Hello, Kidlit Oasis fans and new visitors!
I am so excited to welcome Beaming Books Editor, Naomi Krueger, to the Chitchat Series! What a pleasure to talk to Naomi--she kindly answered my questions and gives us an incredible insight into her acquisitions process, wishlist, Beaming Books mission and marketing, the behind the scenes of her work day, upcoming titles AND..... there's a giveaway, too!
Let's dive in, I can't wait to share this interview with all of you!
Welcome, Naomi! So, how did you become an editor? Did you have any mentors who helped you along the way? And please tell us about Beaming Books as a publisher -- what are the company's values, goals, and mission?
I started out as a journalism major with the intention of making writing my career. After graduating college I volunteered with AmeriCorps VISTA at a nonprofit that resettled refugees, working in their communications department. During that time, I had the opportunity to help finish a book of refugee stories that was underway and I helped the organization to self-publish it. That was a really remarkable experience for many reasons—one of which was it introduced me to the editorial and publishing process for books. I hadn’t seriously considered going into publishing before that, but it lit a fire in me. I realized that writing nonprofit newsletters and social media posts wasn’t going to be a good fit for me long-term. After that I was a reporter at a local community newspaper, while doing some freelance writing and editorial work on the side. I found a job opening at Sparkhouse for a Sunday school curriculum developer position. I worked with teams of writers, designers, animators, and illustrators to develop spiritual formation content for churches to use with children. I especially enjoyed developing three different Bibles for children and teens. Sparkhouse is part of a larger nonprofit publisher, 1517 Media, which is the publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). This is a large, progressive protestant denomination. 1517 Media has several imprints that publish for the church, the academy, and the general trade markets. In 2015 the company decided to branch out into children’s books and started a new imprint called Sparkhouse Family. I was very eager to work on books again, so when a Development Editor position opened, I leapt at the opportunity. Soon after, this imprint rebranded as Beaming Books. All told, I’ve been with 1517 Media for just over nine years, six of those with Beaming Books. I had several different supervisors and colleagues along the way, all whom I learned different things from as my job grew and changed and as our company grew and changed. It has been a “learn-as-you-go” kind of experience.
Beaming Books publishes books that help kids thrive in every part of who they are—emotionally, socially, and spiritually, primarily for kids ages 0-12. The bulk of our list is picture books, but we also publish middle grade nonfiction and some select YA nonfiction. While our company’s roots are in the Lutheran tradition, our books are not all religious and aren’t all Christian either. In fact, as our list has grown and our team has grown, we tend to acquire about 25% faith-based titles and 75% general-market titles that meet our mission of helping kids thrive holistically. We value books that come from open-minded, diverse perspectives and want the kids who read our books to see themselves, their families, and their communities in the stories. Books with strong social-emotional learning themes and books that speak to challenges and lived-experiences of children are strong sellers for us.
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?
I love working with authors on manuscript edits and revisions. I also really love briefing the art and collaborating with the illustrator on the visual storytelling. It’s hard to choose a “favorite part” because I truly love my job. I get a thrill when someone accepts my offer to acquire their book. It is extremely satisfying to see the final book, printed and bound, in my hands and reading it out loud to my own children. That’s pretty special.
My job also involves a lot of administrative tasks, which aren’t as exciting. Like writing keywords for metadata, looking up sales for competitive titles in the acquisitions process, or responding to dozens of emails every single day. Recently I developed a detailed proposal for changing our team folder structure. Those kinds of tasks sometimes take most of my day, which can feel like a drag. It is extremely rare that I would have a whole day just for giving feedback on a manuscript or reviewing submissions. That sounds dreamy.
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?
I have been working from home full time since March of 2020, like so many others in publishing. So my typical day starts after my kids are at daycare (thank God for daycare). I push the toys and crafts my kids have left on my desk out of the way, and then turn on my computer, which I hardly ever fully shut down to be honest. All of those little tabs on my browser, all the documents and book layout pdfs, all the open email messages are just waiting where I left them yesterday. I usually start by responding to email and then I check our scheduling tool to see if I have any project-related deadlines (like reviewing art or sending feedback to an author). I also have a running to-do list on a notebook that helps me stay focused.
I usually have at least 2 video meetings per day in addition to reviewing page layouts, reading submissions, writing acquisitions proposals, negotiating book deals, and taking care of administrative tasks. I also take breaks to post and interact on Twitter, which helps me feel connected to the bigger world while working by myself at home. I also have met amazing authors, illustrators, and agents on Twitter! One big perk of working from home is eating lunch with my husband who also works from home. We go outside for walks after lunch if the weather cooperates too. It is very different from my old routine of taking a bus into downtown Minneapolis to work at the office with 70 other people every day! I will work in our Minneapolis office part time again, but it will never be every day.
Are you actively acquiring new books at this time? What are some of the stories you're looking for? What appeals to you?
Yes, but not urgently. I have acquired a lot of exciting new books lately for Fall 2023 and Spring 2024, so I’m getting more and more particular about the kinds of submissions I’m interested in taking on. I am only able to accept agented submissions unless I’ve requested a submission directly from an unagented author. I try to participate in Twitter Pitch events to connect with unagented authors or other kinds of writing contests for new authors.
I love submissions with beautiful, lyrical language and strong emotional pull. I’m really drawn to stories about nature and the environment and stories that feature children or groups that don’t have a lot of representation in children’s literature. I’m especially interested in submissions from BIPOC creators. I love acquiring nonfiction, picture book biographies, or stories inspired by true events. I also am regularly looking for faith-based picture books that present a faith concept in unexpected, fresh ways from a progressive point of view. For example, I acquired a book coming out in March called Mother God which features feminine imagery for God found in the Bible. It is written by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky and illustrated by Khoa Le. It is gorgeous.
