Tag Archives: publishing

The Life of a Book: An interview about Gemina with Senior Account Manager, Kimberly Langus

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here Today, we’re featuring an interview with Senior Account Manager, Kimberly Langus. She joins us to talk about sales, bookstores, and accounts. Read below for her inside scoop. 

How would you describe your job to a layperson?

The easy answer is that I sell books to Barnes & Noble, but it’s a little more complicated than that!  It’s about positioning Random House Children’s Books in the market and making sure that each book has the best merchandising possible.  And then once a book is selling, it’s all about trying to maximize those sales.  I work with Marketing, Publicity and Social Media to use every tool and opportunity available to drive consumers to buy our books. 

When you describe Gemina to the book buyers, what is your hook? What’s memorable and unique about the book – why would they want to sell it to readers?

Well, Gemina wasn’t too hard to pitch to the buyer because the first book, Illuminae, had done so well.  It was more of a challenge to position Illuminae when I sold it in last year.  On the one hand, it was really unique and Barnes & Noble is always looking for unique formats and different ways of storytelling. This was definitely that. There was nothing else like it in the teen marketplace in my experience. It had all these elements that they were looking for, but on the other hand, it’s the sci-fi genre and that’s a really tough genre in teen. 

Really? That’s shocking! Why?

Yes, it is shocking. There are very few teen sci-fi books that have had wide commercial success in recent years. Fantasy, action, adventure, survival stories- all of those are popular for teens, but for some reason sci-fi has been slower to resonate. So the account was taking a flyer with Random House in supporting Illuminae in such a big way, and it definitely paid off. So, when I went in to sell Gemina it was a much easier sales pitch.

Why do you think it performed so well?

It’s a combination of factors. First, there’s the amazing story and unique format. It had a really striking package. It also had great positioning and merchandising in the stores. And you have this  amazing author team who were really involved in social media and also really successful on their tour. Then there’s word of mouth combined with a great Marketing and Publicity campaign.  So you can’t pinpoint any one thing that made the book a success. 

Speaking of amazing social media and exciting special features, readers can pre-order Gemina here, and  also see the rest of Marie Lu ‘s unbelievably beautiful and complex illustration of the Heimdall space station!

Heimdall Station drawn by Marie Lu

And when did you first hear about the book?

I know it sounds crazy, but I actually remember the editor’s pitch of Illuminae. I’m going to paraphrase, but basically she said, “I’m not a fan of sci-fi but this book is so much more than that”. I do like sci-fi and had just  read The Martian so I was already in the sci-fi mode.  It didn’t take a lot of convincing for me to pick up Illuminae after hearing Melanie’s pitch. I think one important thing to note is that when an editor is so passionate about a book and gives such a great pitch it really does affect how the sales team feels about that book and sells it to their accounts.  I remember the editor’s pitch for The Book Thief and I heard that presentation over 10 years ago.   I remember the pitch for The Maze Runner. I remember these presentations because the editors were so passionate about the books that it seeps into how I feel about them too. 

What do you like about Gemina in particular?

Well I think what’s amazing about Gemina is that it could have been a repeat of Illuminae because it’s the same kind of storytelling conceit; It’s told in texts, redacted transcripts and memos. The danger is that it might not feel as fresh as the first book.  Also it’s a sequel and uses completely different characters, which is also a little dangerous  because readers get invested in the protagonists of the first book and they’re expecting those same characters to be in the second book.  When they’re not there, it’s almost like starting the series again from the beginning.  But somehow the authors were able to pull it off and Gemina  is even better than Illuminae. I think they actually improved upon what they had done the first time. You get just as invested in these new characters. It’s so fast-paced; you just can’t stop turning the pages. I’m so in awe of their writing and imagination and storytelling and how they collaborate together.    

How do you work with editorial, marketing, and publicity?

