1 New York Times bestsellers She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger, Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael Lopez, Superheroes Are Everywhere by Kamala Harris and Mechal Renee Roe, and Girling Up by Mayim Bialik. When she’s not editing books, Jill is a New York Times bestselling author herself. Her adult novel The Light We Lost has hit multiple bestseller lists in the US and abroad and was Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club pick for February 2018. You can learn more about her at or by following her on instagram or Twitter (@jillsantopolo).

The panel has each editor speaking in turn. A few highlights from what Jill shared:

She thinks about how publishing is at the crossroads of art and commerce. And how "feeling emotion is key to enjoying any kind of art... particularly any kind of art telling a story... like a book."

Expanding on that, she considers what the reader brings to the art, and how "their reaction will determine the success of the book." (If they love it, they'll talk it up. a.k.a. word of mouth. If not, not so much.)

Jill describes the emotions that drive some of the books she's edited, talking about the "Heart of the book."
"The heart of the book is a way the writer's heart and reader's heart reach out to connect." -Jill Santopolo

One example, for She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger, the heart of the book is "If anyone tells you your voice doesn't matter, don't listen to them."

The heart of a book can be explicit or implicit, and Jill shares more examples, including discussing the heart of the classic Goodnight, Moon.

She explained,

"Goodnight Moon assures readers with the heart message: everything is as it should be, and it's safe to go to sleep."

This was a profound insight to me - because I've never really "got" why Goodnight Moon has been so successful. But now, I understand it better. And I'm thinking about the "heart message" of what I write, too.

Thanks, Jill!

The panel ended with a Q&A, covering what editors wish authors would know, how illustrators can be discovered to be a debut, if age of the writer/illustrator is a thing editors consider, how important is a social media presence, gatekeeping in the industry, and how translators can help debut author/illustrators be discovered.

All the panelists gather for the Q&A.
Top row, l-r: Namrata Tripathi, Lin Oliver, Jill Santopolo
Middle row, l-r: Stacey Barney, Arthur Levine, Julie Strauss-Gabel
Lower row: Neal Porter, and interpreter Brian Truitt

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