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
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
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.
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. When I was young, the weekly trip to the library was the highlight of my existence. Probably because my greatest fear was running out of things to read! So I’ve always loved libraries and the access to books they offer to readers everywhere. I know there are a lot of you out there who agree. Now imagine a world where you can’t own books. Where knowledge is regulated and controlled. Where an all-powerful organization decides which discoveries and inventions we know about, and which are buried, never to see the light of day. This is the world of Rachel Caine’s Great Library series, and it’s by turns marvelous, fascinating, and utterly terrifying. When Rachel came to me with the idea for this Young Adult series, I was intrigued by this alternate world where the Great Library of Alexandria never fell—and now, through its control of knowledge, essentially rules the world. Through alchemy, the text of any book can be borrowed from the library and recreated on your own personal codex. But here’s the rub: how do you know if the Library has made any changes to that book? Or whether knowledge of something that might threaten the Library’s power has been suppressed? You don’t. You wouldn’t. And that’s why black market book smugglers, like Jess Brightwell and his family, exist. You see, some people HAVE to own books. Some are collectors, some desire knowledge, and some hunger for . . . well, I’ll let you find out about that for yourself. The Brightwell family business is dangerous, but more than that, Jess is troubled by what happens to some of the books they sell. Soon Jess’s father decides he would be better suited to entering the service of the Library—officially to train for a life as a Scholar, and unofficially, to spy. And the story’s just getting started! But I don’t want to spoil this utterly readable and engaging series for you. Ink and Bone and Paper and Fire are the ultimate “books about books”, a series for readers everywhere. A story that revolves around books and libraries, that blends alternate history with magic, adventure, and romance—about the power of knowledge and the power of friendship and love? Sign me up! Learn more about the books below!
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 Files, Gemina 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. 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.
Christine in online marketing is reading Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Find out more about the book here:
Lauren in Doubleday marketing is reading China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan. Find out more about the book here:
Jessica in Crown production is reading An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Find out more about the book here:
Jen in Consumer Marketing is reading We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Find out more about the book here: