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Greenwillow Answers!

You asked—now we answer! Thanks to everyone who participated.

Virginia Asks: Who is Snooki?

Sylvie Answers: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi is one of the reality stars of Jersey Shore. Her book, a A Shore Thing, is a fine work of literature. It gives you helpful tips on how to behave on the Jersey Shore and find your perfect gorilla juicehead. It’s  a 200 page hangover cure! She is also known for her “hair puff” and slippers. Unfortunately (embarrassingly), I can’t stop watching it as I do my weekly cleaning!

April Asks: Do you think fantasy will ever become one of the next big “things”?

Martha Answers: Fantasy had its turn as the Next Big Thing a few years ago, when Harry Potter helped throw it in the spotlight. And I’m sure it’ll have another turn eventually, since trends tend to be cyclical! But one of the great things about fantasy is that it never really goes “out.” Wonderful fantasy books—like, for instance, Mistwood, and the upcoming Entwined and The Girl of Fire and Thornsare published every year. I don’t know about you, but I’m also eagerly awaiting Kristin Cashore’s next book!

Jana Asks: What’s your favorite Greenwillow book of the upcoming spring/summer season?

Virginia Answers: Well…as you know, editors don’t have favorites. And since we have an amazing line-up of new books coming out between now and July, it is especially difficult to answer this question. I will break all rules, however, and tell you the title of my favorite book ever. It is Boitano’s Edge, by Brian Boitano, with Suzanne Harper.

Tim is laughing at me right now. Can you hear him? But I will always remember meeting Brian Boitano in the conference room at S&S (where I worked at the time) and him telling us that we could airbrush…. Also, the BBYA committee discussed the book at length the year it was published. It didn’t make the final list. But, still…what a moment!

Rae Carson Asks: Razzle, your hair is always fabulous–so much body and sheen. Any hair care tips?

Paul Answers: Selsun Blue is Razzle’s shampoo of choice (But don’t tell him I said that, he’s very sensitive about his dandruff. He tells everyone it’s because he’s a BLUE monster…), and sometimes he likes to indulge in a VO5 hot oil treatment. He also attributes his color and shine to eating lots of avocados and mung beans and watching What Not To Wear every Thursday. (Oh, and if he asks, tell him he definitely looks like a natural blue. He’s sensitive about that, too.)

DJ Asks: Are there any YA “trends” you’re tired of seeing?

Martha Answers: Okay, I admit it, like nearly everyone else, I’m pretty tired of the average-human-girl-falls-instantly-in-love-with-aloof-paranormal-creature trend. It’s become so formulaic and predictable. Plus, it’s really, really hard to make Love at First Sight convincing. HOWEVER, I’m not tired of seeing stories that break formulas or twist them in innovative ways and surprise me. (And, in my opinion, romances with a slow build often pack far more punch.)

KT Asks: Will you show us more picture books in process?

Virginia Answers: Yes! We will try and do this as often as possible. We have some tremendous picture books in the works—including two great books by Esme, one about going to preschool (illustrated by Sue Ramá) and one about Johnny Appleseed (illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins). If there is anything you’d like to know or see specifically please let us know.

David Gill Asks:
Who makes your fabulous covers and how do you decide what goes on them?

Sylvie Answers:
Every jacket is different. A few of us (Virginia, Steve, Martha, Paul, and myself) meet every Wednesday to talk about concepts, ideas, and the characters. (Reading the manuscript helps, too!) We also work with our sales team and get their input. If the jacket is a photo, Paul and I try to find the perfect image on a photo website. We then find different pieces to create perfect image, and by magic (i.e. Photoshop), we put it together. Other times, we will need to have a photo shoot. If the cover is an illustration, we work with an illustrator and go through different stages of sketches. If we are late, then…you don’t want to know, but basically the book gets a cover!

Richard Mortenson Asks: On an average, how long does it take for you to make an offer/rejection after you’ve received a manuscript submission? Can you describe the acquisitions project?

Virginia Answers: I’m afraid we are all over the map in terms of response time to submissions. Sometimes we make an offer or pass on a project the same day we receive it. Sometimes it takes a few months. It just depends on what else is going on. If I am in the middle of editing a novel, for example, it is hard to put it aside, switch gears, and read a novel on submission at the same time.

Here’s what we do—more or less—when we decide we love something and we’d like to make an offer:

  1. We request an estimate from the production department. This establishes how much we think it is going to cost us to produce the book as we have envisioned it (trim size, page count, jacket specs, etc).
  2. We run a P&L. The P&L factors together the production costs, the projected sales, the list price, the advance, the royalty, overhead, marketing dollars, and any other costs (example: permissions) associated with the project.
  3. We circulate the manuscript, our P&L, information about the author, and a memo outlining our vision for the book to our sales and marketing teams.
  4. A week goes by. We sweat, stew, enjoy sleepless nights, and generally panic—we wonder, will others share our vision?
  5. We present the project at the acquisitions meeting and listen to feedback. We talk about the book, the author, the marketplace, the comp titles, the editorial vision, the marketing vision. We adjust the P&L, because invariably ours is too optimistic. Very occasionally, we are too pessimistic and we are asked to increase our numbers!
  6. We call the artist/author and/or agent and make the offer.

Roxanne Asks: I would love to review a few titles—how do I request a review copy?

Barbara Answers: Since our official review copy policy is constantly evolving, we suggest sending media requests to our Publicity Director, Marisa Russell. Please include your publication or blog name, blog address, mailing address and phone number. We ask that you send us a link to your review when it runs. If you are a Greenwillow author, you should send your requests and questions to Virginia, Steve, or Martha and they will—of course—delegate to me!

