I am so thrilled to welcome this week's KidLit Oasis guest, Alison S. Weiss, Editor at Pixel+Ink, and to chat with her about all things publishing!
Alison has graciously agreed to share her insight and wisdom with my readers, to take us behind the scenes of her publishing house, and she's also giving away a bundle of books to one lucky winner! How fantastic is that?!
I can't wait for you to hear from Alison, so here we go....
Welcome, Alison! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me and for sharing your perspective, knowledge, and publishing experience with us! I appreciate your visit -- it's truly exciting to interview an editor on my blog!
My first question is, how did you become an editor? Did you have any mentors who helped you along the way? And please tell us about Pixel + Ink as a publisher -- what are the company's values, goals, and mission?
ASW: I started my career as an intern at Delacorte Books for Young Readers when I was going into my senior year of college, but my first full-time job in publishing was as Sales and Marketing Assistant at Egmont USA. I say I stared in Sales and Marketing, but Egmont was a brand-new company at the time—I was employee number four!—and we didn’t really have any books to sell or market, so I was more like a jack of all trades. I helped plan the company’s launch party. I ordered office supplies. I booked and confirmed (and reconfirmed) trips for the executives to major conferences like BEA and ALA and Frankfurt. And I read and discussed manuscripts. About six months in, the company decided to split my role in two, and I was lucky enough that they saw the potential in me and let me make the hop over to editorial, enabling me to grow along with the company.
But, of course I still needed to learn how to be a good editor. I’ve always worked at companies that are growing, and that means you often jump in to help with matters beyond your standard job description, and you learn a lot about the business and how it really operates along the way. I’ve been fortunate to have had some incredible people to help me along that journey. Regina Griffin took me under her wing and taught me the mechanics of the trade of editing, the ins-and-outs of a book contract, author care, how to be strategic, and so many more skills I can’t begin to list. Elizabeth Law’s extroversion and ease with talking to new writers taught me how to push past my introverted shell and network successfully. Bethany Buck, my current Editor-in-Chief, who I’ve been fortunate enough to work with at two companies now, modeled for me that being a good manager is about making sure your team has what they need to be successful and thrive. And there are so many others who have taught me so much. I can only hope that I can be that advocate and mentor to young editors as they find their own paths.
Pixel+Ink is part of the Trustbridge Media Group, along with sister companies Holiday House, Peachtree, and Candlewick/Walker. We’re a very new company—we recently had our first anniversary of publication!—and we’re just getting started. Pixel+Ink is a little different than other publishers, in that we are committed to series publishing with transmedia potential. That means we’re developing properties across multiple books (whether that’s a specified arc, strong worlds we just keep wanting to revisit, or a sequence that can just go on and on and on), and we’re looking for franchises that have strong potential to make the leap to TV, film, or other media platforms. We publish picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and graphic novels. We really believe in telling stories that kids ages 3-13 want to get lost in. We want readers to feel seen in these worlds, but also to feel they have a place to escape and explore and grow. And we hope they have a lot of fun along the way.
Wow, what an incredible journey! And you've had such amazing opportunities to learn the business from many different angles, which I think is invaluable. I'm always fascinated with the particular path a person took to take them to where they are today.
My next question is, 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?
ASW: I love collaboration. I love working with my authors. I love working with my team. It feels like such a privilege to make books for readers that can be so meaningful to who they may grow up to be. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously, and to do it alongside such creative and committed partners is exhilarating.
I’m not a fan of how long it takes to get movement on things. This is a hurry up and wait industry on all levels. And I don’t always love writing copy. I need to be in the right mindset, and sometimes schedules don’t allow me to wait for the creative juices to flow. (Sound familiar?)
Very familiar! And I second this--I am right there with you NOT being a fan of the slow movement on things in the industry. The "hurry up and wait" is tough!
Please tell us, 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?
