Category Archives: behind the book

Behind the book – Audiobook narrator Lauren Ezzo

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter UK Editor Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators Book charity Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor  | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager | MG/YA Author

Last week I interviewed Catherine Doyle, and this week I have another special guest on the blog – the narrator of the audiobook for The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren Ezzo. This is my first English-language audiobook (I do have one in German), so I am incredibly excited to listen to my book spoken out loud. I’m anticipating that it’ll be a strange but wonderful experience.

I was given the choice of a few different narrators by HarperCollins, and I chose Lauren because her sample sounded like Romy in my head – she perfectly captured the mix of confidence and naivety that Romy has. If you’d like to listen to Lauren’s version of Romy (and, of course, buy it!), there’s a sample on the Audible page and another on soundcloud here.


With that, onto the interview!

How did you become an audiobook narrator? Did you do any work experience
or internships?


In college, I majored in Theatre/English — which was, in retrospect, a pretty great setup! I  was hired for my first title by Brilliance Publishing — a friend of mine from school was working there and happened to know they were hiring new narrators. I went in with copies of ‘Love Wins’, by Rob Bell, ‘Fragile Things’ by Neil Gaiman, and ‘Twilight’ (maybe you’ve heard of that one). The rest is history!

What books have you worked on in the past?

Several!! At this writing, I’ve narrated over a hundred, hooray!! Some favorites or notables include “The Last to See Me”, by M. Dressler, “Rules for Werewolves”, by Kirk Lynn, “The Butterfly Garden”, by Dot Hutchison, “Kill All Happies”, by Rachel Cohn, “The Hundredth Queen” by Emily R. King, and, sincerely, “The Loneliest Girl in the Universe”. [All of the books narrated by Lauren on Audible are here]41kblU0-EyL._SL500_.jpg

Ahh, thank you so much! How long does it take to record a book? 

It depends on the title — the general formula I use is about two minutes per page — so for a 300 page book, I’d budget 10ish hours. “Loneliest Girl” was a bit different since many of the ‘chapters’ are so short — less than a page sometimes, so she took about 6 hours!

Do you do it in one sitting?

I do and don’t record all in one sitting — usually I like to work in sort of standard business days — 9ish to 5ish, with breaks and lunch — to keep easy track of my progress and keep things expedient. If I were able to record all in one go, though, I think I would….to stay in storyteller brain for that long would be great for me and the book.

Do you work from home? What kind of equipment do you need?

I do! I have a custom built isolation sound building courtesy of my loving father, and when I do record at home — a la “Loneliest Girl” — that’s where I’ll be! Pared down as simply as possible, all you need to record is a good space, a microphone, an interface (a machine which converts soundwaves captured by the mic into binary for the computer to read), and a computer, and I have all of these — but of course things get a bit more complicated and technical than that.

I also have a lot of filthy tea mugs and cookie crumbs in there, but you don’t really NEED those….

How do you choose voices for characters? Do you take notes in advance of a recording session? 

Ooof, good question. Not enough people ask this one! First I look at my ability. When the text says something to the effect of. ‘ the deepest, rumbliest voice EVER’, I look to see what my version of that can be that will fit the tone of the story — sincere? comic? scary

Secondly, I look to see what my author wants or needs — so, with “Loneliest Girl”, I knew Romy should sound a little like the main protagonist from ‘Hundredth Queen’, since that’s what you (Lauren) listened to!51bpDKF1wKL._SL500_

Then I go to my text — what descriptors am I given? Pitch, accents, even body characteristics– does this character have jowls, or big teeth? Are they painfully shy? And I let all those things sort of percolate in my brain, along with the theme and feel I get from the book.

For Romy, I knew what my base voice was, but I thought it was also important that she’s a little immature — not her personality, but the fact that her adolescence has taken place in isolation. She has no peers to mimic or bounce her thoughts off of, and no adults on which to model her behavior, other than what she sees through her messages and downloaded media.

So I tried to err on the side of youth, enthusiasm, when we first meet her, and then adjusted accordingly as the plot proceeded. There’s also a lot of ‘me’ voice in Romy, since she’s so relateable — a lot of her reactions and syncopations are mine.

J, Loch, and Ness I had fun with — these are all characters whose voices we hear through Romy. Her brain and emotions ‘distort’ them. I wanted Loch and Ness to be a little overdone, overdramatic — Romy’s ideals. And J…without giving too much away, I wanted to sound a bit like the ‘best friend’ — the guy everyone falls in love with.

What is the most difficult part of recording books? (mispronouncing things would
worry me!)

DEFINITELY worrying about pronunciation!! And listeners will nail you every time on that! But there are resources to take care of those things, and they’re usally not a huge issue in the end.

I think for me the most challenging aspects are the same for any collaborative artist — I want the work to be good and intriguing, and for my performance to suit it — not just for me, but for its author, its engineer, its publisher, its listener. Audiobooks are NOT an isolated experience. I’m the voice of a given title, but many, many people get to it before and after I do, and the pressure to deliver, for me at least, can be scary.

What’s your favourite part of your job, and what are you proudest of in your

Another really good one!!!! My favorite part of my job is that I get PAID MONEY to ACT and READ. Those are my favorite things in the world. If I can ever get paid to nap and eat, we’ll reevaluate, but that’s the best part. These are the things that make me happiest.

What would be your #4dreamprojects

Only 4!?!?! Okay.


1. Anything Neil Gaiman. Preferably a title he’s written as a gift  to me personally, but really anything of his would do.

2. The “Loneliest Girl” sequel, set after Romy reaches Earth II, chronicling her rise as its first matriarch.

3. A book from my childhood; see below

4. A previously male-narrated classic, a la Dracula, Phantom of the Opera, Remains of the Day, Hero’s Journey…the guys get a lot of good ones.