I work with all those groups in the regular course of business-  talking to publicity about author events and working with marketing on sales materials and galley mailings. What I find most exciting about working with those groups is when you can create unique merchandising or marketing for the accounts. That gives me an opportunity to really be creative and to try to shape the B&N experience of the book that’s different from the Amazon experience, or the Target experience, or the Indie experience.  Here’s one example:  I had worked with B&N on B-Fest which was their nationwide  teen book festival this past June.  One of the items we created was a Penguin Random House ‘Insider’s Guide to B-Fest.  And it featured a lot of great content, including a piece from Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. 

I was actually in the B&N in Yonkers on the first night of B-Fest and there was this group of teens that were looking in their guides and they turned to the Illuminae /Gemina  spread and one of the girls cries out , “Oh my God, Illuminae! You guys have to read this!” That is probably the best part of my job, it was like everything coming full circle. To set up Illuminae last year, to help position Gemina this year, to bring exclusive content to Barnes & Noble, and to get readers excited about it. It was everything that you could hope for as a Sales Manager.

That’s great to hear! Do you have anything else you’d like to share?

I’d like your readers to know that what I love most about my job is being  surrounded by people who love books and who love to talk about books. I know everyone says that, but it’s true. Also it’s wonderful to be a part of bringing books to customers. To know that a book reached their hands because of something I contributed is really exciting and rewarding.   

Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com

The Life of a Book: An interview with the editor of Gemina, Melanie Cecka-Nolan, Associate Publishing Director

