How do editors decide what to publish?

wish listsI’ve been wondering a lot lately about how editors decide what to publish. Wondering and discussing it with my fellow writers.  Here are a list of theories I’ve compiled in a non-scientific (these are the ones I remember) way.

  • Editors are influenced by the “wish lists” produced by teachers and librarians.
  • They are out to create the books that they couldn’t find as children.
  • They look at market data — this kind of book is successful while this one isn’t.
  • They create child-friendly versions of their favorite adult books.

When I saw “Are Publishers Influenced by Teacher and Librarian Feedback,” I clicked through to the full story on Publisher’s Weekly.  Here is a smattering of the responses.  For more complete information, see the full article (link above).

Katie Hall, Abordale Associate Editor
Hall goes to trade shows at least once a year so that the can mingle with teachers and librarians.  “If I have a manuscript that I might be on the fence about, but it’s a subject that a teacher has mentioned to me, that can tip it over into the yes pile.”

Carolyn Yoder, senior editor, Boyds Mills/Calkins Creek
Her authors often come up with ideas after talking to a librarian but Yoder does her own research.  “I also check several librarian websites—Kid Lit Frenzy, the Uncommon Corps, Unleashing Readers—where they discuss what’s new and what’s coming up and sometimes what they would like to see more of.”

Alvina Ling, Little, Brown Editor-in-Chief
Feedback during conferences and library-previews.

David Levithan, Scholastic publisher and editorial director
Because of school connections, they get constant feedback from teachers and librarians.  This is part of the reason that they were so happy to aquire George by Alex Gino, teachers and librarians had told Scholastic that they were having to give YA books to children who really weren’t ready for YA content.

Mary Lee Donovan, Candlewick editorial director

“Candlewick is very much a creatively led publishing house. ‘Creatively led’ . . . means that the majority of the books we publish are products of the creator’s particular pursuit or passion.”

Justin Chanda, Simon & Schuster  v-p and publisher

“. . .  part of our editorial-meeting agenda within each of my imprints is to discuss what the editors have been hearing from those on the front lines—teachers and librarians who are sharing books and working with kids. We often hear comments at librarian previews, at conferences, on social media, and on listserves. We hear things directly from folks we have relationships for years, and who will email editors or me directly. Authors will hear feedback when they are going into schools on tour and will bring comments back. It is all very much a part of our discussions. Editorial’s job is to know as much about the market as possible, and educators and librarians are the conduit to one of the largest pieces of that market.”

I’m sure that the information from this article is skewed — they specifically wanted to know how much impact the opinions of teachers and librarians had — but I think it also shows that this market knowledge plays a big part in the selection process at many houses.  Maybe not all, but many.