A Loneliest Girl sequel, huh? Well, we’ll see….. 😉

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure? 

Big yes. In the first place, I have less time to do this. In the second, I’ve learned IMMENSE amounts about writing, and what makes effective writing, from all the reading. If you are an author, please, make reading at least some of your work aloud part of your editing process!

I read out loud and it is SO HELPFUL. Especially in later edits, it’s so easy to skim over sentences and reading aloud really catches you up on the clunky things.

What are some of your favourite recent reads from your childhood? 

444357Eeee I love this!! My ‘first’ book was the picture book “Put Me in the Zoo” by Robert Lopshire — the adults in my family had to hide it from me, they got so sick of it.

Other first loves include “Go Dog Go”, The Time-Warp Trio, “His Dark Materials”, Shel Silverstein, “The Hobbit”, “Harry Potter”, numerous Eyewitness books, “The Cricket in Times Square”, “Ender’s Game”, “Walk Two Moons”, “Because of Winn Dixie”, “Belle Prater’s Boy”, “A Wrinkle in Time”, “Pure Dead Magic”, Tamora Pierce, Suzanne Fisher Staples, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”, Avi, Magic Treehouse, and really anything if it held still long enough.

Do you have any advice for aspiring narrators? 

Acting classes are esential – I’d say at least a year’s worth, of reputable training, but really
that should be continuing as your career progresses. Invest in a quality microphone
within your budget; no USBs should be visible anywhere. Be courteous and kind to
everyone in the industry you come across — you don’t know who they are or who
they’ve worked with, and they deserve a pleasant interaction at the very least. Listen
to other narrators and industry professionals, and decide what is good for you —
there’s a lot of advice. You don’t have to take it all, and it’s not possible anyway. If
it fits you, that’s the best advice. Also brushing your teeth and McDonald’s hashbrowns get rid of mouth noises in situ.

Thank you for the wonderful interview, Lauren! I learnt a lot from this – and now I kind of want to become a narrator too. 

Lauren Ezzo is a Chicago based audiobook narrator and commercial voice
talent. A Michigan native and Hope College alumna, at this writing she has
narrated over 100 titles for authors including Catherine Ryan Hyde, Adam
Rapp, M. Dressler, Christopher Rice, Kirk Lynn, Lauren James, & Dot

She has won multiple awards for her narration, including several
“Best of the Year” lists, and several Earphones Awards. In 2016, her
performance of “The Light Fantastic”, by Sarah Combs, co-narrated with
Todd Haberkorn, was named one of AudioFile’s best books of the year. She
was accorded the same honor in 2017 from School Library Journal for her
narration of “To Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the
Donner Party”.

In 2018, she was Audie-nominated as part of a full cast of
narrators for Best Original Work, “Nevertheless We Persisted”, performing
two pieces – one of which she authored. She is a proud member of the Audio
Publishers Association, and a lifelong bookworm. Follow her exploits on
Facebook at @laurenezzoaudiobooks, on Twitter at @SingleWithFries, and
on the web at!

Behind the book: Middle Grade and Young Adult writer Catherine Doyle

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter UK Editor Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators Book charity Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor  | Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager

I am resurrecting an old blog series where I interview different people involved in the publishing industry, behind the scenes of the books. One of my oldest writing friends,


Cat and me in 2014. We were babies!

Catherine Doyle, has a new book out. Cat and I met because we have the same agent, and got our book deals around the same time – me for The Next Together, and Cat for Vendetta, the first book in her Mafia-based YA romance trilogy.

We were both newbies in the publishing industry, and it was so incredibly reassuring having someone in the same position to me to talk to. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the author I am today without Cat. She’s one of my first and most trusted beta readers.

Cat’s next book The Storm Keeper’s Island is the first in a Middle Grade series, and I am absolutely fascinated by the difference in crossing over to a new audience in a different genre – so I’m bring back this series just so I can be really nosy and ask her lots of questions.

To start, can you tell us a little bit about your books, both YA and MG?


The YA Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa) is about a seventeen-year-old girl from the Chicago suburbs called Sophie Gracewell, who ends up at the centre of a blood war deep in the Sicilian underworld. When she falls for a mysterious boy in her neighbourhood, she tumbles head first into a dangerous society that holds the untold secrets of both her family’s past and her true identity. It’s a mix of romance, danger and intrigue, with a strong female friendship at its core.

36634765 (1)The Storm Keeper’s Island is the story of eleven-year-old Fionn Boyle, who is sent to stay on the remote island of Arranmore with a grandfather he’s never met, when his mother falls ill one summer. When Fionn sets foot on the island, an ancient magic begins to stir, and he soon finds himself at the heart of a race to become the island’s next champion – a Storm Keeper who can wield the elements of earth, wind, water and fire. But the island isn’t the only one who has been waiting for Fionn. Deep beneath the jagged cliffs or Arranmore, an ancient enemy has been waiting too. It is up to him to ensure she doesn’t rise again and wreak havoc on the world. It’s a story about adventure and family, memory and magic, and a wild, untameable sea.

Was writing a middle grade novel different from writing a Young Adult novel? Which was easier? Which do you prefer?

I didn’t find the process of writing these stories all that different – I was still focusing on character development and plot progression and trying to keep the chapters as pacey as possible. I think I prefer writing Fionn’s story because it is replete with possibility. As an author, there is just something undeniably fun about creating your own system of wild magic, and letting your imagination run riot with it.


A YA Shot 2015 panel with Cat and Lucy Saxon on Tragic Romance in YA

Do you think there are any topics that are ‘off limits’ for MG? Is there anything that younger readers can’t handle?

