Nancy Sondel's Pacific Coast Children's Writers Workshop
16th Annual    September 28-30, 2018    Master Class to Masterpiece
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bullet  Like our workshop, these faculty interviews focus on youth novels. Many questions were submitted by our alumni and web visitors. To submit a question for future interviews, contact us. To read our Faculty Profiles, click here.

“Anne Hoppe’s talks are clear, informative, engaging, inspiring. Anyone who’s fortunate to hear her will gain a better sense of writing, publishing and the field in general. Anne is a vast wealth of knowledge.” — Lisa Jahn-Clough, novelist; Hamline University instructor

ANNE HOPPE

Executive Editor

HarperCollins Children’s Books

Influential American book editor and publisher Robert Giroux once noted, “There are qualities that cannot be taught, and without which a good editor cannot function—judgment, taste, and empathy.” Considering the track record of children’s book editor Anne Hoppe, it’s clear she succeeds on all counts.

Before joining HarperCollins in 1994, Anne worked for the small, independent publisher David Godine and at the prestigious Horn Book Magazine—the nation’s oldest children’s literature review journal. Most recently, Anne has edited the award-winning youth novels Your Eyes in Stars by M.E. Kerr, and The Stray Dog by Marc Simont, along with New York Times bestsellers Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (a debut novel), fiction by Alice Walker and Terry Pratchett, and more.

Anne’s writers offer her praise: A. M. Jenkins, author of the Printz Honor book Repossessed, appreciates Anne for her “diligence, insight and trust, and not letting me get away with less than my best.”

At the 2008 Pacific Coast Children’s Writers Workshop, you’ll meet Anne in a seminar setting. Below, enjoy a glimpse of what’s to come—Anne’s thoughtful, sensitive views in response to our enrollees’ most tantalizing questions.

I. FROM THE INSIDE OUT

Tell us about your personal editing goals and philosophy.

I believe in working closely with artists to create the best books possible—books that come from the author’s soul and that connect directly with a young audience. Quality books, books that are well-written, sincere, and respectful of their readers, give young readers tools with which to understand the world around them, and to question assumptions. The care that goes into making a book is an expression of the value we place on readers’ intelligence and curiosity.

How would you characterize the focus of your publishing house and department?

HarperCollins is very large! We publish 600 children’s books per year, which includes everything from picture books to novels, movie tie-in books, novelty formats, and paperbacks (both paperback originals and paperback reprints of our novels). My own work centers on traditional publishing—working with authors and illustrators to create stand-alone hardcover books, ranging from picture books and beginning readers through chapter books and young adult novels, as well as a few books for younger readers. In the coming year, I expect to publish 11 middle grade and young adult novels. I publish very little nonfiction.

II. SUBMISSIONS AND PUBLICATION

What are your submissions guidelines for novels?

In general, a synopsis and 40-50 pages of the novel should arrive with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

A workshop alum asks: “Some editors say they hardly read queries; other editors say queries are an important reflection on the author and the story he or she is submitting.” What’s your opinion?

I like a good query letter. It can’t tell me much (only a manuscript can do that), but it can tell me if the book in question is completely wrong for me.

In a query, what intrigues you—or not? Should writers include a brief “pitch,” such as research and statistics about why their novel might fill a need in the market... or will a succinct plot summary the story’s potential value?

For fiction queries, a succinct plot summary will suffice. I like a straightforward, cleanly-written query that tells me concisely what the book is, and maybe a tiny bit about the author. I am always impressed when someone has done their homework sufficiently to explain why they think HarperCollins is a good fit for what they have written. Most people don’t do their homework and seem to send out queries at random.

I don’t like cute, gimmicky queries. I find hard sells off-putting, and usually based on erroneous beliefs about the market and the publishing process. An example of hard sell is “Readers will love my novel because________,” or “This will be the next Harry Potter/Diary of a Wimpy Kid/Twilight.” Erroneous beliefs have to do with research and statistics that generally have no real bearing on who buys books. You can say that one million people suffer from green ears, but that doesn’t mean that one million people with green ears want to buy books about it.
What are your usual response times to queries?

There are no standard timelines. It can vary from six days to six months. I know this is frustrating for writers, but it’s a fact of publishing life. Every book takes its own path.

Do you sometimes bypass the synopsis? Do you read it before or after reading a manuscript? What makes a synopsis engaging to you?

I care much more about the actual manuscript than the synopsis, and generally read the manuscript pages first, or else after only a quick glance at the synopsis to get the gist of the story. The importance of good writing in a synopsis cannot be overstated. A poorly written synopsis—one that does not clearly summarize the story, includes too many tangents, or contains grammatical errors—is a true turn-off. It suggests that either the author doesn’t care enough to do a good job or is incapable of it.

How many manuscript pages do you usually read before deciding whether to continue, and/or before deciding whether the manuscript is a good fit for your house?

It depends on the manuscript. Often about as much as I can read on a single subway ride (about 50 pages).

What makes a submission irresistible to you—or not?

A pet peeve: gratuitous profanity. I’ve nothing against profanity in its place—it’s a fact of most teen’s lives. But some would-be writers seem to think that it is a requirement that every line of dialogue include cursing. As with most vocal ticks presented on the page (e.g., dialects and accents), a little goes a long way.

Sadly, nothing is guaranteed to make a submission irresistible to me. In general, though, I like smart writers who are in control of their language, respect their characters and their readers, and who excel at compelling storytelling.

Manuscripts that are never irresistible to me feature lackluster writing, unintentionally poor English, characters who act dumb, and are dependent on stereotypes and clichés.

Many editors give preferential treatment to conference and workshop attendees’ submissions for only one month after the event. How long after an event will you consider attendees’ submissions?

I do not have a specific time limit.

What does your house do to market its books? How can authors help?

One of the most important tools for reaching readers, especially teens, is the internet. We encourage all of our writers to have—and maintain—a web presence, from their own sites to MySpace to regular blogging. We also strive to keep our own websites dynamic, accessible

HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s books, respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers. HarperCollins is home to many children’s classics, including Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends and Where the Wild Things Are, as well as popular series The Princess Diaries and A Series of Unfortunate Events.

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