What do you think will be trends in publishing in the coming year?

The industry has caught up to the popularity of graphic novels. An indie bookseller told me recently that she’s increasing the number of shelves dedicated to graphic novels due to demand. But remember, although there are many shiny, new graphic-novel imprints for kids, the need for books that showcase diverse voices continues.

We have quite a way to go, but the industry is reaching a tipping point in terms of accepting the need for more inclusivity. The challenge for publishers is to see diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of their ongoing mission and focus. It’s a movement, not a trend.

I’m proud to work for LQ and its publisher, Arthur Levine. Arthur has championed marginalized voices since even before he launched his namesake imprint 23 years ago. Today, Levine Querido continues to uphold that standard and will continue to do so no matter what

Overall, expect to see smaller publishing teams working on fewer titles and producing higher quality books. Even corporate publishers are starting to experiment with incubator teams. They realize the traditional model isn’t working.

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

There’s a wonderful, magical world of writers I didn’t know existed until college. I want more books about amazing thinkers, artists, and writers like Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Nellie Campobello, Amparo Dávila, and Gabriela Mistral. I want my 30-plus nieces and nephews (we’re a big family) to love and appreciate books that celebrate latinidad.

And it’s not only historical figures I want to read about. Have you heard that quote from Gloria Anzaldúa? “Write with your eyes like painters, with your ears like musicians, with your feet like dancers. You are the truthsayer with quill and torch. Write with your tongues of fire.” I want to read books that blaze with honesty, pages that demand to be turned.

I’d love to see more Latina illustrators and artists signing book deals, winning awards, and doing that. Can you imagine how groundbreaking it would be for a Latina to win a Caldecott Medal? That’s never happened in the 80-plus-year history of the award. Here are four previously unpublished artists I’d love to see more of in the next year: Lindsay OlivaresElizabeth AmaroSoraya Marquez (aka Indie184), and Minerva GM.

What topic do you never want to see again?

How much time do we have? Jokes aside, I’d rather spend this time thinking and talking about what I want to see more of. I joined LQ because of Arthur’s mission to publish marginalized and underrepresented voices as well as authors and illustrators from across the globe. Our launch list includes creators from Mexico, South Korea, Australia, England, Iran, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Cayman Islands. Many of our creators are #ownVvoices writers and illustrators from all over the U.S. Arthur has a consistent track record of publishing the best of the world. As a bookseller told me recently, “The faith is there.” Now, if you really want me to spill some industry tea, come find me after a few mezcals at the next conference.

What would you like to change about the publishing industry?

I’d like to see fewer Twitter wars from Book Twitter. I took a break from the industry for two years, and the one thing I did not miss at all is the ongoing social media infighting between woker-than-thou book-fluencers. Don’t @ me, bro! Let’s spend more time lifting each other up online instead of canceling each other. The average person spends over two hours a day on social media (approximately one month of your life each year). Make the most of that time. Or, better yet, log off and read a book.

When it comes to technology, I’d like to see the industry embrace data. Our world is increasingly more digitized (meta-data anyone?), and meanwhile, our attention spans are more and more fragmented (see above). Publishers with access to consumer and book-buying data and the systems and software in place to harness that information will lead.

Personally, and selfishly, I’d like to see more brown and melanated folks working in the industry. I can probably count all the Latino/Latina/Latinx editors and agents working in children’s books today on two hands. 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I was a member of the Children’s Book Council’s inaugural Diversity Committee back in 2011, and the people who served on the committee are now some of the biggest names in the business, and many of them are people of color. That’s uplifting news for all of us! Those CBC Diversity meetings were inspiring. If I had a trying work week, these folks kept me going. I still see and hang out with many of these brilliant people. I wouldn’t be writing this without them.

Shoutout to Daniel Nayeri, publisher of Odd Dot; Cheryl Klein, editorial director at Lee & Low (her new picture book, Thunder Trucks, is just out from Disney); Namrata Tripathi, publisher of Kokila; Alvina Lingeditor-in-chief at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers—she also co-hosts the podcast BFFStacy Whitmanfounder of Tu Books; Stacey Barney, executive editor at Penguin (she doesn’t do Twitter); Connie Hsu, executive editor of Roaring Brook Press; Caroline de la Peña, former director of publicity at HarperKids, now living her best life in Cali; and Nancy Mercado, associate publisher and editorial director, Dial Books for Young Readers. 

(Full disclosure, Levine Querido will publish Daniel Nayeri’s devastating debut, Everything Sad Is Untrue, in fall 2020. DM me if you want to be the first to read it.)

Antonio Cerna is the marketing director at Levine Querido, an independent children’s book publisher founded by Arthur Levine in 2019. Its mission is to lift up underrepresented creators and bring outstanding books from around the world to U.S. readers.