Children are intelligent and curious and empathetic. They live in the same world that we do, and see and hear much more than we might think. I would say very few topics are ‘off limits’ provided they are handled with care and sensitivity, and an awareness of the age of the reader.

Do you think there is a trend for magical MG at the moment? What is so special about this type of book? What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?


Magical middle grade novels have always been popular, and I can certainly see why. There’s something very freeing and exciting about stories that leap into the unknown, that stretch your imagination to its limits and look at the world through a slightly sparklier lens. They’ve always been my favourite kinds of stories.

I would love to see even more stories that have been inspired by different cultures, and in particular, magical stories that play on the myths and legends of the countries in which they’re set. Rick Riordan’s new publishing imprint seems to be focusing on this – and I can’t wait to read the books he’s championing this year. My next read is Aru Sha and The End Of Time.

Where do you see your writing going in the future? Do you want to carry on writing MG?

For now, my heart is definitely in Middle Grade Fiction. In fact, it’s still on Fionn’s island – and it will be there for another three books at least!

What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?34219873

As a child, I loved the Chronicles of Narnia, Artemis Fowl and Harry Potter – anything with a sweeping adventure and a whole lot of magic!

My favourite recent children’s books include Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, the Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, and the Knights of the Borrowed Dark series by Dave Rudden. I’ve also just read and loved both The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly.33832945

What are you proudest of in your career?

Selling the book of my heart to Bloomsbury and watching it set sail into the world.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Be brave, be resilient and remember – the true magic is in the editing, not the first draft!

As someone who has written YA books set in the US, your MG shifts to an island off the coast of Ireland. Was this intentional?


I had been wanting to write a book closer to home for some time, but it took a while for the right story to materialise. The Storm Keeper’s Island is set on Arranmore, the island where my grandparents were born, grew up and fell in love. It’s inspired by Irish myths and legends as well as the real-life daring sea rescues of my great grandfather, so it is grounded in an authentic personal and cultural background, which makes it feel particularly special to me.




tumblr_nglmz6PdiF1tjvbzjo1_1280.pngCat and me as members of One Direction with Alice Oseman, Melinda Salisbury and Sara Barnard, as drawn by Alice.

Catherine Doyle grew up in the West of Ireland. She holds a first-class BA in Psychology and a first-class MA in Publishing. She is the author of the Young Adult Blood for Blood trilogy (Vendetta, Inferno and Mafiosa), which is often described as Romeo and Juliet meets the Godfather. It was inspired by her love of modern cinema. Her debut Middle Grade novel, The Storm Keeper’s Island (Bloomsbury, 2018), is an adventure story about family, bravery and self-discovery. It is set on the magical island of Arranmore, where her grandparents grew up, and is inspired by her ancestors’ real life daring sea rescues.

Aside from more conventional interests in movies, running and travelling, Catherine also enjoys writing about herself in the third-person

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Behind the Book: Scholastic Book Fair Product Manager Francesca Hopwood

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | UK Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor | Journalist | US Editor

I haven’t done one of these publishing industry interviews since March – but I have a very special reason to bring back the series today: I’m interviewing Francesca Hopwood, the Product Manager at Scholastic Book Fairs who is responsible for the incredible special edition of The Last Beginning, containing the short story Another Together.


I was so delighted to be asked if they could make the edition back in August, but I didn’t really understand how the Book Fairs actually work. I have vague recollections of buying books from them when I was at school – but my knowledge didn’t extend far beyond that. So I asked Francesca if she could answer some questions for my blog (and to satisfy my curiosity). To my delight she said yes!

If you’ve ever wondered just how Scholastic Book Fairs work, read on…

What does your job involve?2

I cherry pick the best books published for 11-18 year olds to feature in my Teen Book Club leaflets (these go into Secondary schools 6 times a year). I also select Posters, Stationery and Teen books for Scholastic Fairs (the giant silver cases that go to schools one or twice a year). Publishers come to present to me and the rest of the product team where we get to see what books are coming out and then I have the exciting job of (attempting!) to read them all.

My day job involves a lot more spreadsheets than most people expect where we’re continuously looking at sales analysis and stock as well as briefing the design and marketing teams on all our various leaflets. We liaise with publishers on a daily basis to make sure we’re up to date on what’s coming out when and feedback on covers and content where necessary. We also work closely with Scholastic publishing so we can get a range of books created to suit the schools market.


 Why are Scholastic Book Fairs & Clubs so important?

Thanks for asking! This will probably sound like a pitch but I genuinely think what we do is awesome. We handpick books that encourage children to read for pleasure and make them affordable and available to all children. A lot of kids aren’t able to visit bookshops or libraries so by sending the leaflets and fairs cases direct to the schools we’re giving them a chance to see all these incredible books on offer in a safe and familiar setting and for pocket money prices. So much research supports how important it is not just for kids to read for pleasure but to own books as this instils a love of reading early on and enables them to have ownership of their reading.

Also, for every £1 spent on a school’s Book Club order we donate 20p in free books back to the school. With so many public libraries being closed down and budget cuts to the education sector I think this is an amazing thing for schools, parents and children alike to be aware of as it means we can help schools build their libraries to have even more stories to share.

What’s the most exciting part of your job?5

I have vivid memories of receiving the book club leaflets when I was in primary school and circling everything I wanted (all the pony books…it was a borderline obsession at 8 years old) and then getting super excited when they would arrive (post addressed to me was such a big deal at school) so visiting a fair and seeing the kids get excited about all the books on offer is always really exhilarating. You watch as they shout out an author or character’s name, as if they were their friends and it just makes all the excel spreadsheet part of your job seem worth it to see such joy and excitement.