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here Today, we’re featuring an interview with the editor of Gemina, Melanie Cecka-Nolan. Read below for her inside scoop.  This book is part of a very non-traditional trilogy. How would you describe Gemina to someone who has never heard of it before? I would say Gemina is science fiction for people who don’t think they like science fiction, and I say that because I don’t think of myself as someone who likes science fiction. This is the series that really turned around my thinking about the genre. When The Illuminae Files was first pitched to me, the agents positioned it as Battle Star Galatica meets 10 Things I Hate About You. That did a really good job of setting up the story for me– action-based and stuck on a spaceship but with the intensity, the humor, the love and romance of a relationship story. When I read the manuscript for the first book, I felt like I’d ingested a drug. I was just bouncing off the walls. And I remember thinking, if I can have this kind of reaction to it as a non-sci-fi person, everybody would. For those who don’t know, an editor will have a relationship with an agent and the agent pitches manuscripts to the editor that they think they’ll like. So why do you think that this agent sent you this book? Knopf is known for being very literary, but also for taking chances with its books and authors. I think agents are always looking for someone who is going to respond with the right combination of vision and instantaneous love—especially with unusual projects.  So although The Illuminae Files may not have been my typical kind of book, I think the agents saw Knopf as the right publisher. What’s a book or a series that you’ve worked on that you think is more of your type or style? I tend to be drawn to books that are girl-centric. I have a little boy at home who has opened my eyes to a much broader range of reading, but I’m always a thirteen, fourteen-year-old girl at heart. Mouse Scouts is one of my favorites; it’s about a troop of little girl scouts who happen to be mice, that’s kind of me in a nutshell. There are some editors who excel at really gritty things, edgy teen fiction, male-centric narratives—and that’s not really my core strength. But the Illuminae Files was so immediately accessible and the female characters were so well-drawn and felt like friends – it broke though and worked, even for a “girl” editor. What was your favorite part about Gemina or something that surprised or interested you about this second book? Well it’s a trilogy, and I knew the second book was going to introduce a new set of characters and situations as well as advance the larger story. I think what has surprised me is the way the authors continue to one-up themselves. There’s are a couple of big plot twists in Illuminae and there are three or four twists in Gemina. As a reader I didn’t see them coming, and even as an editor who went into the story with a sense of how events were going to play out, I still didn’t see those things coming. That’s  a huge treat– to go into a book with a certain set of expectations and having them completely blown apart because what comes in is so much more entertaining.  InIlluminae the protagonists are sort of like the hometown sweethearts: They are great kids, very engaging, very personable. InGemina the “heroes” aren’t set up the same way. The female lead isn’t particularly likable. She’s spoiled, she’s very pampered, she very me-centric. The male lead is kind of the lovable anti-hero. He’s a gang member, he’s covered in tattoos that allude to a violent history, he deals drugs, so on the surface he’s not necessarily someone you see emerging as the hero. But you’re so swept up in who they are and how they change and grow over the course of the story that it completely changes your perception. People tend to think “editor” when they think of publishing, but many may not know the details of your job. So: when you get a manuscript what happens next? How do you start making a book? It starts with a lot of dry administrative things; we sign the book up, we go to a contract, and then I start by working backward from when we anticipate that we want the book to come out. We work with our internal production and design groups to mastermind a schedule. Because this is such a complex book visually, the design aspects require a lot more time than a typical book might, with its tidy lines of text on a page. For Illuminae and Gemina, literally every page is a different design. The authors were also heavily involved in the design inspiration for the book, so we had to factor them into the blueprint when we were setting up the schedules. Once we had a schedule down, it was easier to address the more straightforward editorial things with the authors. We communicate primarily through email because they’re in Australia, which is a fourteen-hour time difference. I went through the book with big-picture things in mind, like what could be improved and what did we have questions about. Once we feel like we’ve really gotten a story in the best possible shape, it goes over to the copy editor who knows how to do everything I don’t know how to do in terms of grammar and consistency. It’s really cleaning the text for things we might not have caught in the editorial process. Copyediting a book of this size takes about four to six weeks. The manuscript then goes back to the authors so they can address any queries that the copy editor has found. They generally have about a month with it and then we send it to our design group. And from there, the book needs a minimum of ten months to come together before finally going to the printer, with numerous passes and reviews by everybody in between. These are two original concepts we tried for the jacket: Given the non-traditional reading experience and the fact that the whole conceit of the book is based on  documentation, we wanted to find a way to present all of those documents visually. These ideas got dismissed very early on, but they ended up inspiring the case cover design, where designer Ray Shapell was able to let loose with the whole idea of redaction, leaking classified lines, and showing hand-written communications from the characters. Although abandoning the original jacket designs felt like a setback initially, the process brought us directly to final packaging. These cover concepts look a lot more like traditional sci-fi to me. They do. At the time the first book, Illuminae, was coming together, we hadn’t really seen sci-fi break though on a young adult level, so we were trying to arrive at a cover look that wouldn’t scare off readers who aren’t traditional fans of the genre.  But I think these books have really broken the mold. I think a lot of people wouldn’t realize an editor not only deals with the content of the book, but that you have a say in the cover design and you’re a big part of those discussions. Is there anything else that would surprise someone outside of publishing about your job? I don’t sit at my desk and edit. 99% of my editorial work takes place at my kitchen table or my couch on the weekends. Most of my editorial life in the office is spent at meetings or answering emails, and I need to disengage from the office in order to really get into a creative mind space. Photo Credit: Christopher Tovo Why do you think fans are responding so strongly to this series, outside of its non-traditional layout? I think anybody who has met the authors in person feels like they’ve met characters from the book. Their personalities inform every single character in the story; they’re funny, they’re intense, their rapport together just makes you want to sit back and watch them talk to each other. Their writing process involved sending each other blind chapters, and they wrote some passages by text messaging each other rather than sitting side by side, nursing every line in a common voice. So their individual writing personas feel intact and their living, breathing process gets contained in the book.  I think that’s something readers can sense when they read it – It’s just a very personal reading experience, and they make it super accessible. I remember saying to someone, “it may be 600 pages long, but you could easily give it to a reluctant reader,” because there are all these different visuals to break up the reading experience, and the humor and voices and the pace just sweep you along. Is there anything else people might like to know about the book? A slightly non-standard occurrence happened this summer when we sent the authors some pre-press pages to sign—4,000 pages, to be exact. UPS got the address wrong, and Jay was running around trying to locate the boxes. One thing you have to know about Jay is that he’s a big guy and he does a really amazing job of pulling off a badass author persona, but the truth is he’s a total sweetheart. So when he emailed to say that he had found the boxes and stole them off of someone’s porch, I just had to laugh. That’s the kind of stuff that happens working with these two: petty theft might be involved. There’s always something slightly unusual that comes together. Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below, and be sure to check back soon for more behind-the-scenes interviews! Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com

The Life of a Book: Part 2 of an interview with the Digital Marketing team behind Gemina

