Hi Cheryl. Thank you so much for stopping by. Can you tell everyone a little about yourself and your publishing career?
Shelli, thanks for inviting me to be interviewed on Market My Words!
I’m a senior editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, where I started my career as Arthur’s editorial assistant in 2000. We publish hardcover literary fiction and nonfiction for readers from picture book age through YA. I’ve worked on everything from translations of Swedish picture books to the last three books of the Harry Potter series to American debut novels—an endlessly fascinating mix that I really enjoy.
In 2009, two of the books I edited won ALA awards: A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce won the William Morris Award for a YA Debut Novel, and Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit, by Nahoko Uehashi and translated by Cathy Hirano, took the Mildred L. Batchelder Award for translation.
In 2005, I rejuvenated my blog and then joined Twitter midway through last year. Both of those feature a miscellany of my personal and professional interests—movie reviews, interviews with my authors, videos I like, advice on submissions, you name it. My dedicated editorial website includes many of my past talks for SCBWI conferences. Arthur A. Levine Books has an imprint website and we Twitter our news at @AALBooks.
I am an avid reader of your blog due to how much craft and promotion advice you give to writers. In your opinion, what are a few things authors can do to promote their book?
I think every author should have a website, to provide a space for readers, teachers, and librarians who love their book to find out more about the book and contact the author. Websites are even more of a must for illustrators; when I receive a striking sample from an artist or see a picture book I like, then I often want to check out the illustrator’s website to see what other work s/he’s done.
Authors/illustrators should also collect and keep the e-mail addresses and/or postal addresses of everyone with whom they come in contact in relation to their book – people who write them fan mail, independent booksellers who feature it in their newsletters, kids who send them questions for their school reports, even blog reviewers who say one nice thing in an otherwise negative review. Then, when the author has a new book available, s/he should coordinate with the publisher to send out an e-mail blast or postcards and let those people know the book is out there.
Finally, authors should always be on the lookout for niche markets and publications to which their book might appeal. Because Elizabeth C. Bunce’s A Curse Dark as Gold was a Rumplestiltskin retelling set in a woolen mill, Elizabeth and I worked with her excellent publicist on a special mailing to fairy-tale and needlecraft publications, letting them know the book was available and highlighting the ways it might speak to their readers. While any efforts like this should always be coordinated with the publishing house, they can be very useful in breaking a book out in specialized and nontraditional publicity markets.
After that . . . honestly, I feel there are very few “musts” for every author, as everything greatly depends upon the author’s strengths and interests. If an author is temperamentally or socially inclined to blog or Twitter, then it’s wonderful to have them out there, participating in the conversation. But authors who aren’t so inclined certainly don't have to, as it can easily sound forced and fake and end up being a turnoff to the very readers we’re trying to attract.
I know you are heavily involved in the conversation online about writing and publishing. Why do you think being online and social networking is so important?
I think social networking platforms can be very useful, but they’re not essential. If you’re a social person with a decent number of friends and connections (even just old acquaintances from high school), and you can use those networks to inform your connections of your new book, then they’re fantastic. . . . Friends on Facebook from my high school class have told me they’re planning to buy my book, and most of them aren’t even interested in writing for children! But again, if you aren’t inclined to be on or not actively participating in such a network, then it probably isn’t going to be very useful to you in book promotion.
You and Arthur Levine appear to be involved in your author's publicity (He even dyed his beard pink for Laini Taylor's award event! :) How do you help your authors and what do you expect them to do on their own?
Arthur A. Levine Books has consistently gone the extra mile for its authors. When we publish an international book, we often reach out to the consulate from the author’s home country to see if they might collaborate with us on promoting the book here; these efforts have resulted in an exhibition at the New York Public Library featuring the art from our Swedish book The Red Bird, and ALA appearances from several Dutch and Flemish authors, among other things. My blog frequently features Q&As with authors or behind-the-scenes essays about the books I edit.
This last fall, my author Sara Lewis Holmes and I did a shared chat on Twitter about her book Operation Yes; you can see the transcript and I hope to do more of those in the future.
Scholastic has a terrific marketing and publicity department that enthusiastically supports all of our books and authors. We hope an author will set up a website for their book; will be available for school visits and media, as appropriate; and will give us a good list of contacts, as mentioned above. (Some media outlets and booksellers may be more appropriate for us to contact; some might be better for the author to contact.)
When evaluating whether to take on an author or book, do you ever Google them to see if they already have a web presence or platform?
Yes, absolutely! I’m always interested to see where an author’s name turns up, what those reveal about his or her background or interests, and how his or her personality comes through in writing not for official publication. I wrote about how this influenced my decision to acquire Sara Lewis Holmes', Operation Yes.
For those interested in submitting to me, my interests and submissions guidelines are available at my website.