I also still find reading books before they’re out really exciting. Especially if you’re reading it early enough to make suggestions and watch as it grows into a fully formed book or getting an exclusive edition just for Clubs and Fairs. Receiving the finished printed book always feels so satisfying if you’ve had a hand in making it (I may have an ever growing tower of books on my desk that I can stare at and be proud of – Our version of The Last Beginning with the extra short story being an excellent example 🙂 ).

I definitely have a copy of that on my desk to stare at too! How do you go about choosing which books to feature in the Teen Book Club? Does the maturity of the content ever have an impact on this?

We do a lot of analysis into our previous book club leaflets to see what has sold well, as well as keeping an eye on the charts to make sure we have all the big hitters featured on current offers. It’s also about being aware of debut authors, hype on social media, alongside events (such as Black History Month, Science week, or World Book Day) and films that are coming out in that particular month of the book club and looking at how we can link to these to garner interest. I also like to feature perennial bestsellers to make sure the next generation have the opportunity to grow up with them, such as; Wonder, The Book Thief, Private Peaceful, Nought & Crosses, Percy Jackson, Coram Boy and The Boy in Stripped Pyjamas. These are all books that get kids not just reading but talking about books as these are all really strong stories that get you to empathise with the characters within.

Because we sell through schools we have a certain level of trust that we have to adhere to when selecting for teenagers on behalf of the teachers and parents so content is always looked at closely. The maturity level of a 12 year old and 15 year old can be very different so I have to be conscious when selecting books that we’re able to reach and appeal to year 7’s alongside year 10s (which can be really hard when publishers present loads of YA but hardly any upper-middle grade these days!). 29079057In the most part I can get around this by flagging titles that I believe are more mature, although if a book has swearing/violence/drugs on every page then I’m going to have to give it a miss as it’s inappropriate to the school setting.

When featuring a book with content I have to be able to justify why. For example Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield is about an abusive step-mother/daughter relationship with some horrific scenes of emotional, racial and physical abuse. It’s handled in a way that I believe will resonate with teenagers and get them really thinking about how much injustice goes on without us realising as well as looking at how important it is to ask for help and offer it in return.

 Do you have an instinct for whether a book will be popular at schools? What features do successful books usually have?

I know people must hate hearing this but visuals are really important. On our clubs leaflet there can be up to 20 books on one page all competing with each other so the covers need to be impactful and convey what the book is about in around 10 seconds tops. The most popular books, especially on Teen book clubs are usually titles that are linked with a film or TV show (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is my top seller this Autumn), have just won awards, been featured in YouTube videos such as Zoella or are books I’ve picked out and sent to my teen readers to review. Giving a book that extra bit of space and being able to show that a peer has read and loved it really helps the success of the book. In 2015, because I loved the book so much, I gave The Next Together what I call an ‘introducing’ slot where it gets an extra bit of space and a comment from me and it got into my top five, which as a debut author is pretty darn impressive Lauren!


Aw, shucks! Thank you so much for helping it get there!

What themes are you seeing in Children’s Books at the moment? How do you think this is going to change in the future?

At the moment there are two extremes. You’ve got your Wimpy, Dork, Tom Gates and Walliams books dominating the charts with humour and illustrations that year 7 and year 8’s have grown up reading and so continue to read and then there seems to be a dramatic leap to upper YA; titles dealing with heavy subjects such as sexual abuse, depression and gender identity. Although it’s great these topics are being discussed more in literature for younger audiences it can be hard to find a middle ground. Those first formative and awkward years of being a hormonal teenager when you’re dealing with first spots, crushes, braces and for half the teenage population….periods is an important aspect authors need to embrace more. I’d like to see more publishers focus on reaching that ‘in-between’ audience (think Louise Rennison, Geek Girl and Joel Cowley) as this is when we start to loose readers dramatically. If we can keep the humour of Wimpy but add the awkward horror of being a teenager (but without the swearing and drinking of upper YA) that would be the dream in my opinion.

What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

4At the moment my favourite YA would be Nicola Yoon’s new title The Sun is Also a Star I’m a massive fan of dual narratives and this takes it to a new level, where you have a third narrative; the universe. It’s hard to explain without sounding incredibly clichéd but Yoon weaves these small stories from the universe that are happening simultaneously to the two main characters and melds them into the overarching plot with such care and attention that I was just blown away. Yoon does a superb job at getting you to see the world through different eyes. There’s a sub-plot about a security guard, and it seems like a tiny insignificant story and yet every time I think about her I get shivers.

I’m a teenager from the noughties so Noughts & Crosses, I Capture the Castle, Star Girl, How I live Now, Coram Boy, The Heartland series (my obsession with horses may have escalated somewhat) and Harry Potter were all very important to me at secondary school.

What are you proudest of in your career?

I’ve been very lucky as part of my role to fly to the Scholastic Fairs office in Florida to see how they operate there and it was such an enlightening experience. The scale of their operation is insane due to the vast expanse of country they have to cover so they work very differently to us (with ten times the amount of staff!). Whilst I was out there I had to do a book talk (where you choose a book of personal significance to introduce who you are) to over 50 strangers which was absolutely terrifying but totally worth it as it really helped me appreciate how we all look and read books differently.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

Definitely! Because I have to read and note down content for all the books I feature in Teen clubs and fairs it’s very hard to switch off that mentality. I’ll be reading a book on holiday and as soon as a swear word comes up or drugs are mentioned I automatically want to highlight the page. Although to be honest most of the adult fiction I read has less content than the Young adult titles for work so it’s usually a nice change!