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here.  This is part 2 of our round-table discussion with the digital marketing team. For part 1, click here.  Describe Gemina in one sentence. Kate: “Fast-paced page-turner” Cayla: “I don’t know what’s faster –  whether it’s your heart racing when you’re reading it, or how fast you’re turning the pages” Stephanie, what was the best part of making the website? Stephanie: One of the interesting parts about this website project is that we weren’t coming to it with a clean slate; a website already existed for the first book in the series, Illuminae. Therefore, when planning the website for Gemina, we really had to look at the Illuminae Files website and see how we could update it to work for both books. We did a full redesign to incorporate the new blue elements from the Gemina book cover, and we developed a plan for exclusive content we can bring to the website. You really want to make sure that a website is an ongoing part of a campaign to ensure that users have a reason to come back to your site, and we’re really excited about all the great content we have planned for this site. Cayla: Yeah, the website is something you’re going to want to keep your eye on. A really cool sweeps we had a couple months ago let people enter for a chance to have their name on the casualty list in Gemina, and the excitement around that was really cool.
Did anything surprise you about this project? Was anything hard or especially fun? Cayla: I’ve never been a big sci-fi reader, but once I got going and realized it wasn’t anything I thought it would be, I started to have so much fun. I guess that’s also a hope for me: I want people to discover The Illuminae Files and Gemina and realize, “Oh, I’m enjoying this book and surprising myself”. It’s because of the style. That was an intial challenge that turned into something I truly loved. Stephanie: I can’t really say what the most fun part is going to be yet – because it’s going to be website updates that I can’t talk about yet! Kate: I was excited to make the site better and to become more strategic about how we were driving people there. That’s a big thing for digital marketing: we create a lot of beautiful things but if no one sees them, what’s the point? We wanted to make sure we were getting people to see all the content we make. It’s also always a pleasure when you work with authors that are willing to do anything and eager to participate. That makes the job a lot easier… not just a good book! Any last words? Cayla: Well, every morning when I get my desk, I open a tool that aggregates the images people tag with #Gemina or #IluminaeFiles, and I push the new content to our website. The amount that comes in each day is so inspiring – it’s not just a US fan base, it’s international, and it’s real a thrill to see it. It’s a really great way to start the day, and it reminds me how passionate people are about this book. Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below, and be sure to check back soon for more behind-the-scenes interviews! Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com

The Life of a Book: Part 1 of an interview with the Digital Marketing team behind Gemina

