The Road to Publishing: a Q & A with Andrew Karre of Carolrhoda Books

On Tuesday, Ashley Hope Pérez laid out what it’s like to work with rock star editor Andrew Karre , editorial director of Carolrhoda Books, Carolrhoda Lab & Darby Creek. Today, we have a bonus post, a Q&A between Ashley and Andrew, the last piece in our “Road to Publishing” series. We hope it’s been helpful! All of the posts can now be found if you click on the “The Road to Publishing Series” tab on the menu.

Ashley: What are the rookie mistakes you see first-time authors make during the editorial process?

Andrew: Rushing revisions. There are no points for speed. Although I hope I’ve learned enough to anticipate this and prevent it.

Ashley: What qualities make you look forward to working with an author again on a future project? Any deal-breakers?

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Andrew: A spirit of adventure. The authors I most enjoy working with are excited about the process. They like to use me as a sounding board, as a stress-test for their work. They want to hear my questions and suggestions, but they’re quite capable of going an entirely different direction. I’m not interested in authors who unquestioningly adopt my view of YA fiction. I’m interested in authors who will engage with it and articulate their own. In many cases, editing is a bit of a friendly struggle between the author and me wherein my goal is to lose in an interesting way that highlights the author’s strengths.

Ashley: In what way(s) does your approach to the editing process differ from other editors you know or have worked with?

Andrew: It’s hard to say. I only have second-hand information about how others edit. I tend not to write editorial letters. I prefer to write voluminous marginal notes and have lots of phone conversations (or lunches, whenever possible). Maybe that’s unusual? My goal in a markup is to highlight the places where an author is at the height of her powers and then challenge her to meet that standard throughout.

Ashley: Boundary-pushing is arguably your editorial signature. How does that priority influence the guidance you offer authors during the editing process?

Andrew: I don’t really think about that when we’re editing. Editing is about realizing and reconciling a manuscript’s potential and its author’s vision. It’s about pleasing the two of us, first and foremost. Insofar as we worry only about the limitations inherent in the manuscript, I guess the desire to be unbound is present.

Ashley: Beyond writing (and revising) a novel into its best possible form, what should authors be doing from the time they sign their contract to the time of the book’s release?

Social-media-for-public-relations1Andrew: There are a few practicalities every author should take care of–at least by that point if not sooner. Acquire all your digital real- estate. By that I mean, register a useful domain name, grab a good Twitter handle, etc.  Even if you can’t see how you’ll use them, at least you’ll have them. The only one of these that costs anything is the domain, and that’s cheap. Then, read your contemporaries. And if you can, interact with them as a colleague and fellow traveler. Join the conversations online in much the way you’d join a dinner party conversation: wait for your opening, and take it graciously when it comes. Be interesting, first and foremost. It’s not about selling.

Ashley: I distinctly remember a come-to-Jesus talk we had about social media some time between revisions for What Can’t Wait and the book’s launch day. I remember feeling very overwhelmed. Now, four years down the line, I can see lots of benefits from the relationships that I’ve established by existing online and at least intermittently being present in Twitter and other spaces.

At Latin@s in Kid Lit, we’re working to draw more attention to great books for younger kids as well as teens. What are some of your favorite books to read to or with your boys?  Do their preferences ever surprise you?

Andrew: Henry (5) loves nonfiction at the moment. He loves processes and technical details so we read a lot of things in that vein. I really loved Building Our House by Jonathan Bean. In the coverage of the death of Charlotte Zolotow, we discovered her Over and Over, and that’s been fun.  I still enjoy reading Goodnight Moon to Edmund (18 months).

Ashley: What’s one book that you hope to find in your stocking this holiday season?

Andrew: I still haven’t read NW by Zadie Smith and I generally enjoy her work.

Ashley: Any thoughts on the current state of publishing with regard to the percentages of works by/for/about Latin@s?

Andrew: It seems to me that the level of awareness of the need among publishers is high, as is the desire to find and break out new voices. High enough? I don’t know if it’s possible to say. I know I’m encouraged.

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