by Alyson Heller

As I dodged shoppers last Friday at my local mall, I came to realize that trying to find that next “big thing” in publishing is like to trying to find a great pair of shoes on sale—really hard to do, may cause some panic attacks, but once in a while, you will find the perfect fit.

We editors have a love/hate relationship with that “thrill of the hunt”—with every email from an agent, we hope that once we click open the attachment or email, there will be a pitch or manuscript so amazing, we will have to stop our day to read and convince our powers-to-be to let us acquire it. Most of the time, it isn’t quite what we are looking for—it might not be our taste, or in line with our house publishing strategy—but every once in a while, there is a pitch or idea that makes us pause our day.

For me, I always have that gut feeling—much like that fabulous piece of jewelry that draws your eye, I just know that I absolutely have to try to make sure that particular manuscript gets to stay with me, knowing that I would be so very bummed out if I couldn’t work on the project. There’s usually a unique hook—an idea that hasn’t been done over and over and over again—or a character that I immediately fall in love with that triggers that feeling. I also try to see if there is something timeless about the story; a book that you know readers will think is still relevant to their world 10 years from now—the little black dress of publishing, so to speak.

Of course, love for the idea isn’t enough to propel that manuscript into something that can go directly from my in-box to the local bookstore. Even though this may have caught my eye, I need to make sure that the story ultimately can fit into the overall marketplace and fit in with our list. That means a revision or two (sometimes 3!), making sure that the author shares our vision for their project, and coordinating the best PR possible for the title.

Though writing may seem like a solitary endeavor, the editing process is a team effort, and one of the great joys I have with my job. Even though it can be daunting, that chase, that knowledge that another fantastic story for kids could be sitting with me (or a member of my terrific team), is what keeps me going—and what makes this crazy, wonderful, unpredictable world of publishing so great. There’s nothing like finally seeing that finished product hit the shelves—and knowing that book will hopefully be someone’s perfect fit.

Alyson is an assistant editor with Aladdin Books, a kid-centric imprint featuring titles with strong commercial appeal for readers of all ages up to tween.

Alyson was part of the S&S Associate’s Program before landing her job with the Aladdin imprint and becoming part of a wonderful team. Alyson works on everything from picture books through middle-grade novels. She has had the privilege of working with some fantastic authors (and agents!) during her time with S&S. Some new and upcoming titles that she has edited or co-edited include Just Add Magic by Cindy Callaghan, Odd Girl In by Jo Whittemore, Sprinkles and Secrets by Lisa Schroeder, Cold Case by Julia Platt Leonard, The Monstore by Tara Lazar and I Loathe You by David Slonim.

In addition to her love for reading and writing, Alyson is also a huge fan of traveling, baking, eating things that are bad for you, awful reality t.v., and all things sparkly. She currently lives in Connecticut.

Simon & Schuster has generously donated several picture book prizes for PiBoIdMo. Winners for the titles below will be announced on December 4th, randomly selected from those who completed the 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge. Thanks to Alyson and Simon & Schuster for the prizes!