ASW: There is definitely no typical workday. I keep a running list of tasks I need to get to, which gets copied over every Monday, and I cross things off as I go along through the week. I do a pretty good job of winnowing away at that list, but it’s never finished. Priority in a given day is usually based on deadlines that are coming up. If we’re preparing for Launch or Sales Conference, tasks related to that have to be handled before other matters. If a book is about to go to press, I have to drop everything to review the passes as they circulate, and that can be quite a frenzy. Administrative tasks and correspondence often come before digging into a manuscript or reading because they’re more time sensitive. But I’ve been very lucky at Pixel+Ink that I do have days where I can spend an entire afternoon or even a day (or multiple days in a row!) editing, and for that I am very grateful.
Are you actively acquiring new books at this time? What are some of the stories you're looking for? What appeals to you?
ASW: I am definitely acquiring right now, and I’m eager to fall in love with new, exciting projects. I think I’m drawn to books that have a lot of heart and often a lot of humor. I want a story to really get its claws in me. I’m looking for the great trifecta—stand-out characters, engaging plot, and a killer voice. I love most those manuscripts that change my perspective on the world when I’m done reading.
[Check out Alison's submission guidelines]
How much time do you usually spend reading a submission? Do you read the query first or the manuscript?
ASW: Since joining Pixel+Ink, I’ve implemented a practice I’ve really been enjoying. I carve out a block of time on a Sunday afternoon with my Kindle, a huge cup of coffee, and a scone, and I sit reading manuscripts. That’s not to say I don’t read at other times (I do!), but those hours have become my devoted reading time every week. So far, it’s allowed me to keep my response times down to something respectable for the most part, but I suppose I’ll have to reassess if things change!
I skim a query letter when a submission first comes in, but I read the manuscript first. If I’m a few chapters in and feel in my gut that this could be something, I’ll usually jump over to the query letter to get the pitch, and then keep that info in mind as I dive back into the manuscript, hoping it will stay just as great.
How do you evaluate submissions? What marks does a manuscript need to hit to be considered for acquisitions?
ASW: Wow. This is a difficult question to answer. What makes a manuscript work is really subjective. It’s important to remember that just because a manuscript may not click for me, that doesn’t mean that another editor won’t fall madly in love with it.
I usually can tell fairly early on if it’s something I’m adoring, and then it’s a question of it staying as wonderful. I’m looking for writing that stands out. I try to give every project I consider a fair shake (sometimes that first chapter is just not the right starting place), but if my mind’s starting to wander or I find I’m not really invested, that probably is the signal it’s time to move on.
For Pixel+Ink, I have the added component that I need books that have strong series potential and that I can see being picked up for film. If I’m looking at a picture book that’s not character-driven and it’s not easy to see how you might come up with thirty different plots for a pre-school season, it doesn’t matter how lovely I think it is. And for a novel, if the ending feels very final (and there’s a difference between a satisfying close and slamming the door shut), it’s going to be harder for me to get to yes. Some books really are meant to be stand-alones, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of editors who will gobble those up.
What happens next? How is the acquisition process handled? Could you walk us through the process from submission to contract offer?
ASW: If I find something I’d love to move forward with, the next step is usually sharing it with my Editor-in-Chief. I may be simultaneously reaching out to an agent or author to get a bit more information or to discuss some light development, or I may wait until I have the greenlight to move forward. At that point, I put together a profit and loss statement, which analyzes the profitability of a project based on a lot of considerations. I’m also coming up with other books already on the market to make a case why I think this could do well, too. (This is why, creators, it’s so important to know the current market and to know where your book fits within it.) I’m also sharing the manuscript with my rights director and our film consultant for their feedback. (This is not necessarily how this process works at other houses, but you might share the manuscript with marketing or sales.) Once the P&L is ready, I present the project to our Managing Director at an Acquisitions meeting and we discuss my potential strategy should he approve us offering. If the project clears that hurdle, my Editor-in-Chief and I pull together our offer and we’re off to the races!
I see that the time frame to get a reply from Pixel + Ink is up to 4 months. Is no reply considered a pass after the 4 months or do you send form rejections? Should authors follow up on unsolicited submissions?