 How did you get started working in publishing? What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?xbntah31.jpg 

At school, although I read a lot in my spare time, I was more into science and art so studied those at A level but on applying to university I had no idea what I wanted to do so found a course that allowed me to study animation, illustration, film and TV and from there decided to specialise in script and prose. I thought I’d go down the film route but whilst doing work experience for BBC films I realised I was more interested in the books they were adapting at the time (Brooklyn and Swallows and Amazons) and so began my interest in publishing.

As I hadn’t actually studied English since GCSE I decided to do a Masters in publishing to get an in-depth look at the industry to see what areas interested me most. Whilst doing my Masters I did work experience at Scholastic where I was able to get a glimpse at each department and then when I graduated I managed to set up work experience in the marketing department at Penguin. I was also working part time as a supervisor in Topshop so was working 7 day weeks which, although exhausting at the time, did payoff in the end. I was kept on at Penguin as an assistant for a couple of months before finding a permanent assistant role at Scholastic Clubs and Fairs and have worked my way up from there.

Because the publishing industry is primarily based in London working for free can be a nightmare. My advice is to be honest when applying for work experience if you have other commitments – I told my supervisor at Penguin that I would have to leave early on Fridays so I could do the evening shift at Topshop and they were completely understanding, no-one is going to judge you for working hard whilst trying to keep on top of the rent!

book club.PNG How can students start their own Teen Book Club?

In secondary schools the Teen Book Club is usually set up by the Librarian so it’s always worth asking them first. All they have to do is sign your school up online and the leaflets will get sent out to the school free of charge. All our clubs are available online once the school is linked (that way every order still collates money to go back to the school pot) and you can get the books sent either to your home or the school.

If you don’t have a librarian see if you can chat to your head of year about it. We do completely online offers where all the students need is a unique web address linked to their school which can be sent out in an email and thus no paperwork at all!

Follow the link for more info!

Thank you for such an informative interview, Francesca! 

6Francesca Hopwood is the Teen book buyer at Scholastic Clubs and Fairs. She’s been there for almost four years and is determined to last five.* She’s an avid collector of stories, glitter and Spotify playlists.

You can follow her on Spotify @cescahip and Instagram @cescahop

*Primarily to receive the infamous Scholastic Pen (but also because I get to read YA all the time).

In other news: If you’re in Birmingham this Friday, there are still tickets left for my event with Jennifer Niven – and you can win a VIP meeting with us(!?) plus free books and swag through Maximum Pop! here.

I also posted a tiny extract of my next book on twitter…

And some of the intense calculations it’s taking to write:



Behind the Book: US Editor Alison Weiss

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager |Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor | Journalist

I am bringing back this series for a very special reason: to interview my American editor, Alison Weiss at Sky Pony Press!  I absolutely had to add her to my list of publishing industry interviews, because Alison is so enthusiastic and fun to work with. (And I’m not just saying that because she’s so complimentary to me on twitter…)

I feel so lucky to have an American editor who wants to be involved in the editing process as much as Alison, because that means I get two wonderful editors in the UK and US working on my writing. 🙂

The Next Together is being released in the USA by Sky Pony in Spring 2017 (in HARDBACK!) and I really, really can’t wait. I’m even looking forward to doing more copyedits (which are not my favourite thing in the world) just so that I can work with Alison more. I was very interested in Alison’s answers about how Americanisation of UK books work. So …. onto the interview!


What does your job involve?

As an editor, my job is to take care of a manuscript from the moment it’s submitted to me (or, in some cases, the moment I find someone to write a manuscript around an idea), to the moment it’s a book on the shelves, and beyond. I directly negotiate deals (and contracts, which is unusual), and once the ink is dry, I work with my authors to turn their books into the best possible version of their visions. I also work closely with design, production, sales, marketing, and publicity to make sure each book has its best shot.

Outside of the office, I attend many writers conferences, where I meet writers at all different stages of their careers to give them access to professional feedback as they continue to work on their stories and evolve their craft. And sometimes I find great talent there, too.

How did you get started in editing?

I was accepted into Random House’s internship program between my junior and senior years of college, working at Delacorte Books for Young Readers while learning about all the other aspects of the publishing business. By the end of the ten weeks, I knew I wanted to be a children’s book editor, and nothing else.

Still, getting a job in publishing is very, very competitive, especially in children’s editorial, and it took me almost a year of interviewing at a variety of publishers before I found my first job. Egmont was opening a branch in the US, and they were looking for a sales and marketing assistant. I really wanted to be an editor. But with a brand new company, I hoped that I’d be able to grow and have a little more flexibility than is traditional, and within a few months I was lucky enough to switch to editorial entirely.

After six and a half years, when Egmont closed its New York office, I moved over to Sky Pony Press, the children’s imprint of Skyhorse Publishing, and I’ve been there for just over a year.

What are your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

902Oh, this is a terrible, horrible, mean question, so I guess I need to start with Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. I also loved Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, illustrated by Ross Barrett, illustrated by Ray Cruz, Eloise by Kay Thompson, illustrated by Hillary Knight, all of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald, Paddington by Michael Bond, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. (This list is just not going to end.)

As an adult, my favorite children’s books include Cat Weatherill’s Barkbelly, Jeanne Birdsall’s Penderwicks books, Louis Sachar’s Holes, Polly Hovarth’s Everything on a Waffle. On the YA side, I adore Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl (this is probably the book that made me consider children’s publishing as a career), and Ruta Sepetys’s Out of the Easy and Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart books. And his His Dark Materials books. And we need some picture books, too. I’m madly in love with Mike Curato’s Little Elliot books.

And we’re going to cut me off now.

