This is the fifth in a series of posts about the 2008 Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-on-One Mentoring Conference. Click the RUCCL tag above to read them all.

How does a manuscript become a book? Four RUCCL mentors offered their experience from four unique perspectives:

Chad Beckerman, Molly ONeill, Lisa Cheng, Lisa Ann Sandell

Chad Beckerman, Molly O'Neill, Lisa Cheng, Lisa Sandell

  • Lisa Ann Sandell is a Senior Editor with Scholastic, but she has also written three young adult novels, so she answered wearing her published-author hat.
  • Lisa Cheng, Associate Editor at Margaret K. McElderry Books, talked to us an editor who has fallen in love with a new manuscript and wants to take it further.
  • Molly O’Neill from The Bowen Press came to the editorial side from school library marketing and has a knack for looking beyond the artsy part of writing to the business part.
  • Chad Beckerman of Abrams BFYR and Amulet Books presented the art direction angle (and made us laugh).

My mentor, agent Alyssa Eisner Henkin, introduced the panel. There she is. She is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. I’ve never seen someone smile so much when giving constructive criticism!

First up was the extraordinarily talented Lisa Ann Sandell. She had an idea for a novel brewing in her head for seven years, so she finally sat down to write it. When she finished, she polished it up and sent it out to agents. She received revision requests from an agent, took a few months to revise, and sent it back out.

Let me pause for a moment and fast-forward to the five-on-five discussion I had later that day. Editor Erin Molta cautioned us against submitting a revision request the very next day. “Umm, did you even think about it?” Erin said, recalling when a writer got back to her too quickly. Note how Lisa took a few months. I know we’ll be extremely fired up once we get that request, but take the time to consider the editor’s suggestions. Don’t rush it. If they’re interested now, they’ll be interested in a few months.

Back to Lisa. She was asked to revise again, so she did. And then her agent sent it out. When the book sold to Viking within a few weeks (WOW!), there was more editing to do. Not only did her editor present her with a line edit to smooth out the language, there were the copyeditor’s marks, too. She had to address both sets of comments. “Because I’m an editor, I can be a little more easy going about this process than others,” she said.

In conclusion, don’t expect the final draft of your manuscript to be the final. There will be more revisions necessary as you secure your dream agent and sell to the publisher. But remember, everyone who has a hand in the revision process has the same goal as you: to make your book the best it can possibly be.

Lisa Cheng is up next in another post! Stay tuned!