Editor Arthur Levine, head of the incredible Scholastic imprint Arthur A. Levine Books , stopped by Arcadia University (the FNC's alma mater) for a talk last Friday, and we covered it all for you.
but they're AMAZING. Trust us.
Click here to check out notes on his presentation about love and reading, and below is a recap of the Q&A part of the day!
1. How often you accept art and text together?
Very rarely, unless the artist and writer are the same person. Part of the fun for an editor is matching artists together.
2. Are you against regional books/stories?
No, regional stories are published all the time, but it seems like the key is there has to be something in the story that will speak universally to everyone even if its about one specific area or event like Hurricane Katrina.
3. How do you feel about receiving art notes from an author?
You can include art notes with your text, but only if it's really relevant--like you describe someone as happy, but it's a joke and the picture should show someone sad. You have to have faith that you're writing in a visual enough way to evoke the right images.
4. Is it better to have an agent?
Arthur Levine Books is one of the few publishing houses that still accepts unsolicited, unagented manuscripts. He really loves working with authors. But he feels that an agent isn't necessary if you're willing to negotiate and handle all the contracts yourself. If you don't want to spend time on that or don't understand it, then an agent is a good idea for you.
5. Is it hard to get into publishing?
Arthur got into publishing in 1984 and knew he wanted to be a children's editor. Getting into the industry is tough from all angles, but doable as long as you do your research and keep trying.
6. Has there be a rise in books about autism since more kids are being diagnosed?
No, but publishing tends to lag behind and so eventually when there are more people who can write about their personal experiences with it, there probably will be.
7. What's the rule with your MC's age versus the reader's age?
People tend to read about characters that are their age or a little older. You shouldn't worry about any of that, just write the story you are going to write which whatever age/style grabs you. An example was given from the audience of a woman writing about a 13 year old boy who curses a lot because that fits his character. The language is YA and but the MC age is middle grade. Arthur won't censor an author, but he'll really look at whether or not the language is effective and necessary. In the end it could affect how your book is marketed and how many people read it, but that's not a bad thing, just a choice you have to make about the story you want to tell.
8. Do you publish series like Gossip Girl?
9. Do you read through to the end of a manuscript when you've requested the full?
He only reads as much as he wants to--there's too much to read to keep going with something he doesn't like. He either loves it or thinks it has potential or wants to see how things play out, but if he isn't enjoying it or the MS annoyed him, he'll stop. Though he at least tries to give shaky starts the benefit of the doubt and get through at least 25 pages.
10. How has the recession affected publishing?
It's been pretty bad, especially because it's affecting it in indirect ways. Like a lot of schools are cutting bac on their library programs and firing librarians. Well, librarians buy books, so less people are there to buy. He also mentioned that he is totally rigid about only shopping at Indie Book Stores where he can have recommendations and have books hand sold to him--this is especially important because he feels that many of his books need to be hand sold. But he also believes things are turning around.
11. How do you feel about the idea that girls will read books about boys but boys won't read about girls/boys don't like to read?
Arthur totally rejects orthodoxy, doesn't believe in stereotypes. He likes to push against beliefs and fully believes that boys read and you need to consider the individual reader, not just boys, or any other kind of "group."
12. Is it better to be published or self-published?
Published! Because they pay you. But he says self-publishing can work too if you're very organized and/or feel the need to be in charge of every part of the process. You also need to fund everything and do your research and get your book in front of book reviewers and do marketing and your own editing, etc.
Publishers take care of a big chunk of that for you, plus they have distribution. So it really depends on your goals and what kind of person you are.
And that was the talk. Afterwards Sara and I were lucky enough to go to dinner with Arthur plus two of our writing professors at Arcadia, including Gretchen Haertsch who taught the Writing for Children class that brought the FNC together. Dinner was much more casual, but throughout the whole thing Arthur was highly entertaining, enthusiastic and sweet. He is definitely a dream editor in every sense of the word.
Hopefully this recap brought the experience to you if you couldn't be there and that you enjoyed reading about Arthur as much as we enjoyed listening to him!