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here.  Gemina is a very unique book, so our employees need to be  big-thinking and creative. We sat down for a round-table discussion with the digital marketing team at Random House Kids to find out exactly what they do to support a book. Please introduce yourselves and explain your work in this group: I’m Stephanie McKinley, Technical Producer at Random House Children’s, which means that I handle all of the technical projects for the digital marketing team. Before I started, all technical projects—even a copy edit on a website—were completed by outside developers. Now that I am here, we’ve been able to bring a lot of these projects in-house. The Illuminae Files website is one of the projects that was initially created by an outside developer that I have since updated for Gemina. I’m Cayla Rasi, Senior Digital Marketing Manager. My job here is to dive into our digital projects – I work closely with Stephanie and our Director, Kate.  I do a lot of social: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. We’re always thinking of really cool ways to reach our readers. I’m Kate Keating – director of Digital Marketing here at Random House Kids. I oversee the department, and we basically touch everything digital. Email marketing, websites, social media, we oversee all digital strategy for the department. What do you think is special or unique about this book? Why will readers want to get their hands on it? Stephanie: The book is just so different in the way that it’s written. With all the art elements inside,  it’s just a completely different reading experience than anything you’re used to. Cayla: Of course, it’s the format- It’s just so wild, it’s so cool. But from a social media perspective, the most special part about this book is the authors. They are so engaging, they love their fans, and they’re kind, generous people. Their social presence is magnificent, and they’re so fun! You can’t help but fall in love with them and their book. For people who aren’t following them on Instagram and Twitter – you’ve got to. Their personalities just shine. Kate:  Well, It’s not like any other book I’ve seen, especially for this audience, and people are so hungry for the second book after reading Illuminae. I love how into the characters everyone is… they feel really connected to them. I love that the authors are willing to do anything and they understand social media… they really get it. Everyone in-house is saying it’s the book for people who don’t necessarily know they like sci-fi. What are some of the steps you take when you first start working on a title? Cayla: I start by reading the book. I find inspiration from between the pages. Then, I love looking at the fans and what they’re saying online. The fans give me that fire in the belly, they get me excited to work on a project:  I love being able to see what they are talking about, what matters the most to them. Kate: Our marketing process starts with list launch meetings, when the editorial group presents all their titles for that season. Later on, we have meetings with publicity, editorial, sales, and marketing groups. We talk about comparative books in the marketplace, and how we felt about our readings of the book. Afterwards, we create slide presentations to flesh out ideas for a marketing campaign – at this stage, it’s still loose and flexible. The next round of big meetings is called pre-sales: that’s when we present our ideas to the field sales representatives and our president. They give us feedback, and we tweak our plans accordingly. We also have author meetings to figure out challenges they’ve faced in the past, or things that have worked well for them before. Next up is sales conference – at that point, everything need to be pretty finalized because editors have to send final concrete marketing/publicity/sales plans to the authors and agent. A big part of our team’s work is prioritizing tasks, because the digital landscape changes so quickly. Sometimes we may have a whole plan that we’re starting to execute, but will suddenly need to do finish is much faster than anticipated. We try to plan as much as possible, but we do have to react to things quickly. Cayla: Social changes all the time – so we make plans, but there’s also so much shifting and changing so we have to stay very creative and nimble. But really it’s a matter of being able to do both: plan in advance and also work in real time. Check back in the coming weeks for the inside scoop from the Gemina team! Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below.

From the Editor’s Desk: Meg Leder, Executive Editor for Penguin Books, on Johanna Basford and the Adult Coloring Book Craze

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. Meg Leder, Executive Editor, Penguin Books, takes us inside the world of adult coloring books, one of the hottest segments in publishing.  She edits “The Queen of Coloring,”Johanna Basford, whose newest title, Magical Jungle, is published by Penguin Books on August 9. In your view, what accounts for the adult coloring book craze and what separates Johanna Basford from the adult coloring book artist pack? I think the adult coloring book craze has taken hold for several reasons: (1) It’s a welcome respite from the world of computer screens. Coloring is a distinctly physical activity, and there’s something imminently relaxing about putting marker or colored pencil to paper, instead of spending time with screens. (2) It’s an inherently democratic hobby. All you need is a book and a coloring tool—you don’t need to spend a lot of money on supplies or time learning skills. (3) And I think it speaks to something a lot of us did when we were kids—we loved it then, so it makes sense we’d love it now, especially with the more intricate designs! I think New York Magazine dubbed Johanna the “Queen of Coloring” for a number of reasons. She was one of the first people out there to invite adults into the coloring book realm. She’s got a marvelous artistic vision—she’s so exceptionally talented at creating intricate work that inspires colorists. And she’s also extremely generous, both as a person and as a creator. She’s said a number of times that she just starts the masterpieces, and her fans finish them. I think that generosity shows in her art and resonates with all her fans.  Watch Joanna Basford’s “Magical Jungle – An Inky Expedition & Coloring Book” video: How did you come to acquire and edit your first adult coloring book and how did the process compare with how you work with Johanna on her books? When I was at Perigee, I acquired my first two coloring books at roughly the same time: Outside the Lines by Souris Hong, and Color Me Girl Grush by Mel Elliott. Rather than the fact that they were coloring books, what drew me to both of these was the subject matter (street art and Ryan Gosling, respectively!) and the fact that they expanded notions of creativity. And then, luckily, they both really benefitted from the adult coloring book craze timing-wise. In the years since, the coloring book audience has become a lot more opinionated and sophisticated about what they want in a coloring book, so with Johanna’s titles, we’ve spent a lot of time with our amazing production team looking at paper weight, opacity, etc. When I worked on those first two books, I never imagined that several years down the line, I’d be spending as much time talking about the merits of white vs ivory paper as I do now. But we want to keep those colorists happy! In addition to adult coloring books, what are a couple of the upcoming books you are editing that are of most interest and what do you hope will distinguish them? I’m publishing a book called Carry This Book from Broad City’s Abbi Jacobson this fall. It’s a marvelous illustrated book detailing the contents of real people’s and fictional characters’ bags. It’s one of the most wonderfully weird and weirdly wonderful projects I’ve worked on since I started publishing, and I think readers will be really intrigued by this glimpse into the way Abbi’s mind and creative process work. Abbi’s a spectacularly creative and cool person, and it shows on the page. I’m also really excited about two other books I have coming out this fall:   Tree of Treasures: A Life in Ornaments and The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar. The former is a gift book that explores the way ornaments tell the stories of our lives, and the latter looks at all the strange animals that evolution has created, including the antechinus, whose males have so much sex during their three-week mating session that runaway testosterone levels make them bleed internally, go blind, and drop dead! I love that my list at Penguin has room for such a wide spectrum of books, and my hope is that readers will enjoy reading them as much as I loved editing them. Explore some adult coloring books here!

