Chitchat with Yeehoo Press Editor Helen Wu Plus a Critique Giveaway and Above the Slush Pile Submission!
Hello, lucky KidLit Oasis Readers!
I am so excited to have you back, because you are in for multiple treats with this post! Are you smiling already? I hope you are, and in just a moment, you'll see what I mean...
My guest on KidLit Oasis is the amazing Helen Wu, who wears many hats in the kidlit industry: she is an editor, publisher, author, illustrator, graphic designer, and translator! How impressive is that? Oh, and she's also my acquisition's editor for my upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success. So, it's my great pleasure to have Helen on my blog, and I'm truly happy to chat with her about her role as an editor, in particular, and get the scoop on what goes on behind the scenes at Yeehoo Press, so you could be in the know as well!
Plus, Helen is generously giving away a picture book critique to one super lucky blog reader! And, she's giving my readers an above-the-slush-pile submission opportunity! Hooray! (Find the guidelines at the end of the interview.)
Now, without further ado, welcome, Helen! Thank you for being my guest. I have lots of questions, so let's get started.
1. How did you become an editor? Did you have any mentors who helped you along the way? And please tell us about Yeehoo as a publisher -- what are the company's values, goals, and missions?
I’ve been passionate about writing and drawing since I was a kid, but I never thought it would be a career option growing up in China. After I graduated from the University of Georgia with an MS in Economics, I landed a job in the marketing field. I learned how to use and draw in Photoshop to make attractive marketing materials. I did digital drawings and put a portfolio online. To my surprise, someone asked me if I could illustrate their picture book. Gradually, I illustrated more self-published picture books. I got involved in every step of bookmaking—from illustration to layout to cover design, typography, and book printing. When my son was born, I was inspired to write and illustrate my own picture books. The positive feedback encouraged me to do more. In 2018, with 10 picture books that I wrote and illustrated under my belt, I realized I wanted more than just a book out there. My dream was to write a book that could reach a wider audience and be carried by libraries and brick-and-mortar bookstores. I knew I needed a professional team with an editor, designer, and art director and marketing resources to back me up. Traditional publishing was the route to take. I started taking classes and attending conferences.
In August 2019, I attended the SCBWI conference in Los Angeles and met Mr. Zhang, the publisher, and two editors from Yeehoo Press. Luyang Xue, the acquisition editor, told me they were looking for someone to take charge of their publishing house’s US division. They wanted someone who could speak Mandarin and English and had experience in children’s book publishing and connections to authors in the US.
My background was a perfect fit for Yeehoo’s criteria. They invited me to visit their offices in Shanghai and Suzhou for an in-depth discussion with the whole team. After a few months of talks and planning, I officially joined the team in November 2019.
Yeehoo Press creates and publishes fun, enchanting, and socially responsible children’s books for audiences worldwide, focusing on universal messages. Yeehoo publishes the English editions in the US and the simplified Chinese editions in mainland China. Starting with the US and Chinese markets—two of the largest children's book markets—Yeehoo’s goal is to find common ground between different countries and cultures and provide books with universal interest and appeal for readers worldwide.
2. What is your favorite part of the job and what is your least favorite part? What brings you joy in your position day in and day out?
Definitely getting the chance to think creatively—not only the book itself but also the whole collaboration process and all areas of the publishing business. To be the best advocate for your book, you have to know about contracts, subsidiary rights, the target audience, writing, art style, graphic design, marketing, publicity, sales, and so on. The goal is to support the author and the rest of the book team, including the illustrator, designer, and marketing team, in telling a compelling story. I love to see each step of how a book takes shape from plain text to a finished book. I always marvel at the journey of making picture books. You plant a seed and work hard to nurture it, and it surprises you months later with flowers!
3. What is a typical workday for you? If there's no "typical" what are some of the tasks that have priority in any given workday?
Last year, I focused more on acquisitions. I used to read and review picture book manuscripts before presenting potential books to the acquisitions board. Some weeks, I only had a few manuscripts to read, while I had too many in other weeks. It can be really hot and cold, but every day starts with reading and taking notes.