I would love to acquire more books from author-illustrators and I’d also like to see more humor in my inbox (so long as it also connects to our mission of helping kids thrive!)
How much time do you usually spend reading a submission? Do you read the query first or the manuscript?
I mostly review submissions from agents and how the submission is packaged varies. I like a little summary of the book and the author’s bio in the body of the email, with the manuscript attached. If there is a robust proposal along with it, that includes more about the author’s platform or how they would support the marketing of the book, I read that part last. I’m most interested in the manuscript and I can usually tell with one quick read whether it’s a good fit or not.
How do you evaluate submissions? What marks does a manuscript need to hit to be considered for acquisitions?
I don’t work from a checklist, but here’s a list of some of the things I consider:
What happens next? How is the acquisition process handled? Could you walk us through the process from submission to contract offer?
Here are the steps, generally, if I think a manuscript is worthy of consideration:
Are you currently taking submissions from illustrators—direct or agented?
I am accepting agented submissions from author-illustrators, but not submissions from illustrators who just want to submit a portfolio. We work with a lot of different illustration agencies and literary agents who represent illustrators and prefer to find them that way. I also love to follow illustrators on Twitter and Instagram, so please find me there! I have hired unagented illustrators and I find them on social media and through their personal websites. Please keep your online portfolios updated with the style of art you want to create and make it easy for editors to contact you! It can be incredibly frustrating to find an illustrator I love and no way to contact them.
How does Beaming Books support its authors after the acquisition process and post-publication? Would you highlight some of the marketing, promotion, and distribution support your titles receive?
We have a robust marketing and sales team, with in-house sales managers and external sales reps that we contract with, an in-house publicity team, and dedicated marketing managers that work with authors to position their books for success. Books are regularly pitched to major distributors and booksellers and can be ordered anywhere books are sold. Our marketing team works with authors on individualized plans to help launch their books, with a combination of video meetings and email correspondence to resource and equip them. Our books are regularly submitted for awards and to trade book review publications, such as Booklist and Kirkus. It truly is a collaboration between our team and the author. I’m not heavily involved in this part of things, but I do catch glimpses. This is a part of our business that has grown leaps and bounds in the last couple of years and it’s really exciting to see what they have accomplished.
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?
For upcoming lists, I’m managing 5-6 titles per season. Our seasons are “Spring” and “Fall” with about 16-18 books per list total. This is up from 2020 and 2021 when we downsized our lists due to pandemic uncertainty. It’s exciting to see our publishing program growing and thriving.
Fall 2022 is in production right now, which means the art is being created and we’re reviewing page layouts at different stages to give feedback on the art and design. It’s a really strong list. I will call out three that represent my acquisitions interests really well:
Rosalind Looked Closer is a picture book biography of Rosalind Franklin, who took the famous Photo 51 of the molecular structure of DNA, confirming it was a double helix. She didn’t receive credit for that photo initially, but contributed tremendously to molecular science and virology when she went on to study the structure of plant and human viruses. It’s a fascinating account of a Jewish woman scientist written by Lisa Gerin, illustrated by Chiara Fedele.
Simon the Hugger is a really fun story about an adorable sloth who loves to hug everybody and everything—and feels rejected when friends say they don’t want to be hugged. He learns a lesson about the importance of asking first before extending physical affection to others. It’s funny and full of endearing jungle animals. A perfect combo of humor and heart. What’s not to like? Written by Stacy B. Davids and illustrated by Ana Sebastián.
The Story of Us written by Mitali Perkins and illustrated by Kevin and Kristen Howdshell, is a poetic exploration of the relationship between humans, the natural elements, and the divine. It’s gorgeously told and the illustrations are stunning. A really sophisticated, unique take on the biblical redemption story.
You can pre-order our Fall 2022 list now from your favorite book retailer!
I’m also working on several books for Spring 2023, but those are just early stages. We are briefing covers right now and working on manuscript revisions with authors. I’m acquiring for Fall 2023, Spring 2024, and beyond. I can never remember what year it is right now since I am working on projects slotted for various years at the same time.
Thank you so much for being my KidLit Oasis guest, Naomi! This was an amazing chat, and I truly appreciate your time! Wishing you all the best, and I look forward to reading all the new titles you mentioned.
Connect with Naomi Krueger and Beaming Books:
Publisher website: https://www.beamingbooks.com/
Publisher Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/BeamingBooksMN
Your Twitter handle: @NaomiJKrueger https://twitter.com/NaomiJKrueger
Instagram: @naomi.j.krueger https://www.instagram.com/naomi.j.krueger/
About Naomi Krueger
Naomi Krueger is an acquisitions editor at Beaming Books, a nonprofit children’s book publisher based in Minneapolis. She lives in Saint Paul with her husband and two energetic little boys who love picture books almost as much as she does.
G I V E A W A Y ! ! !
Comment on this post to be entered into the giveaway. Two lucky winners will receive a copy of one of the two new titles below, once they are released:
MOTHER GOD by Teresa Kim Pecinovsky, illustrated by Khoa Le (March 8, 2022)
TOFU TAKES TIME by Helen Wu, illustrated by Julie Jarema (April 19, 2022)
Social media shares are greatly appreciated!
Congratulations to Nadine Poper and Joyce Uglow!
In other news. . .
New! FB community for emerging, unagented PB writers who need guidance, help, resources & more clarity on the craft & business of publishing PBs.
Our group offers helpful discussions & live videos that will address different topics + weekly Q&A. Join here:
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.