The Life of a Book from Manuscript to Bookstore: Gemina

Ever wonder how a book makes it from the author’s mind to a reader’s shelf? Last time we delved deep into a book, we focused on the fascinating But What If We’re Wrong? by Chuck Klosterman. You can explore that series here. This time, we’re taking a sharp left turn with one of the most exciting and nontraditional series on the market. The second book in The Illuminae FilesGemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, has been hotly anticipated by fans ever since Illuminae ripped onto the scene last fall. Full of spaceships, evil corporations, and deadly viruses, the plot is heart-pounding. However, it’s the format and design of this series that really makes it stand out – no one page is like the next. It’s a collection of files, announcements, data, memos, text messages, photos, and illustrations, all meshed together to give the reader an experience like no other. Gemina is set to be even more jaw-dropping, so follow along to discover the hard work and inspiration that goes into the making of this unique book. gem In the coming months, we’ll talk to the editor, marketing team, a sales representative, and other people who help make a book… a book. Read more about Gemina and Illuminae below.

From the Editor’s Desk: Vice President and Editorial Director Rebecca Saletan on I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. As Nadja Spiegelman describes early in her wonderful memoir, I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This, the book grew out of a series of conversations with her mother, Françoise Mouly. Throughout Nadja’s childhood, Françoise had steadfastly deflected questions about her past with “I’ll tell you when you’re older.” She kept her word. When Nadja emerged into adulthood, Françoise told her everything she could remember, not sparing herself the difficult emotions the recounting called up. Nadja would eventually cross the Atlantic to continue the conversation in France with her grandmother, adding Josée’s story and that of Josée’s mother to her ballooning research. For me, however, the book began in a different place, when Nadja was trying to wrestle a narrative out of this overwhelming, overlapping, contradictory array of stories – not to mention each figure’s conflicting interpretations and complicated responses. On her visits to New York, we’d meet for lunch, always somewhere quiet and with a large table, my apartment or the Korean place near my office, so that she could lay out her annotated transcripts and notes and the fantastically detailed storyboards she had assembled. Nadja Spiegelman At moments like these, editors can feel a little like the Wizard of Oz, struggling to muster godlike pronouncements from behind a threadbare curtain of authority. I confess I wondered at moments if we were both lost. But as Nadja began to send me draft chapters, working her way through the material, it became clear to me that my author, young and wide-eyed as she was, had incredibly well-developed impulses as a writer. She knew where she was going, and she returned to the material, draft after draft, until she got it there. Like many writers, Nadja is a creature of the night, but she took that to extremes. Sometimes when we’d Skype, well into the evening for me – editors tend to be creatures of the night too, at least when it comes to editing – she’d still be up, working, when dawn was already breaking in Paris. Sometimes we continued our conversations the next morning, though at her age, the punishing hours she was keeping did not show. But they paid off. Gradually a gorgeous, intricate narrative emerged, one that mimicked the layering and warping of memory, to powerful effect. I have daughters of my own, a decade younger than Nadja – more or less the age Nadja was when her mother first told her her story. I came to the book not only as editor but as mother and daughter. I wondered about all the things I had never asked my mother about her past, or her mother’s. I was in awe of Francoise’s courage in revealing everything, and doubted that I would have the same. The book made me appreciate that we do not understand any adult until we see him or her as someone’s child. I loved getting to be part of its coming into the world. Listen to an interview with Nadja on the Beaks and Geeks podcast:  