This year, I focused more on the marketing side of the business, and our other editors do more of the acquisitions. I’m constantly looking at timing and scheduling. I always start with things at the top of my to-do list, and I regularly check on deadlines. I’m in meetings, liaising with different departments for each book, including editors who write the descriptive synopsis and catalog copy, the production team, who prints and ships the books, the sales team, who handle ads and promotions, and our acquisition editors about our new lists and acquisitions. It’s the little bits and pieces you’re doing throughout the day and over the course of many months to bring books into the world.
4. Are you actively acquiring new books at this time? What are some of the stories you're looking for? What appeals to you?
We’re developing a new list, and our manuscript wish list will be updated from time to time. The best way to keep informed of our most up-to-date list is to check our submission guidelines https://yeehoopress.com/submissions/ and follow us on social media.
5. How do you evaluate submissions? What marks does a manuscript need to hit to be considered for acquisitions?
We’re always looking for strong writing, compelling plots, and universal messages. We also have to think in terms of our list. We have four editors acquiring picture books, and the acquisition decisions are made by the whole team. We will do in-depth market research on the books we’re ready to acquire in the US and Chinese markets. Depending on the market, readers’ tastes differ, and the way to promote books is different. We try to find books with themes that have common ground in different markets. Once our books are published in the English and Chinese editions, I believe it will be easier to reach other countries and cultures and be enjoyed by readers around the world.
For the acquisition process, our editors go through stacks of submissions, consider what we think may work for our program, create a memo to share with the team that includes a positioning statement about the book’s topic and why someone might want to buy it, a brief description of the story, an author bio, and comparable titles. In the US, the books will be published and promoted individually, while in mainland China, books by different authors and illustrators are commonly sold and promoted as collections or sets with a common theme. For a set of books, it could be from 3–10 books. We usually need to acquire at least three books about a particular theme—say emotions, STEAM, non-fictions about a particular topic—to establish a set of books.
6. What happens next? How is the acquisition process handled? Could you walk us through the process from submission to contract offer?
We usually have several rounds of acquisitions meetings. Occasionally, the manuscript might need some revisions, so we’ll also talk with the author about the possible revisions and make sure we’re on the same page and agree on the book’s direction. Acquisitions might take a few weeks to a few months, depending on our list. If we rush to complete a set of books, the acquisition will be faster. If we’re developing a new list, like we have been the past several months, we’re slow at acquisitions. When we’d like to acquire a book, we’ll send the author an offer with advances, royalty structures, and any other terms.
7. Are you currently taking submissions from illustrators?
Yes, we take submissions from illustrators. We’re actively looking for illustrators and browsing illustration agencies, portfolio websites, and social media. Submitting directly to us is a great way for us to get to know the artist.
8. What is the one thing people should avoid in submissions?
Some submissions don’t have a proper query letter. The query letter includes synopsis, pitch, age range, a short bio with the author’s writing experience, and three comparable titles. Though eventually, it’s the manuscript itself that we evaluate, a strong query frequently makes the difference in the submission grabbing our interest immediately.
9. How does Yeehoo support its authors and illustrators after the acquisition process and post-publication? Would you highlight some of the marketing, promotion, and distribution support your titles receive? For example, do you work with indie bookstores, big chains, school libraries, do you submit your books to journal reviews, awards etc.?
After the acquisition, we have several editors in the US who will do the actual editing with the author. They all have years of experience working in large publishing houses and will make the manuscript the best it can possibly be. It is also time to find an illustrator. We’d like to ask potential candidates to draw a sample character to see their interpretation. We select the artist based on the art style, character design, timeline, and budget. After we officially bring the illustrator on board, they will create a storyboard, then rough sketches, and then colored spreads. Our designer will jump in to start the layout design when 90% of the artwork is finished. The art director, the designer, and the illustrator will work together to ensure the final book is polished to perfection.
Our marketing starts about six months before publication. In China, we share the marketing channels and resources with our publishing partner, Phoenix Media & Group. We have distributors in different provinces in China and for online and offline bookstores. In the US, we also partner with the distributor here to make our books available to teachers, librarians, and booksellers through the regular sales channels. We send our books to be reviewed by all the major children's literature journals, such as Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, and so on, and submit them for national, state, and numerous other awards. We also reach out to blogs, podcasts, and social media influencers for reviews and shoutouts. We contact independent bookstores and libraries for author events and storytimes. There are so many marketing ideas and approaches, and we love to work with amazing authors and illustrators to achieve success in the literary world.
