Query.Sign.Submit. with Anna Roberto

Anna is an Associate Editor at Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan. She is interested in picture books, middle grade, and young adult fiction. Her nonfiction tastes are very selective. She loves realistic contemporary, suspense, sci-fi, and LGBTQ.

To connect with and learn more about Anna . . .

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literary agent and author Anna will be sharing her insight on the SUBMIT phase, from the editor side of things!

What do you love most about your job? Was it in your career plan or did it happen along the way?

Easy. Collaborating with authors! It’s amazing the kind of solutions and ideas you come up with when you have two minds working at it. Obviously, the author is the brain behind the entire operation, but I love to throw (mediocre) ideas at them to really spark their creativity—to make them see things from different angles that maybe they didn’t think of before.

I always knew there’d be a tremendous amount of back-and-forth with revisions, but I didn’t expect it to morph into this great building of ideas and brainstorming sessions. So wonderful!

What is the hardest part about being an editor?

I can only read so fast, so time is an editor’s enemy, for sure. But I think the absolute hardest thing for me is losing a project that I really wanted. As an editor, you’re the champion for this project. You pitch it, you put your heart and soul into screaming how great it is from the rooftops to the sales team and others. So to do all that work and have someone outbid you, it’s more upsetting than I ever expected.

Is there anything that would make a submission an automatic no?

Forced, inorganic voice. When I’m reading a YA and I can immediately tell it’s an adult trying to be a teen, I want to scream. Using slang (ugh, dated slang!) doesn’t make a voice teen. Teen voice is so much more than using funny or silly words. Honestly, it’s one of those skills you just can’t teach.

How do you tackle your inbox? Do you go in order or jump around?

Our IT department has said to me on more than one occasion that I have the most extensively organized inbox they’ve ever seen. Not that you could tell by the state of my desk… When an email thread is wrapped up and resolved, I file it into the designated folder of my archives. I have a folder for every department, every event, and every author. Everything ever.

For projects in limbo, they stay directly in my inbox with a color-coded labeling system. I tag rush reads with a purple tag as well as the red tag (but red tags are for anything urgent as well). Green tags are for freelancer projects, orange tags are for mailing projects, and blue tags are for intern projects. Then I always use the flag and reminder features to keep me on point with deadlines. These colored tags and reminders are also built into my calendar so I know when revisions are due back from authors as well as other time sensitive jobs!

Did I overdo it….? If only I was this organized in my personal life!

What is the revision process like when you’re working with an author?

After the contract is finalized and squared away, it’s time to make a book!

My usual process is to give the author a big welcome, welcome to the Feiwel and Friends family! Shortly after, I send an over-arching editorial letter with my main plot and character concerns. I point out pages and passages that need attention. I often make suggestions to help find solutions to areas causing concern, though, I never expect or demand that the writer do exactly what I say. After all, I’m not the writer. I offer suggestions just to kick off the brainstorming—to get the creative wheels a turnin’.

After the author takes the editorial letter, sits with it, and reworks the manuscript, they send it back to me. At that point I start to read through it again. If I see that most of my concerns were resolved, I start line editing. If it’s still not there, I do another round of edits. If it’s onto line edits, that’s just where I take a very close look at each line to make sure everything is smooth. For instance, if a character does something or says something that goes against the character as the author has shaped them—I call attention to it. This is also my chance to simply get excited and act like a total fan. I still have very visceral reactions to reading things, and I cannot breeze through a manuscript without saying how much I love something! After all, it’s why I bought the book in the first place! One time, I drew giant hearts all over a manuscript because it was simply the most romantic scene on earth. As an editor, I believe it’s just as important to point out those bits that made you fall in love with the story as well as those bits that need some TLC.

So once the editorial process is nearly to an end, I submit it to copyediting and start to have meetings with the designer to talk about cover concepts!

What would you love to find in your inbox?

The best and worst question! I’m a firm believer that sometimes you just don’t know what you want until it’s in front of you, but here’s what’s been on my mind lately…

Sweet picture books that aren’t too sappy. Quirky picture books that tell evergreen themes in new and exciting ways. I definitely am more humor-based with picture books.

I’d love a coming of age middle grade with a fresh plot and a charming voice. If Rebecca Stead and Judy Blume were to collide…

A YA that involves a boy and girl who were best friends since childhood but now find strain in their relationship as they navigate high school.

A YA or MG about sisters (no one has to die, either!). I find sibling, especially sister relationships, to be a treasure trove of material.

A YA suspense/thriller à la Lois Duncan. Or even a thrilling sci-fi.

An LGBTQ novel that isn’t about coming out—so much territory to explore here!

A YA or MG novel that involves a character who is out of their element. I love the idea of a family having to pick up and move to Alaska and find their feet as they learn to live off the grid.

I love voices that are organic and believable. I do tend to live in the realistic contemporary genre. Stories that have any combination of humor, heart, or quirkiness. Commercial or light literary styles are welcome!

Thank you, Anna!

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Posted October, 2014 – Always check for current info and guidelines.

1 comment:

  1. I always like getting a peek into what it's like on the other side of the submission process. Thanks!

    Anna sounds quirky and fun to work with! It looks like Feiwel and Friends is closed to unsolicited submissions, though. Does she accept queries through any contests, etc.?

    ReplyDelete