From the Editor’s Desk: Matt Inman, Senior Editor for Crown Trade on Every Frenchman Has One by Olivia de Havilland

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. On a recent Saturday morning, I glanced over at my iPhone and saw the words “O de Havilland” light up my screen. A new e-mail had arrived from Paris, where Olivia de Havilland was pondering a question I’d posed earlier that week (“In the past, you’ve referred to the guiding philosophy behind Parisian style as ‘the Paris principle;’ in your opinion, what are the key tenets of that principle?”) That I was discussing the timeless style of les parisiennes with the two-time Academy Award-winning actress who played Mellie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind (1939), while I, myself, was wearing sweaty tennis clothes and watching “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” now strikes me as a little, well, déclassé. But even if the details of this exchange are a little embarrassing, the story of how our paths crossed perfectly captures two aspects I love about my job: discovery and serendipity. About a year ago, I read a fascinating article about Olivia de Havilland’s groundbreaking 1944 lawsuit against Warner Bros. and found myself wanting to know more. I love reading about Hollywood’s Golden Age—and have always admired Miss de Havilland’s work—and I assumed that she’d already written about her extraordinary life and career. After a little searching, I was surprised to learn that while she had written a book, it was a 1962 memoir about falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to Paris. That book, Every Frenchman Has One, was long out of print and very expensive to buy online, so I went to the New York Public Library to check it out. As I read, I found myself laughing out loud at her witty, candid, and completely charming stories about her skirmishes with French customs, French maids, French salesladies, French holidays, French law, French doctors, and above all, the French language. A Francophile myself, I’d recently seen the Broadway staging of An American in Paris, and was surprised that such a wonderful book about Americans in Paris—and the lessons we can learn from the French—was so difficult to find. But as I read further, I realized that Every Frenchman Has One was about something much more profound. In her own way, Olivia de Havilland was quite brave, not only to drop everything; leave Hollywood behind; and take a chance on life, and love, in a new country, but to write so honestly about her bumpy ride as an expatriate. More than fifty years before Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman married Frenchmen and moved to Paris and long before celebrities revealed every detail of their lives to their followers via social media, de Havilland was sharing her gaffes and insecurities with her fans, saying, yes, even glamorous women can be embarrassed every once in a while; it’s the price one pays for trading comfort for change. More than anything, though, I was struck by Miss de Havilland’s wonderful writing. It exudes an effortless, timeless charm that makes it as appealing today as it was in 1962. Upon returning to the office, I learned Bennett Cerf himself had reverted the rights to Olivia in 1971, and so began my journey toward e-mailing with Olivia de Havilland about all things French on the eve of her 100th year. I’m thrilled that Crown Archetype will put Every Frenchman Has One back in print for the first time in decade—and publish it as an e-book for the first time—on June 28th. I’ve also had the great honor of corresponding with Olivia on a series of questions and answers that reflect on the book, and on her sixty-plus years as an American woman in Paris. They are delightful, and will appear as a postscript to this new edition. (Her answer to my original question about her philosophy of Parisian style, by the way: “1. Discretion, 2. Discretion, 3. Discretion.”). With this reissue, I’m excited to have even a small part in celebrating the centennial birthday of one of Hollywood’s greatest stars on July 1. I hope that anyone who loves Olivia de Havilland, Paris, or stories about Americans abroad will enjoy her book as much as I did. Learn more about Every Frenchman Has One below!