What drew you to The Next Together? 😉

I read The Next Together for the first time when I was still at Egmont. I was entirely taken with the concept of two people who find each other over and over again throughout time. I adored seeing Katherine and Matthew wading their way through all sorts of challenges to fall in love in different time periods. And I was really intrigued by the different sorts of media being used. I’ve always been drawn to stories told across a variety of media, but it’s not always easy to execute something so complex. But Lauren is a pro!

When I joined Sky Pony, I reached out to the lovely folks at Walker to see if they would allow me to take another look at the book as I knew it was nearing publication. (The fact that I already adored Lauren from talking to her on Twitter didn’t hurt, either.) And the rest is, shall we say, history!

What’s your favourite part of your job?

I love working with authors and illustrators closely to help make their books the best they can be. I’ll admit that I’m a very hands-on editor, and I like how collaborative the process can be.

How do you go about Americanising a book written for a UK audience? What do you think are some of the biggest cultural differences?

Americanization can be quite light or quite intensive depending on the project. I think the most important thing as an American editor is to be respectful of the author’s vision and the work of his or her originating editor.

A typical Americanization involves changes to conform with American punctuation and spelling—see Americanising vs. Americanizing—and often certain vocabulary, as well. Some words just don’t translate: flat vs. apartment; boot/trunk; lift/elevator.

I find school based stories hard to translate from the UK to the US, and vice versa. The entire structure and vocabulary and climate is just so different. Slang can be very tricky too. And sometimes when books have settings so integral to the story, but that will seem quite inaccessible for an American reader, it feels particularly daunting to try to create a correspondence. For instance, if a story is truly ingrained in the day-to-day of a particular part of London that you just have to know, it’s hard to make that accessible, the same way it would be for a British reader to understand the intricacies of parts of Boston or Los Angeles or Chicago.

There are many books that don’t come to the American market from the British market and vice versa. But I’m always glad when we can all find wonderful stories to share.19385798

What are you proudest of in your career?

I still get a thrill every time I get to hold a book I’ve worked on in my hands. I know how much time and love and attention has gone into each one. And when I see a kid reading one of my author’s books, that’s the very best moment of all.

How do you go about choosing books to acquire? Is there anything in particular you’re currently keeping an eye out for on your book wishlist?

For me, I always want books with strong, stand-out voices, intriguing characters, and a story I can get lost in. And lately I’ve been increasingly drawn to projects that change my perspective on the world and change me for having read them. That’s the immense power that books can have, and those are the kinds of projects I want to be involved in. 25760792.jpg
I know that may sound very high and mighty, but I think there should be books for all sorts of readers, and a story that makes someone feel good can be just as important and have just as much impact as a work of staggering literary genius.

But there are a lot of reasons a book gets chosen or doesn’t, and I’ve been blessed and cursed with always recalling that publishing is a business, so I need to be confident that a project I take on can sell. I also need to consider what titles are already on our list, is a project a good fit, and many other factors.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

Yes, and no. It’s certainly harder to find time to read for pleasure. So many submissions! In some ways, I think I may be a bit more forgiving of flaws in a book because I know how much work has gone into putting it together. But I also think it makes it much harder for me to fall in love with new titles, especially if they’ve received a great deal of hype. That raises my expectations very high, and so I think I’m much harder on those projects.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into editing?

Soak up as much information as you can—and not just about editing. If there’s something in the business you want to know more about or understand better, go ask about it. Understanding what a contract means or how subsidiary rights are sold will only make you a better advocate for authors down the line.

Use every opportunity—even the boring, menial ones—as chances to learn. If you’re asked to make a photo copy of an edited manuscript (some editors still work on paper), you can gain a lot of insight from the comments there. When you’re booking appointments, you learn the names of contacts that will be of use to you down the line.

Read, and read widely. Being able to offer comparable titles is essential for acquisitions, in-house sales, and selling books to consumers, and you’ll be better able to identify a book as “for fans of X” if you’ve read X. You’re also probably not going to start out reading, recommending, and editing the sorts of books you may like since you’ll probably be reading for someone else. You need to learn how to identify strong writing, even if it may not be the kind of project you, yourself, might want to edit. That will help you to develop discerning taste when the time comes for you to choose your own projects.


Alison Weiss editor photoAlison Weiss joined Sky Pony Press as an editor after after six-and-half years at Egmont USA. As a kid, it was not unusual to find her huddled under the covers on a Saturday morning with a stack of books rather than downstairs watching cartoons. Reading and writing have always been passions, but sharing that passion with others wasn’t always as easy. That is until she found the children’s publishing world.

Her focus is on chapter books through YA (with an occasional picture book thrown in for good measure), and she loves everything from heartwarming middle grade to edge-of-your seat thrillers to swoony romance.

She’s worked with a wide variety of talented authors and illustrators, including New York Times bestselling author Nancy Krulik and her daughter, Amanda Burwasser, New York Times bestselling author Jessica Verday, multi-Agatha Award winner Penny Warner, ITW Finalist Kristen Lippert-Martin, Mike A. Lancaster, Mike Moran, Jessica Taylor, Kristina McBride, and Amalie Howard, among others. She also assisted on Christopher Myers’s H.O.R.S.E., which won a 2013 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and the 2014 Odyssey Award.

Follow her on Twitter @alioop7 where she regularly hosts #askkidlit chats.


Thank you to Alison for the wonderful interview! If you liked hearing from Alison, you should definitely check out the new blog which Sky Pony have just started up here, which I’m enjoying reading a lot.