10. What projects are you working on right now for Yeehoo's list? What are you excited about and why? Any upcoming titles you could share with us?
We’re really excited about our upcoming titles this year. Milo’s Moonlight Mission (June 15) by Kathleen M. Blasi, illustrated by Petronela Dostalova, is an emotionally resonant, heartwarming tale of a parent and a child struggling to find quality time together—a challenge with which many parents and children can identify. The Perfect Party (August 10) by Laurel P. Jackson, illustrated by Hélène Baum-Owoyele, celebrates the beauty of different cultures and the strength of collaboration. The Whole World Inside Nan's Soup (August 24) by Hunter Liguore, illustrated by Vikki Zhang, in which Nan shares the wisdom that one bowl of soup contains an assortment of traditions and places. From farmhand to delivery drivers to market merchants, readers can see all the essential hands it takes to bring a meal together. Chameleon Can Be (September 7) by Carolina Farías is an adventure of guessing riddles, learning about animals, and discovering the importance of being true to yourself.
We’re also working on another eight titles for spring 2022, and we can’t wait to bring all these adorable books to life!
I cannot wait, either -- especially since one of those adorable books in my own! Aaah, I'm so excited and look forward to sharing it with the word. :)
Thank you so much for your time, Helen, and for giving us such thorough insight into the publishing process at Yeehoo Press as well as sharing all these amazing books on Yeehoo's list!
I know that you also have a new book of your own coming out, published by Beaming Books, so I hope you'll be back to KidLit Oasis as a guest author next time.
I wish you all the best on your journey and I look forward to many more books from you, personally, and from Yeehoo Press.
G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
Helen Wu is giving away one non-rhyming picture book critique.
Here's how to enter the giveaway by 6/14/21:
1. Leave a comment on this post
2. Subscribe to KidLit Oasis
*Social media shares are optional, but encouraged and appreciated! Spread the word, and invite your writer and illustrator friends over to KidLit Oasis!
Don't forget to tag me (@RosiePOV on Twitter)
>>>>>The winner will be announced on 6/15/21<<<<<
Ellen Leventhal won the picture book critique by Helen Wu! Congratulations, Ellen!
Above-the-slush submission opportunity:
Open until 6/30/21
Follow the submision guidelines of Yeehoo Press when sending your picture book manuscript to Helen Wu, and put "Kidlit" in the subject line. Good luck!
Helen H. Wu is a children’s book author and illustrator of over 20 picture books, as well as a translator, graphic designer, and publisher. Her new picture book, Tofu Takes Time, illustrated by Julie Jarema, will be published by Beaming Books in spring 2022. She illustrated the educational coronavirus picture book Be a Coronavirus Fighter by Songju Ma Daemicke, which received many praises all around the world and has been translated into 12 languages. Helen is the Associate Publisher of Yeehoo Press, a Los Angeles based children’s book publisher. Being fascinated by the differences and similarities between cultures, Helen loves to share stories that can empower children to understand the world and our connections. Born and raised in Hefei, China, Helen moved to the US in her 20s. Currently, she resides in sunny Southern California, with her family and two kids.
Connect with Yeehoo Press and Helen Wu:
Yeehoo's website: https://yeehoopress.com/
Yeehoo's Twitter: @yeehoopress
Yeehoo's Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yeehoopress/
Helen Wu on Twitter: @HelenHWu
Helen Wu on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenhwu/
Helen Wu's website: https://helenhwu.com/
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a
award-winning children's author, speaker, and writing coach on a mission to inspire children not only to read and write more, but to use their creativity, follow their passions, dream big and believe in themselves.
Rosie visits schools and shares her inspirational journey as an immigrant from Bulgaria and how she became a published author, encouraging kids to persist, push through rejections, and hold a high vision for themselves.
Rosie's picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and Parents magazine, and her upcoming one, The School of Failure: A Story About Success, will be released in May 2022 in the U.S. and China.
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.