What does a commissioning editor do in a publishing house? What does their day look like? In this great post, our very own fabulous Commissioning Editor Beattie Alvarez describes the realities of a typical work day and gives some helpful tips and advice for authors and illustrators.
From the crowded desk(computer desktop actually) of a Commissioning Editor
By Beattie Alvarez of Christmas Press
The day starts with a GIANT coffee and catching up on my Words with Friends games while I wait for all the emails to load.
There are a lot of them AND I’m not winning all my games. This is not a good start to the day. However, it gets better as the coffee starts to set in.
I do my ‘official’ work first. Official work includes emails to and from people who we’re already in touch with such as contracted authors and illustrators, the ones who print our books, my boss. After those emails I move onto editing. This word should change. That word should be deleted. Explaining why I’ve made changes and probably a fight with Word in there somewhere when it hides the comments I’ve spent hours making. Then I send it back to the author and we start all over again. A second, third and fourth coffee probably makes an appearance during all this.
I check the schedule/list of tasks/emails all over again.
If there’s time to squeeze in reading submission in my lunchbreak, then I do it. Why not? I like to read while I eat (side note: tomato soup and computers don’t mix). I start with the solicited manuscripts.
What are solicited manuscripts? They’re manuscripts from people we’ve asked to submit, ones that come from agents, or ones that come from an open call for submissions (there are many good reasons why most publishers are normally closed for submissions). They are the ones that I want to read.
However, I don’t have much time. There’s the ‘official’ work to get back to. So, if the synopsis and opening pages don’t grab me immediately, then I’m unlikely to read more than a few pages.
It goes like this:
- Open computer
- Open food
- First bite of food
- Open synopsis and read
- Second bite
- If synopsis is okay, then open manuscript
- Start reading
- Keep eating
If my lunch is more interesting than the manuscript then I move onto the next manuscript. And the next one. And the next one.
There are some exceptions, of course. If we’ve ASKED you to submit a manuscript then I will read every single word. I may not enjoy it, but I do read it. If my boss asks me to read it then I will (but if it doesn’t grab me and I have to slog through the whole thing then I ask that my coffee budget gets raised).
Unsolicited manuscripts are something else entirely. We are currently CLOSED to submissions.
If you haven’t done your research or if you choose to ignore the fact that we’re closed because someone has told you to try anyway then I’m going to be cross. Don’t make the Commissioning Editor cross. It is NOT a good idea.
I still open the email. I still read the synopsis (if there is one). I’m sure that if a synopsis grabbed me, I would open the manuscript, but that hasn’t happened yet and I’ve been doing this for over six years. I then send a curt reply, thanking the author for their submission, but informing that we are not taking submissions.
A lot of this extra work is done at night after the kids are in bed, or very early in the morning before I have to get them ready for school. There aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done. So make sure you:
- Do your research and find out if we’re open to submissions
- Read the guidelines if we are to find out what we want. Don’t send a picture book text if we say we don’t do picture books (or memoirs or self-help etc).
- Prepare your paperwork. We say send the first three chapters, double-spaced in Times New Roman and only want it as a word doc, then DO NOT SEND the entire manuscript in Curly Stars font as a PDF. I will NOT READ IT. If you can’t follow guidelines, then you are going to be hard to work with and we don’t want that!
- READ YOUR OWN WORK. Just because you’ve finished a first draft, doesn’t mean it’s print ready. Have you edited it? Are there typos? Does it flow well? Have you remembered to change the name of the character originally called Bob, but then changed to Chris ALL the way through the book? Is your synopsis as snappy as your manuscript? It has to be! That’s the first thing I read. If you can’t write an interesting synopsis, then how do I know you can write an entire book?
- If you truly believe that you are ready to send, then write a nice cover letter. Try to find out our names (not always possible, I know). I don’t require a fancy cover letter (again, this changes from publisher to publisher, but I’m not fussy). Eg. To whom it may concern (or Dear Editor), I am a writer and I came across your (insert how you found us, because that’s always good for us to know what channels are working and what are not). I have attached a manuscript called _______. It is _____ words long and is about (insert tag line). Thank you for taking the time to look at my work. Kind regards, whoever you are.
- Once sent DO NOT BUG US. Do not send follow up emails as to whether or not I got it and if I’ve had time to read it. Although, if we’ve ASKED you to send it and I haven’t replied, by all means nudge me.
- We normally don’t have time to give feedback. And won’t. If it’s not for us, then no amount of emails will change our minds.
Remember that all of this is done in between bits of ‘official’ work. While I’m reading and emailing, I’m also working on the next book that’s coming out. The edits, the advertising, the launch, the author profile, the illustrator, the design, THE WORKS.
On the United Publishers of Armidale website, there’s a great new feature called ‘Journey of a Book’ which looks at the creative and production process behind several of the books published by UPA member publishers, Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books. And we’re delighted that the first Journey of a Book to be released is centred on a very special book indeed: Sophie Masson and David Allan’s Two Trickster Tales from Russia, which was the launch title for Christmas Press in 2013. You can watch it below. Enjoy!
United Publishers of Armidale, a collaboration between children’s books publishers Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, is delighted to announce that it is the recipient of a 2020 Resilience Fund Grant, an initiative by the Australia Council for the Arts.
The 2020 Resilience Fund is designed to provide emergency relief to support the livelihoods, practice and operations of Australian artists, groups and organisations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australia Council has directed more than $5M to the Resilience Fund to provide immediate relief to the Australian arts sector.