Behind the Book: Copyeditor Miranda Baker

Previously in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger | Scout |Translators | Book charity 

Today I’m talking to Miranda Baker, the copyeditor of The Next Together. Miranda was the person who made sure all of my tangled time travel-y storylines didn’t create any massive plotholes which my editor and I had missed. I am intensely grateful to her for noticing many issues which needed fixing – and copyediting is also really interesting on a personal level. My copyedits made me aware of several things which characters do far too often in my writing:

  • bite their lips
  • giggle
  • be thrilled/delighted
  • gaze at each other
  • look at each other’s lips
  • smile at each other (specifically quirk a smile)
  • kiss

So while there’s still lots of that in the finished book, there’s hopefully….. less!

In her interview, Miranda tells us how copyediting is done, and the difference between editing and copyediting.

What does your job involve?

The copyeditor’s job is to read the edited manuscript for consistency (do the characters’ names change halfway through, for instance) and accuracy of any factual information, and to correct any spelling or grammatical errors. The copyeditor may also suggest changes to text that’s unclear or repetitive.

 How did you get started in copyediting? Did you do any work experience?

I’ve actually had quite a varied career, mostly working on titles for younger children. My first publishing job was as an editorial secretary for Puffin and I’ve worked for various children’s publishers since then. I started working as a freelancer editor and copyeditor after my children were born.

 How does copyediting compare to the work of editors?

The editor basically looks after the book from the moment it’s taken on. As well as working with the author to shape the text, they will liaise with other departments – design, rights, marketing, publicity, contracts, finance – to see the book through the publishing process. The copyeditor, who might be in-house or a freelancer, is just involved in one editorial stage.

 What’s your favourite part of your job?

I get the chance to read a wide range of wonderful stories. I also love the technical side of editing – spotting rogue commas.

 How do you approach fact checking and background research when copyediting?

Google! I often wonder what on earth editors did before the arrival of the Internet.

 The Next Together has several historical timelines. How was the experience of copyediting this?

It was quite challenging, but interesting. Probably one of the most complicated titles I’ve worked on, but a great read!

 What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

ND1tsotocLike most editors, I was a voracious reader as a child. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, Alan Garner, Susan Cooper, the Nancy Drew mysteries… Anything and everything I could get my hands on.

 Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?
I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. Reading is still one of my greatest pleasures.

 What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Most of the people I’ve met recently who are new to publishing had done internships or work experience for lots of different publishers.

Miranda Baker is a freelance writer and editor who works on children’s books for all age levels, from board books and novelty books to annuals and YA fiction. Her clients include Puffin, Nosy Crow, Walker, Ladybird, Chicken House, HarperCollins, Orchard and Hodder Children’s Books, Granta and Portobello Books.

In other news: I did a video interview with the online Independent bookshop Hive:

I’ve just finished my mini-tour for The Next Together. I had a great time visiting lots of schools, libraries, bookshops and universities. Thank you for everyone who came out to see me! My next event is YA Shot on October 28th in London, where I’ll be doing a panel with Lucy Saxon and Catherine Doyle.

Behind the Book: Book Trust coordinator Katherine Webber

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

Today I’m talking to my friend Katie, who is not only the loveliest and most energetic person ever (you might have seen her running around at YALC in full Sailor Moon costume, organising everything!), she’s also taking over the UKYA world. Her first novel comes out next year, and she works for reading charity the Book Trust too! I’m so excited to share with you her thoughts on UKYA, diversity and more!

What does your job involve? boy-with-blue-parcel

I’m a programme coordinator for The Letterbox Club, Book Trust’s postal programme for children in care. Every year from May to October, we send six parcels full of specially chosen books, stationary, and maths games to children registered for Letterbox Club. I also interview authors for the Book Trust website and help out with projects like YALC.

How did you get started working with Book Trust? Did you do any work experience?

I moved to London from Hong Kong because I wanted to get a job in books, ideally at a literacy charity. I spent four long months applying for any and every book or publishing related job that I was marginally qualified for…and getting a lot of rejections!

I found my first role at Book Trust through a publishing recruitment company. It was originally a 3 month role for one project, and when that project came to an end, Book Trust offered me a position with The Letterbox Club team! Prior to working at Book Trust I had a very different job, I was Director of Sales for a company that helped hotels manage their online reputation. But even while I was doing that job full time, I always made sure to be volunteering or interning with a book related organisation so I could have relevant experience on my CV.

 You’re also a writer yourself (with the same editor and agent as me! Hurray!). Does this affect your ‘day job’ and vice versa?

Our agent and editor clearly have excellent taste 🙂

I have to be really good at managing my time—especially when I’m on deadline! I try and write every day, usually in the evenings.

I’m lucky because I get to see a different side of publishing. With my Book Trust hat on, I mostly work with publicists and special sales directors, and with my writing hat on, so far I’ve mostly worked with my wonderful editor! It is really great to see how excited a sales director gets when one of their books is selected for a programme.

 What’s your favourite part of your job?

Definitely getting feedback from the children in Letterbox Club. It is so wonderful when they send a postcard letting us know that they loved the books that they received, or when a carer or local authority emails us to let us know that the books are really making a difference. And I love when I get to work with authors, whether that is working with an author to get additional content for the parcels, or interviewing an author for the main Book Trust site.

What do you hope to see happen in Children’s publishing in the future?

More diversity! Yes, we need diverse books, and I do think that there has been a lot of progress in this area, especially in UKYA, but we also need diverse creators and diverse publishers.

What are some of your favourite children’s books now and from your childhood?

18131A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle is one of my all-time favourites. More recent favourites include Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, The Raven Boys series by Maggie Steifvater,  Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell, Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine, and the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens. And Harry Potter, of course. And I love Cerrie Burnell’s picture books. And anything by Frances Hardinge…this is too hard!

And there is this awesome book called The Next Together…you might have heard of it 🙂

 What are you proudest of in your career?

In my writing career, signing with Claire Wilson, who was my dream literary agent, is my proudest moment so far!

