So far, this has been the week of the small and the new.
Elise Howard at Algonquin Young Readers and Kathy Dawson, with her new imprint at Penguin, were both so interesting about the challenges and rewards of setting up YA lists. Algonquin Young Readers made its debut in Fall 2013, and Kathy Dawson’s first list will debut this year, so they are still in the process of defining who they are.
Both Kathy and Elise have the luxury (and the hard work) of creating small, carefully curated lists - each title selected on its merits (and for love), but also for the way it fits solidly and recognisably with the taste and vision of the editor.
I learned a lot from each of them about building a young-adult list from scratch, and about what it's like to be a small and independent part of a larger organisation. These small, focussed imprints are not really part of the publishing landscape at home, so it was really fascinating, and rather inspirational. As Elise said, she doesn’t have to play favourites. When your list is only a handful of titles you can love them all equally, and give each book the full weight of marketing dollars and time at your disposal.
In something of a different direction, but still small and new, I talked with Elizabeth Mazer and Annie Stone at Harlequin. Harlequin Teen was founded in 2009, off the back of the Twilight phenomenon, so it was very interesting to hear how the list has grown and changed since, as YA itself has made radical shifts in the last five years. Harlequin Teen's e-only lists, and their experiments with serialisation will be things to watch. It was also amazing to catch a glimpse into Harlequin’s more traditional romance lines. (Christian frontier romances are a thing!)
On Annie’s recommendation, I wandered down Broadway to Century 21 , where I very nearly bought a VASTLY reduced John Galliano dress, but then I decided my romantic sensibilities had run away with me, and I became practical and left it behind. This is either the wisest or the silliest thing I have ever done.
Some terminilogy I’m starting to recognise:
Award winners versus blockbusters - Pretty self explanatory, but there seem to be shades of nuanced meaning in the way they are said. Not everyone is chasing the latter.
Common core - The new (and controversial) curriculum standards, which include a new focus on non-fiction in the classroom. Given that schools and libraries are such an important part of YA and children’s book sales, publishers are keeping an eye on developments, and how they can most effectively publish to capitalise on them.
Readers' choice awards - All the states have them; some states have a few. If a book gets on one list, it often jumps to many more. If a book gets on several lists, its sales can be significantly boosted. If a book gets onto the lists in Texas - you are home and hosed.
A very big thank you to Annie and Elizabeth, Kathy, and Elise for their time, wisdom and enthusiasm.