United Publishers of Armidale was granted funds under the Adapt stream of the Resilience Fund, to create a wide range of fun new free activities and resources centred around their books, to join those already featured on their website, www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net These are aimed at children, families and schools. Funds will also be used by the publishers to create special ‘Journey of a Book’ video presentations for adults which will look at aspects of writing, illustrating and publishing children’s books, around a focus on books produced by each publisher. These presentations, to be hosted on the UPA You Tube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCebJK9zqg1f1ROlrSrtAFuA, and showcased on their website, will be aimed at aspiring creators as well as anyone interested in children’s books.
Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, under our United Publishers of Armidale banner, wish to warmly thank the Australia Council for their generous support of our joint initiative. We look forward to creating some fantastic resources–watch this space!
For more information: https://www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net/contact.html
Armidale-based children’s book publishers, Christmas Press and Little Pink Dog Books, are delighted to announce a brand-new joint initiative, United Publishers of Armidale, with the launch of a new website, www.unitedpublishersofarmidale.net, and associated social media on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
The United Publishers of Armidale website features a number of books from each publisher, with free activities and resources to go with each, as well as information on each title. Activities and resources include audio and video presentations by creators, puzzles, quizzes, word searches, printable colouring pages, teachers’ notes, and more. The Featured Books page will be updated regularly with new, upcoming and backlist titles and their associated activities, while the About page gives information about the UPA partner publishers.
‘The idea behind United Publishers of Armidale is that in these difficult times, it makes sense for publishers, especially small, regionally-based publishers like us, to pool our efforts and resources in order to promote and showcase our books and help to support our creator communities, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with Little Pink Dog Books on this,’ said Sophie Masson, co-director of Christmas Press. ‘But it’s also very much about supporting the wider community, especially children, their families, teachers and carers, by offering free resources and activities through a dedicated website.’
‘We are delighted to be partnering with Christmas Press in this new enterprise and we hope that everyone will have lots of fun discovering our featured books and the activities around them,’ said Kathy Creamer, co-director of little Pink Dog Books. ‘And we warmly thank our authors and illustrators for getting so enthusiastically behind the project and creating such fabulous and diverse activities for our readers.’
Books featured for the website launch are, for Christmas Press, middle grade historical fantasy novel, The Phantasmic Detective Agency, by Julian Leatherdale (out May 2020) and Australian Children Laureate Ursula Dubosarsky’s recent collection of plays, The Boy Who Could Fly and Other Magical Plays for Children(2019); and for Little Pink Dog Books, author-illustrator Trish Donald’s picture book Tissy Woo and the Worry Monsters(2018) and Parmesan, The Reluctant Racehorse, written by Jacqui Halpin and illustrated by John Phillips (2017).
Check it all out here!
In this difficult and troubling time that we are all facing now, we’ve been thinking of ways in which we can support not only our wonderful books community but also the wider community, and soon we’ll be letting you know about an exciting development we are working on. In the meantime, we’d like to offer all our readers, supporters and friends a free gift: the full digital audio book of Two Trickster Tales from Russia, accessible either below on this post (for mobiles) or on the right-hand side of this site(for laptops and tablets)–simply click on the audio player for the full audio book and enjoy! (There’s also samples, if you want to just check it out briefly). Great for children and families homeschooling!
And if you’d like to have the full audio book to keep, just head on over to our Bandcamp store, where we are making the digital audiobook of Two Trickster Tales from Russia available anywhere in the world for whatever you would like to pay, from AUD $1 up. If you’d like the print book to go with it, if you live in Australia, head on over to your favourite bookshop online, or post free from our partner business, Granny Fi’s Toy Cupboard.
If you live overseas and would like the print book, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for international postage rates.
We are delighted to be part of the many wonderful small publishers to be featured in the 2019 Small Press Network Christmas catalogue. Our five 2019 titles are listed in the children’s books section in this fabulous catalogue, which goes out to thousands of booksellers and libraries around Australia. But anyone interested in the wonderful range of small-press books being published around Australia can consult the catalogue online, here. Have a look!
Six years ago this month we launched our very first title, Two Trickster Tales from Russia, by Sophie Masson and David Allan. It was very exciting and nerve-wracking too, we were on a steep learning curve and though we had high hopes of course for our fledgling little Press, we also knew big challenges lay ahead in an industry which is a lovely one to be in, but not easy either!
Six years later, we have published 29 books across our three imprints: Christmas Press, Eagle Books and Second Look–we have sold all over Australia, acquired an international rights agent, been shortlisted for literary awards, won a business award, worked with dozens of wonderful authors and illustrators, and achieved a high reputation amongst creators, readers, booksellers, agents, and reviewers. It’s been and continues to be an amazing adventure!
There’s an excellent new review of Petal and the Really Hard Riddle on the Reading Time blog. Here’s a short extract:
Author of picture books, chapter books and stories for older children England has reimagined this tale with humour and skill.
(We just wish the great review had mentioned the fabulous illustrations by David Allan too–so we are mentioning them here 🙂 –they are fabulous indeed and really add to the wonderful story!)
You can read the whole review here.
The first review for our new chapterbook, Kathryn England’s Petal and the Really Hard Riddle(illustrated by David Allan) has just been published in Buzz Words, and it’s a nice one. Here’s a short extract:
This is a lively reworking of a tale probably unfamiliar to today’s readership of five to nine-year olds for whom it’s intended, but the story is easy to follow with simple text in a well-designed book. Each chapter is illustrated with black and white drawings which make reading easier.
You can read the full review here.