At Book Trust, it has to be a tie between working with Katherine Woodfine on YALC this year and whenever I get a chance to meet some of the children who receive Letterbox Club parcels and see how much the parcels mean to them.

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into publishing?

Be persistent! The most important thing is to get your foot in the door, even if it is a short-term contract or in a department you aren’t super interested in, you never know what other opportunities can come from it. And don’t be scared to put yourself out there! Reach out to people you admire and ask if you can take them to coffee to find out how they got to where they are.

And don’t get discouraged! You’ll get there!

As someone who has lived in many (MANY) countries, what do you think in particular is unique about the UK publishing industry and UKYA?

UKYA is so welcoming and friendly! I remember being really nervous when I went to my first event, especially before I had an agent. I wasn’t an author or a blogger…I was just there as a reader who wanted to meet other people who liked books…and everyone was SO nice.  It really feels like such a community, but not an exclusive one, a really welcoming one. It is a wonderful thing to be a part of!

katieKatherine Webber is originally from California but currently lives in London. She spent four years living in Hong Kong and has also lived in Atlanta, GA and Hawaii.

She loves an adventure, whether it is found in a book or in real life. Travel, books, and eating out are her favourite indulgences.

Her debut YA novel, WING JONES, will be published in January 2017 by Walker Books in the UK and Delacorte/Random House in the US.

You can follow her on twitter at @kwebberwrites or her website.

Behind the Book: Translators Franca Fritz and Heinrich Koop

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

I have a very exciting interview this week! I’m talking to two of the foreign translators of The Next Together! Franca and Hein are a married couple who work together to translate texts into German for publication. As they are currently working hard to turn all of my ‘that’s what she said’ jokes into something that makes sense auf deutsch – which is definitely a formidable task – I knew I had to ask them how they do it!

What does your job involve?

Our job involves reading, translating and localising all sorts of texts – e.g. marketing letters, manuals, non-fiction and fiction – from a source language into a target language, in our case English and Dutch into our mother tongue German.

(Never the other way round, because English and Dutch are not our native languages and we will not be able to translate a German text into a foreign language as good as a native speaker of English or Dutch).

By the way: Our sincere apologies for all language mistakes and typos we are going to make while answering these questions.

How did you get started in translation? Did you do any work experience?

We started translating while still studying foreign languages at the University of Cologne: We did some test translations for a publishing house in Cologne. They were happy with our work and gave us our first contracts. Our translating work evolved from there and let to setting up our translation agency in 1988.

How does working in a team with another translator affect your work?

Since we are not only partners in business but also a married couple we have to be very careful while discussing translation issues. A »fight« over the question where to put a comma (and where not!) can easily run out of hand and affect the evening at home …

On the plus side: you have always someone to review a text and to re-enact love scenes 😉

How do you approach translating things that are specific to a certain language – like idioms, jokes and metaphors?

We intend to »rescue« as much as possible, but some jokes – especially puns and play on words – just don’t work in another language. So we try we build in these kind of specific aspects at other parts of the text, so that in the end the »sum« of idioms, jokes and metaphors is still the same.

Would different translators approach translating a text in unique ways? How do you think that this changes the finished work?

Give a text to 10 translators and you’ll get 10 different translations – especially since German lends itself to a quite flexible sentence construction. But they all strive to stay true to the original as much as possible!

How has the experience been of translating The Next Together so far? How do you approach translating the epistolary elements of the book?

The Next Together is quite demanding to translate, because you’ll find three (or four) different periods of time – 1745, 1854 and 2019/2039 – and they all require an appropriate style of speech. So we have to jump between an »old fashioned« way of talking and a very modern way of expressing oneself including internet slang and abbreviations.

Is there anything you would like to see happen more in the future of the publishing industry?

Well, we can’t speak for the publishing industry in general, but for translators a closer working relationship with living authors (obviously) would help a lot. And a bit more recognition for translators and their work couldn’t hurt either 😉

What are some of your favourite translated books? Are there any books you’d love to see translated which haven’t been?

That is really hard to say. Of course all books we have translated during the last twenty odd years are our »babies« and we love them all.
And we would love to see an English translation of a new series of children’s book by German writer Sonja Kaiblinger: »Scary Harry«.

It is about a Grim Reaper (Harold who is fed up with his job) and his young friends Otto and Emily (and their pet bat named Vincent) solving all sorts of mysteries, e.g. who kidnapped the ghosts which were living in Otto’s house? The story and characters are really funny and cute and not at all creepy!

What advice do you have for anyone looking to get into translation?

Of course you should have a passion for foreign languages (and the culture of other countries and all other aspects of daily life there), but much more important is a love for your own mother tongue. A lot of people tend to forget: It is not enough to be rather good at a foreign language, you need to have a solid foundation in your own tongue in order to be able to translate all kind of texts and stay true to different styles.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure? Which language do you prefer to read in?

Since we read a lot for our work, reading books for pleasure has changed for us: First of all we need to find time to squeeze in any reading that is not work related. And secondly it is hard not to think about the question whether the book might lend itself for translation. We are always on the lookout for new exciting manuscripts.

There isn’t any language we prefer to read in. If we do speak the language we prefer to read the original. If we pick a book which has been written in a language we can not make sense of we take the German translation. For us it is the easiest way to get to know the content and to get an impression of the style of the author (hopefully).

francaFheinranca Fritz and Heinrich Koop have been translating for more than 25 years. They have translated in excess of 200 books as well as working for several well-known German and international clients from a wide range of sectors. They live in a small village on the Isle of Man. You can find them on their website at:

The German edition of The Next Together will be published by Loewe Verlag in 2016.