What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Oh, the dreaded trend question! Well, last year we saw an increase in witch-themed young-adult books on submission, and they’re starting to come out now, including our own Salt & Storm by Kendall Kulper, The Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker, and the Beautiful Creatures spinoff series, Dangerous Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Other witch books that have pubbed recently from other publishers are Conversion by Katherine Howe and Half Bad by Sally Green. Witches seem to be all over television as well (American Horror Story, Witches of East End, etc.), but whether this turns into an actual book trend that catches on remains to be seen. This year, I've been seeing more straight-up horror submissions as well, so perhaps that will be next year’s trend—who knows?
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Not a specific genre, but I’m always looking for something different—something that feels fresh and new and just sweeps me off my feet. The Walled City by Ryan Graudin was that book for me. It’s coming out in November, and it crosses genres. I recently read Pointeby Brandy Colbert and loved it—it’s part ballet book, part issue book, part thriller, very hard to categorize, actually—and I’m a sucker for books that are hard to describe, although they certainly can be challenging to position.
I’m always on the lookout for books featuring diverse characters and settings, too. And I’d love to see some utopian fiction (as opposed to dystopian)! I’d also love to see more whodunit mysteries, à la Agatha Christie, for both middle-grade and YA.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I feel like everything comes back around, so I never say never! Like many others, I’m a bit maxed out on dystopian right now (especially ones that claim to be like The Handmaid’s Tale), and we’re not really looking for any more witch-themed YA, but I’m open to other types of science fiction and fantasy.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Like many/most children’s book editors, I work on all types of books for all age categories, fiction and nonfiction, series and stand-alones. I could be editing a picture book about a baby wolf being adopted by a rabbit family one day and editing a YA book about the son of the world’s most notorious serial killer the next. I’ve edited a picture book inspired by the High Line, a middle-grade biography of the Beatles, paranormal historical fiction/horror set in 1920s New York City, a literary middle-grade novel inspired by Chinese folk tales, a commercial series set in a fairy-tale land and more. I love being able to work on books for all ages—it keeps me interested and challenged. I also love working on the type of books I loved as a child, as well as books that reflect my interests as an adult. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with publishing books for kids, and it’s wonderful publishing for an audience who still gets ridiculously excited about reading.
I’ll add that unlike some other publishers, editors at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers tend to share submissions with each other if we think the book has merit but isn’t quite right for that particular editor. So if you’re not sure whom to submit something to, just pick up the phone and ask! We’ve had many books end up under contract that were passed from one editor to another. We’re a tight, collaborative group and know each other’s tastes well. But because of this, and because we have a very select list, we don’t allow for multiple submissions within LBYR.
Anything else you’d like to add?
LBYR publishes books for every age category, and we have a really great, diverse list in terms of subject matter and genre. The sweet spot for LBYR tends to be those books that straddle the line between literary and commercial. I think the common link for all of our books is that whether we’re publishing a lift-the-flap novelty book, a licensed movie tie-in, a commercial series or a literary novel with award potential, all of our books are of high quality and get individualized attention from all departments, including editorial, design, production, marketing, sales and more.
I’m really proud of our list, and we have a strong track record of best sellers and award winners. Above all, we’re a house fueled by passion for our books, and it starts with the editor falling in love with a manuscript.
Alvina Ling is the executive editorial director at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (a division of Hachette Book Group), where she has worked since 1999. She oversees Little, Brown’s middle-grade and young-adult lists and edits children’s books for all ages, from picture books to young-adult. She has edited such books as Mr. Tiger Goes Wildby Peter Brown, Where the Mountain Meets the Moonby Grace Lin, The Candymakers by Wendy Mass, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Diviners by Libba Bray and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. She tweets using the handle @planetalvina. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.