ASW: Currently, the Pixel+Ink editorial team consists my Editor-in-Chief and me, so unfortunately we simply don’t have the bandwidth to reply personally to every unsolicited manuscript, even if we wish we could. No response after four months is a pass from us. Writers can of course follow up, but that doesn’t get you any kind of preferential treatment.
Are you currently taking submissions from illustrators?
What is the one thing people should avoid in submissions?
ASW: It’s really important to follow submission guidelines. We don’t do YA or non-fiction. We don’t do stand-alone anything. (If your book’s a stand-alone, but you have ideas for more stories in the world, just mention that in your query letter.)
Also, if you’re sending unsolicited, please don’t send anything as an exclusive submission unless there’s a specific reason you’re doing it. No one in the industry expects that of you, and you’re actually working against yourself.
How does Pixel + Ink support its authors after the acquisition process and post-publication? Would you highlight some of the marketing, promotion, and distribution support your titles receive?
ASW: The Pixel+Ink list is carefully curated so that every creator we work with gets a lot of attention from our team and we can treat each of them as the partner we view them as. We’re sold and distributed by Penguin Random House, so we have amazing market reach. Our publicity and marketing teams are incredible, and they’re always coming up with smart, detailed, tailored plans for each property in conjunction with our creators’ ideas. And they’re really nice, too.
What projects are you working on right now for your list? What are you excited about and why? Any upcoming titles you could share with us?
ASW: I’ve been spending a lot of time with Pixel+Ink projects acquired before I joined the company, including Beatrice Bly’s Rules for Spies by Sue Fliess, illustrated by Beth Mills, Twig and Turtle by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, illustrated by Paula Franco, The Great Peach Experiment by Erin Soderberg Downing, and the forthcoming The Great Mathemachicken by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Charlie Alder.
I’m also excited to start seeing the books I’ve acquired getting ready to make their way into the market. The Curious League of Detectives and Thieves by Tom Phillips is a middle grade series launching in Summer 2022 that I’m particularly eager to see out in the world. It’s A Series of Unfortunate Events meets Enola Holmes. It’s hilarious and full of heart, and the kind of book where you realize how cleverly plotted it is as you pick up on more and more with every read. I adore it and I’m certain readers are going to eat it up.
Thank you again, Alison! It was a pleasure talking with you! I look forward to checking out all of these wonderful books and look forward to your upcoming titles, too.
Connect with Alison S. Weiss
Follow Alison on Twitter: @alioop17
Alison S. Weiss has been in publishing for more than ten years. She’s currently acquisitions editor at Pixel+Ink (part of the Trustbridge Media Group), a publisher focused exclusively on series publishing with transmedia potential. There, she’s worked on many series, including TWIG AND TURTLE by Jennifer Richard Jacobson, THE GREAT PEACH EXPERIMENT by Erin Soderberg Downing, and the forthcoming THE CURIOUS LEAGUE OF DETECTIVES AND THIEVES by Tom Phillips. She’s run her own editorial consultancy, working with publishers including Simon & Schuster, Audible, and Arctis, as well as private clients, and was Editorial Director at Sky Pony Press, where her list included William C. Morris Finalist DEVILS WITHIN by S.F. Henson, the PROJECT DROID series by New York Times bestselling author Nancy Krulik and Amanda Burwasser, illustrated by Mike Moran, the TIMEKEEPER trilogy by Tara Sim, and the Mahabharata-inspired CELESTIAL TRILOGY by SanguMandanna. In 2016 she was named a Publishers Weekly Star Watch Honoree. She’s been trying to live up to the title ever since. You can follow her on Twitter @alioop7 and learn more about Pixel+Ink at www.pixelandinkbooks.com.
G I V E A W A Y! ! !
Leave a comment and share this post on social media to be entered in the giveaway for a chance to win a bundle of Pixel+Ink titles! (US only, please)
One winner will be announced on 10/12/21.
(Pick your prize pack: picture books + chapter books OR middle grade/graphic novels)
Lauren Kerstein! Congratulations!!!
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
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.