Chanda, center, and students let their true feelings be known.

Magic Explained: Children’s Publishing at Simon & Schuster

Simon & Schuster's Justin Chanda tells NYU Summer Publishing Institute students about children's publishing.
Simon & Schuster’s Justin Chanda tells NYU Summer Publishing Institute students about children’s publishing.

“Children’s books change lives,” said Justin Chanda, Vice President and Publisher of Simon & Schuster’s children’s trade imprints, including Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, and Margaret K. McElderry Books. (He is also the publisher of the company’s new science fiction and fantasy imprint, Saga Press.) As Chanda spoke, about 20 NYU Summer Publishing Institute students listened intently, excited to be on an industry visit and learn more about children’s publishing. They gazed at the framed covers of Simon & Schuster’s many award-winning books, including those awarded the coveted Caldecott and Newbery Awards. “The beauty of what we do here,” Chanda continued, “is to give people their first experience with books.”

Chanda, who teaches children’s book publishing in the NYU M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media program, also stressed the “collaborative, not competitive” nature of the world of children’s books and the joy of working in this very special part of the industry. He then introduced various members of his team.

Art Director Laurent Linn stepped forward first, artwork and books clutched in his hands and under his arms. “Read, read, read,” he told us as he set down the artwork on the conference table, handling the original watercolor pieces with extra care. “Educate yourself on who’s out there,” Linn continued, emphasizing that knowing the industry is key to success.

Art Director Laurent Linn guides students through the process of creating exciting visuals.
Art Director Laurent Linn guides students through the process of creating exciting visuals.

Linn then segued into speaking about art direction, reinforcing Chanda’s point that all work in the children’s division is collaborative. For example, he noted that when all artwork for a book is completed and the book is laid out, it then goes through different passes with the copy department, the editor, the author, and the illustrator.

Next up was Lisa Donovan, Vice President and Executive Managing Editor, “I’m the babysitter,” Donovan joked, explaining that she makes schedules for books, processes contracts, and much more. “I’m the middle part of the [children’s publishing] world; I work with editorial and sales and marketing,” she explained.

Donovan was followed by Lucille Rettino, Vice President and Director of Marketing for Simon & Schuster’s children’s division. “Children’s marketing is fun and creative,” Rettino said with a smile. She shared past marketing campaigns with the students, including pins created for the recent picture book I Don’t Like Koala and magazine advertisements which ran in Seventeen for the young adult novel P.S. I Still Love You.

Publicity Director Jennifer Romanello then spoke to us about two separate publicity campaigns she has spearheaded. One was for a picture book entitled Float, which received rave reviews from Entertainment Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and The Boston Globe. Romanello explained that the plan she devised for this book was completely different from the one for Naughty Mabel, the highly-anticipated picture book by the celebrated actor Nathan Lane. The planning was so different, Romanello explained, because Lane already has a built-in fan base. For Naughty Mabel, she booked morning shows and full media packages far in advance of its October release.

Chanda, center, and students let their true feelings be known.
Chanda, center, and students let their true feelings be known.

And then came the highly anticipated tour of the children’s division offices! The walls are painted bright colors, which Chanda explained is typical of a children’s publishing space. While walking around, we were greeted politely by staff members. Tables of original artwork grabbed all the students’ eyes. Every time we turned a corner, we saw another stack of papers that looked out of place, but in actuality made perfect sense to the person creating it. “That’s what publishing is,” Chanda joked. “It’s paper and it’s messy.”

by Addison Smith

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