Saturday, February 12, 2022

Emma Ledbetter (Abrams): Editors Panel #scbwiWinter22

Editorial Director of picture books, Emma Ledbetter, has been at Abrams a little over three years. Prior to that she was an editor at Athenaeum and has spent most of her career in children's books, but her school background is in art history, and she did intern at Nickelodeon so she is probably very happy to chat about Sponge Bob with you if you ever find yourselves in an elevator together.

What matters most in the manuscripts you select and why?

Emma is really looking to be surprised. This can take many forms, but when you see as many submissions as she does you observe a lot of patterns in story telling or plot tropes and characters. Surprise could be a unique way into narrating nonfiction, or a character's voice with a truly distinct personality.

What happens after you decide you want to make an offer on a manuscript?

All of Emma's acquisitions go to an editorial team meeting, and then an acquisitions meeting with profit and loss statements, etc. In attendance at that meeting is the Abrams CEO as well as reps from sales, marketing, publicity, library, and subsidiary rights.

Do authors/illustrators now have to the social media clout of a Kardashian to be considered for publication?

There are no expectations that non-celebrities are having a million followers! But it's helpful to have at least one platform that teachers and librarians can find you on, people want to engage with you about your books. Similarly, even if you're not a super social media pro your publishers need somewhere to tag you/your books, so help out their marketing department and at least have an account somewhere.

One of Emma's books, SOUL FOOD SUNDAY, is a
2022 Coretta Scott King Book Award Illustrator Honor Book

Best first steps when submitting?

Kindness and professionalism go a long way, show interest in hearing/being open to feedback. It's not hard to flatter Emma! Even just a little bit of research into her list shows a level of care in your submission, that you know your tastes align.

Are you sure you don't need to be a 12-year-old yodeling TikTok star to get a book deal these days? 

Remember that what you're reading about in the news is because it's a newsworthy outlier and a skewed view of book deals. There is still a huge range of people being published of all ages, backgrounds and locations.

Another of Emma's books, THE PEOPLE'S PAINTER, won the 2022 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award as well as the Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Notable Picture Book Award

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