Cindy Pon Asks: I’d like to know what MG or YA book(s) Greenwillowites would like to see made into a movie.

Tim Answers: I’d like to see *every* Greenwillow/HarperCollins MG or YA book made into a movie: a lavish, extravagant, blockbuster, mega-successful movie. Tina Fey as Amelia Bedelia? This newest Fanning kid as Ida B? Justin Bieber as Eugenides? SIGN ME UP.

More seriously, it doesn’t seem possible or rational to me that Robert Lipsyte’s The Contender was never made into a movie. I think that Looking for Alaska, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, and I Am the Messenger would make terrific films.

Robyn Asks: How many of your published authors are currently with an agent? Is it necessary to have an agent when submitting a children’s manuscript?

Lois Answers: I should actually recuse myself from this question, because I worked for an agency for two years when I was young and impressionable. However . . .

You don’t need an agent to submit a manuscript to us or to have it seriously considered and bought. Historically, it wasn’t a requirement for children’s authors; as the field of children’s books evolved, it had steady contract terms and long-standing editorial relationships that were supportive of authors and illustrators over the span of their careers. These days, though, even children’s book deals have become more complex—digital rights, subsidiary rights of various kinds, etc.—and most of our new authors now have agents or lawyers to advise them on contract terms. Different publishers have different policies, though, so be sure to do your research before submission.

Megan Whalen Turner Asks: Prompted by your picture of the subrights department dressed as a train, I want to ask if there a dress code at Greenwillow. Do you guys dress up for the holidays? What is the weirdest thing you have worn to work? Also, a completely unrelated question for Tim: One space or two after the period?

Tim Answers: Uh . . . I’ll answer the unrelated question first, and with great certainty: one space. See CMS 15 2.12, or this recent piece on Slate.

Having just completed an extensive corporate ethics and workplace behavior seminar, all I’ll say on the issue of clothing is that I am far and away the worst-dressed person at Greenwillow, especially in wintertime. Today my hair looks like Brother Theodore’s character in The Burbs. I don’t think there was much holiday dressing-up—am I imagining things, or did Barbara wear her Santa hat this year? The weirdest thing I’ve ever worn to work was this flattened length of knit silk that I’d tuck beneath my shirt collar, tie into an elaborate knot, and then tighten just enough to constrict the flow of blood through my jugulars. I know, it’s as crazy as it sounds. Anyway, it’s 2011—aren’t we all supposed to be wearing identical silvery–purple Mylar jumpsuits?


  1. “Justin Bieber as Eugenides?” No-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no. No.

  2. Pam says:

    Oh! Fabulous answers. Going to have to email you guys about The Girl of Fire and Thorns it sounds amazing!

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Martha Mihalick, April C. April C said: RT @curiousmartha: Greenwillow answers last week's questions today on the blog! http://bit.ly/fpbXs2 […]

  4. Kelsey says:

    I have to ask, seeing as you were answering questions about cover design, do you do the interior design in-house?

  5. Sarah says:

    Justin Bieber as Eugenides… don’t know if I can get behind that one.

  6. KT says:

    Thanks for the peek into the process and studio of Kevin Henkes. (Is he always so neat?)

    Also loved the samples and stories from Elisha Cooper.

    Yours is among my favorite blogs. Relaxed and informative in the most interesting ways.

    Thank you!

  7. Robyn says:

    These were fantastic answers! Thank you, Lois, for answering mine. :0)

  8. Jane says:

    Not Justin Bieber as Eugenides. Johnny Depp, maybe, but it would require time travel.

  9. Boyce says:

    i wanna meet justin

  10. Virginia says:

    Kelsey, Yes. We do all interior design here. We sometimes use freelancers in a pinch.

  11. cindy says:

    tim, one space after? NEVER NEVER!!!!
    seriously tho, am i screwing you guys up
    double spacing?

    also, in keeping with the snooki question,
    i’m totally signing up for The Real Housewives
    of San Diego. imagine, exciting vignettes
    of me tweeting in my pajamas from the dining
    table office, working on stacks of coffee stained
    manuscripts, pulling my hair out over incomprehensible
    2nd grade math. maybe i’ll smoke a cigarette while
    typing away for effect.

    i’ll keep you posted, v. you can do special
    guest appearances.

  12. mwt says:

    Cindy, from now on you should send ALL your manuscripts to Tim SINGLE SPACED. In ten point type, please. Also, brown ink on beige paper.

    Tim, even that won’t be revenge enough for that Justin Beiber comment.

  13. cindy says:

    mwt, i will if you will? ha!

    also, please move back to san diego
    and join the Housewives Cast with me. thanks.

  14. Tim Smith says:

    That would be funny if you two did that! It would be even funnier if you replaced all the vowels in your manuscripts with tiny headshots of–you guessed it–Frank Stallone.

    My apologies to anyone who was offended by my shameless link bait.

  15. cindy says:

    i thought it was hilarious tim.
    don’t tell megan. haha! =)

  16. mwt– you send *manuscripts* to Tim?

  17. mwt says:


    Not very often, I admit.


  18. BeckyMcD. says:

    Thanks for writing this blog. I am particularly happy to see Naomi’s photo and the children she is meeting in the Middle East.

  19. Nettie Villiard says:

    This is fantastic and I just wanted to thank you for posting this. I merely wish more people thought like this.

  20. […] of them. Doesn’t mean it will happen, but it’s her secret hope. (See more of her comments on Greenwillow’s blog.) Believe me, if she finds that special novel, Martha will fight to make it the best novel ever, […]

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