Monday, May 4, 2009

Writing / Editors *Interview with Timothy Travaglini

Most people do not understand how a book gets on a shelf. I am often approached by friends, family, strangers and asked if I can illustrate their story. They explain it's a hit with their children, classroom or friends. If only publishing were that easy.

The reason for this blog is to end the misconceptions. To sell a story idea for publication an editor has to like it first. Currently, over 50 children’s publishing houses exist, each with several editors. It’s the job of the aspiring author or illustrator to find an editor that will buy their story. Not easy, each house has their own submission rules.

I originally met senior editor Tim Travaglini when we were faculty for SCBWI crossing paths in Alabama and Nebraska. It was at the 2005 SCBWI National conference in Los Angeles when I approached Tim about a new book idea. I knew he loved my illustration style. It took another 6 months for me to rewrite and sketch to show Tim my idea. Within weeks of my submission I was offered a contract with GP Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin USA.

Tim graciously explains his complex job.

 Q: What does a picture book editor do for a book project from creative to pricing to marketing?

TT: An editor discovers a project; advocates acquiring it; negotiates advances and contracts; finds an illustrator (if not a one-person project); does the above with the illustrator; edits the text; addresses publisher's and art director's concerns with text; "edits" sketches and then finished artwork; addresses publisher's and art director's concerns with sketches and artwork; oversees the project's path through copyediting, design and production; launches the project in-house to Sales and Marketing, and later may present to the sales force at Sales Conference; coordinates author with Marketing to maximize author's key contacts and local/regional/or topical media; advocates for support of book as needed.  Increasingly the Modern Editor may also market directly (e. g. solicit and send copies to bloggers, accounts, librarians, and the like), and most importantly marshal the artist-author's self-promotional efforts (which now includes a vast arsenal of options).  And I am sure I have overlooked a few things… 
Q: How can authors and illustrators help their books sell well?

TT: The Modern Author must have a comprehensive and interactive website; on-line video content; maintain a living list of contacts that she/he both emails and mails to quarterly (or to announce special events).  She/He ideally should aim for as many school visits per year as possible; become acquianted with every children’s librarian, school, bookseller, and
children’s literature specialist in her/his state or region; create classroom activities and/or discussion guides unique to each book.  And she/he must continue to produce the best possible books. 
Q: Which strengths did you find in my submission of MERMAIDS ON PARADE to offer a contract (so quickly) ?

TT: MERMAIDS ON PARADE was on a topic that not only had never been done before, but is about an immensely creative, colorful and vibrant event.  And it was about a girl dressing up.  Coupled with your artwork it was an irresistible combination. 

Q: If you had a mermaid name what would it be?
TT: Fishy Seabottom 

Thanks Tim!

Photo: Tanya Rynd owner of Superfine, Timothy Travaglini and Melanie at the MERMAIDS ON PARADE launch party at Superfine in Brooklyn.
Image: Timothy Travaglini as Fishy Seabottom in MERMAIDS ON PARADE.


kathleen duey said...

A great editor and one of the nicest people on the planet....that's for interviewing Tim!!!

melanie said...

Hi Kathleen,

It was great fun to work on this book with Tim. He "got" the bohemian spirit of it all.

Didn't you and I also meet at the SCBWI Southern Breeze conference in Alabama 2002 where I first met Tim???

I'm honored that you checked out my blog.
Come back soon. Best, Melanie

Sarah Lamstein said...

So nice to come upon this, Melanie! Lovely to read about your editor. Hope you're well. xo