Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009
These notes are from information I picked-up from attending sessions from this editor.
Connie Hsu is an assistant editor at Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers (referred to hereafter as LB) which is a group within Hachette Book Group USA, and home to Stephanie Meyer (you know, Twilight). LB is known for being more commercially driven, more about the best sellers.
They are always looking for more multicultural books, and they are a little concerned that although young adult paranormal and fantasy books are still popular, the market may be saturated. They are looking for romance - commercial, beachy reads. They already have vampires and ghosts. In picture books, the more character driven picture books are doing well.
LB has moved to a paperless submission process, and only accepts submissions that are agented, editor-requested or are Hachette employee referrals. The editors use e-readers.
A "no" to a manuscript from one editor at LB is a no from the whole house. And once a manuscript is declined by an editor there, it is a wholesale NO on that work unless they ask for revisions. So make sure you (or your agent) really know what an individual editor wants.
The LB submission process is very selective and they have a long string of steps that includes two committees a manuscript must pass before being acquired. Since the beginning of this year, Connie has received over 200 submissions. Of those, she has only taken ten to the initial committee of editors that have the power as a group to accept or reject a manuscript. On two of those works she had spent a lot of time working with the author to revise over a course of months.
None of them made it past the committee to be acquired.
Thus far, she has only actually acquired two books overall.
This editor is pretty funny in person. She says she takes everything- picture books to young adult, but not as many picture books- she only likes them if they are about dead animals. She claims she likes the morbid and the strange, and that she is "young, hungry and completely weird".
She says that the e-book market is indeed growing, but that it will not affect picture books much due to the nature of picture books. She does think, though, that it may affect paperback sales.
Connie says alphabet and counting books are uphill battles- the more elements you add on make it even harder to do right, because they are for three-year-olds, so sophistication and too many elements don't speak to that audience.
She generally likes alliteration, but watch out for starting a picture book for example, with a lot of hard consonants in a row- difficult to read.
She loves it when animals talk about their humans. And speaking of animals, in picture books, she likes real 100% true animal stories- Marley and Me, Chowder, but not so much fiction starring animals.
Connie will look at a manuscript no matter what. If it is not for her, but she thinks the writing is strong, she may take it down the hall to a co-worker.
In queries, Connie thinks you should be able to describe your book in 200 words or less.
She does not care as much about plot, story and concept- she cares about the writing. If she likes the voice and talent, she'll ask for more.
Next time: Krista Marino