What are some upcoming trends for the beginning of 2016?

Last year, I read so many brilliant middle-grade books with groundbreaking LGBT and gender non-conforming protagonists. I think we were just seeing the beginning of this trend and I think we’ll continue to see an even more diverse array of realistic fiction that expands our idea of what these stories for young readers can look like.

What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?

I work for an imprint that develops IP [intellectual property] in house so I don’t want to give too much away about what I actually want to see, but I’m working with a couple of authors now that are challenging my own perceptions of how stories for young readers can be told. I’m fortunate to work on a pretty diverse array of formats at Grosset & Dunlap and I’m hoping to see a lot more genre-busting, format-blending projects in the coming year.

What don’t you ever want to see again?

An unsolicited manuscript for a 700-page adult historical-fiction manuscript sent to me via LinkedIn, from someone who clearly hasn’t read the profile of the types of books I’m commissioned to acquire.

How are you working with self-published writers?

I think self-publishing helps many writers develop important skills they can use to get published traditionally. I pleasure-read self-published works in a few different adult genres and if I think a writer can tell a story, I ask them if they’re working on anything that might make sense for me, or approach them about some of the work-for-hire projects we have in licensed publishing at Grosset & Dunlap. My first editorial acquisition was the Just Jakeseries by kid author Jake Marcionette (who had previously been self-published) from Dan Lazar at Writer’s House.

What is unique about your corner of the industry?

At Grosset & Dunlap/PSS!/Cartoon Network Books, we are fortunate to work on some amazingly creative licensed book publishing programs for young readers and New York Times bestselling fiction and nonfiction books and series. We are also encouraged to develop in-house IP projects in various creative development meetings that go on to get published (some of mine include activity books with wicked paper engineering about the Day of the Dead and Chinese New Year, and a crushworthy mix-and-match format book, Build a Boyfriend). As an editor and a writer, I’m not sure where else I would get to work on that many different kinds of books in the same imprint.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Tell your story, any way you know how.

Karl Jones is an associate editor at Grosset & Dunlap/Price Stern Sloan/Cartoon Network Books in the Penguin Young Readers Group, where he started his career in publishing in 2010. He edits middle-grade fiction, format-busting activity books, and licensed book projects for young readers. His authors include the youngest New York Times bestselling middle-grade author of the Just Jake series, Jake Marcionette, and the critically acclaimed stage performer and screenwriter for 2 Broke Girls, Justin Sayre, who debuted his first middle-grade novel, Husky, in 2015. In his free time, Karl makes art, tells stories, and writes funny things for kids and adults, including some of Penguin’s own Mad Libs.