Friday, April 18, 2014

Editopia: Annie Berger, Associate Editor at Harper Collins

Our Editopia series continues and today I'm very excited to welcome Annie Berger, as associate editor at HarperCollins. I can say from firsthand experience that Annie is an incredible editor who wears her enthusiasm for publishing on her sleeve, which makes her also an incredible person.

Annie Berger graduated from Northwestern University where she majored in history and minored in religion. She attended the Columbia Publishing Course in the summer of 2009. After several internships at Dunham Literary, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and Egmont USA she started as an editorial assistant at Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin imprint. There she worked with authors Brandon Mull, Rachel Ren√©e Russell and Lauren Barnholdt. Annie was involved in many successful repackages including a Felix Salten line, new Anne of Green Gables books and the re-launch of Fablehaven. She was the editor for both the middle-grade and chapter book Nancy Drew and the middle-grade Hardy Boys series. Annie also signed up debut authors Jen Malone’s At Your Service and Gail Nall’s Breaking the Ice, which publish in August 2014 and March 2015 respectively. Now at HarperCollins Annie is delighted to be looking for both middle-grade and teen and works with authors such as Kristen Kittscher (The Tiara on the Terrace), Jo Whittemore (Confidentially Yours series) and Diane Zahler. Annie also assists with Gail Carson Levine, Lauren Oliver, and Rita Williams-Garcia.

Hi Annie! Let's cover a little basic background stuff first. How did you get your start in the industry? Did you always want to be in publishing?

I had no idea that I wanted to get into publishing until my senior year of college. Right about that time I was panicking about what to do next. I thought long and hard, talked to some people and decided that publishing might be it (book lover for life.) I attended the Columbia Publishing Course right after graduation and then went onto a series of internships. When I finally got my job at Simon & Schuster I was so happy that I danced around my living room blasting Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machine. I had three wonderful years there and now I’m excited about my new adventure at HarperCollins!

What does your to-read pile look like? How many manuscripts are in your inbox at any one time?

So many manuscripts, so little time. Just kidding, it’s actually amazing that I have a job where my take home work is reading great children’s books. I definitely always have a stack to read, but I love it! I also like to read at least 50 pages of something before deciding it’s not right for me. There are usually some pending ones hanging out there too, that I’ve read and really enjoyed but am still debating over whether or not I think it works for my list. I don’t like to keep agents hanging so I try to respond in a fairly timely fashion, but those pending ones are the trickiest!

I think I speak for authors (and agents) everywhere in saying, "Thank you for timely responses!" What trends are you seeing in kidlit these days? Are there any subjects or genres you don’t want to see in your inbox? Any you want to see more of?

I think we are totally done (for now) with paranormal (I’m looking at you vampires) and relatively over dystopian. I’m seeing A LOT more realistic fiction, and that’s been working really well for us. I would love to see more fantasy. I love fantasy that’s seamlessly woven into the plot. I keep talking about this everywhere, but Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races is a perfect example of this. Her book actually had me on Wikipedia double-checking that there were no such things as flesh-eating water horses. I’d also love to see more strange and off-putting stuff, bring on the books about cults!

I totally agree with you on those water horses. I was sooo intrigued by them. Cults, huh? Very cool. Okay, so without implicating anyone, can you tell us one of or some of the weirder submissions you’ve received?

Oh gosh, I’ve gotten a lot of strange ones. One was a very interesting (unsolicited) picture book submission about a love affair between a snail and a tape dispenser. Which is actually quite funny if you think about it, but definitely wasn’t right for me!

Um. I don't even... okay, I'm just going to leave that one alone. Now I know it’s just plain evil to ask a children’s book editor to name a favorite book, so I won’t. Instead, tell me about your favorite children’s book covers.

Well, I’m biased, but I am in love with the covers for the Anne of Green Gables repackages at Simon & Schuster. (note: see next question for that beauty!) I remember loving the covers for the Fallen books by Lauren Kate, I thought Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Vivian Siobhan was amazing, The Beautiful Creatures books were beautiful and I love the cover for 33 Minutes by Todd Hasak-Lowy. I also love those Penguin classics. Oh! I can’t believe I almost forgot this one…Nightsong by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long is one of my favorites of all time, it’s my background screen on my work computer.


33 Minutes is on my bookshelf and even the spine is attention-grabbing! Is there a particular book that sparked your love of reading or a book that you re-read time and again?

There are so so many! But one of my absolute favorites of all time is Anne of Green Gables. I remember reading it for the first time while I was on vacation and just not being able to put it down. I’ve probably read the books in that series about six or seven times. And the best part of the story is that while at Simon & Schuster I worked on a repackage of them. That was probably one of the most rewarding parts of my career so far, writing the copy for one of my favorite books of all time.

That cover!! So, soo beautiful!! Okay, just a couple more. I love to swim but have a total fear of drowning, so I find it really hard to read books where that is a plot point. What about you? Anything you hate to read about? On the other hand, are there subjects you’re drawn to?

You know, I’m not a huge fan of “illness” books. I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a book about a child dying of cancer and said, “Yes, can’t wait to read!” The only exception to that is The Fault in Our Stars (just because I was such a big John Green fan before it came out.) But in general I’m not going to pick up a book that’s going to make me weep the entire time. On the flip side, I am a HUGE animal lover, so if there’s some kind of adorable something in there I am hooked. I also was obsessed with the Animorphs series growing up so I love the whole idea of transforming into animals.

All animal books except those about snails, I guess:) Ever since stumbling upon a Pinterest page that rounds up page shots of all the books that have a variation of the line “S/he released a breath s/he didn’t know s/he’d been holding” I spot it left and right in books and now it makes me giggle! What about you? Any writer’s tics or clich√© pet peeves that jump out at you?

I am so glad you asked this. I am done with girls who are unaware that they are strikingly beautiful. I actually think this trend has definitely died down, but for a while every heroine thought she was a plain jane until its “revealed” to her that she is actually the most beautiful person who has ever lived. I’m not saying every main character should be horribly vain, but this kind of description never rang true to me.

Ha! I agree. Finally, here’s your chance to plug a few books on your list you’re excited about…

Well, let’s see. I have to say, this isn’t on my list anymore (tear) but I am so excited for At Your Service to come out this August! (note: Me too!!!) I also am in love with Kristen Kittscher and thrilled to be working on her next book, The Tiara on the Terrace, a sequel to the fantastic mystery The Wig in the Window. I know Jo Whittemore from my days at Aladdin, so I am very excited to get to work on her super fun, tween Confidentially Yours series. And I just took on a very cool Sci-Fi series that I think is going to be amazing. So lots of fun stuff in the pipeline!

I think you said it best above: so many books, so little time! But much better than the reverse, of course. Giant hugs and heartfelt thanks for being here today, Annie!!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful interview. I'm a huge Maggie Stiefvater fan (so much so she inspired my latest book). It's wonderful to see the inside workings of an editor's mind and tastes. Thank you for stopping by!