From the Editor’s Desk: Peter Gethers, President, Random House Studio and Senior Vice President, Editor at Large Penguin Random House on Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best. There are several things that are most thrilling to a book editor. First and foremost is the discovery of true talent. Everything else extends from that. Next on the list is when other people throughout the company respond to that talent positively and excitedly. When strong enough, that response not only becomes electric, it becomes unstoppable. At its most exciting it becomes a tidal wave of appreciation for a book or a writer. Next, of course, is the validation that comes from a wider audience – The bookstore buyers, managers and sales people and then, finally, actual real people who make the final judgment on the book. Over the course of my lengthy career, I have brought in a lot of great talent and some major stars. That is satisfying in its own right. But it does not compare to the discovery of a writer who is fresh, unknown, who is to be revealed. I have never seen a response to an unknown talent like the one I have seen for Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter. It started with my read where, after only 20 pages, I realized I was not just reading a well-written novel, I was reading something special, spectacular. Claudia Herr, who became the line editor and helped shape and refine the novel with Stephanie, was the next reader and the first person to come into my office. She was, literally, trembling and said she had never been so excited after reading a submission. We went about trying to build a consensus but we did not have to try very hard. The manuscript swept through Knopf, through all the layers and every department. Never before had I gotten emails or phone calls saying things such as, “You must buy this book,” or “We have to publish this!” We met with the author and Ms. Danler was at least as impressive as her wonderful prose. Although there are obvious autobiographical elements in her first novel it was immediately clear that she had many more books in her ­ she was an author, not just someone who had written a terrific first novel. The thrill has continued every step of the way. The wild enthusiasm within the Knopf group turned into equally strong support from reviewers and bookstores and consumers. Right from the beginning, we thought that Stephanie Danler had written a novel that had a chance to become iconic, to really be that over-used cliché: “the voice of a generation.” It is starting to look as if we all might be right. What did we see in this book from the moment the manuscript was submitted? We saw an elegant and eloquent use of language; the author’s descriptions of food made us hungry; her descriptions of sensual cravings stirred us; writing about the turmoil of being young brought us all back to our youth, or for those who were still young, it was like having their own lives being thrown back at them at the speed of light. The book made us all see ourselves in different ways, no matter our age or our sex. It also made us see outside of ourselves. It made us see the narrator’s very specific world as well as the world at large in new and startling ways. This is what talent does. This is what Sweetbitter is about to do to readers all over the world. Learn more about the book below!

Top 3 Ways to Celebrate National Readathon Day on May 21, 2016

The countdown is on! With just one week to go, have you decided what you will read on National Readathon Day, Saturday May 21?

A fundraising and social media awareness campaign dedicated to promoting children’s literacy and reading at any age, National Readathon Day is an opportunity to join with your favorite authors and fellow readers across the country by using the hashtag #Readathon2016 to share your love of books and reading. Last year, the first-ever National Readathon Day succeeded in raising $100,000 benefiting the National Book Foundation and their efforts to support literacy and to deliver books to underserved communities. This year, all funds raised will benefit the American Library Association’s Every Child Ready to Read initiative, which promotes literacy development in children from birth to age 5 through programs in public libraries nationwide.

Here are three ways you can get involved:

1. Join the conversation In the run-up to and during Readathon Day, use the hashtag #Readathon2016 to spread the word. Tell your friends how you plan to celebrate, or challenge them to see who can read more on the big day. Visit the Readathon Share page for shareable images, videos, and Gifs, and be sure to follow the hashtag to see how other readers like you will be celebrating and supporting childhood literacy.

2. Host or attend a Readathon Day party Need an excuse to gather together with friends and family? Host a Readathon Day Party! Visit the Readathon Day reading parties page for ideas on how to host a party and be sure to share pictures and videos of your party on social media. 3. Make a commitment to support early childhood literacy Visit the National Readathon Day fundraising page to make a contribution to support ALA’s childhood literacy programs throughout the country and encourage your audience to do the same by sharing on social media. We hope you will join us in supporting National Readathon Day and childhood literacy programs nationwide. Click here for more tips on what to read for #Readathon2016 and to sign up for emails. If you have questions, would like to host a Readathon Day event, or to become more involved please email the Readathon Team at Readathon@PenguinRandomHouse.com.

Happy reading!