Julie Scheina is a freelance editor of children’s and young adult fiction. As Senior Editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, she worked with talented authors and artists on books for ages 0–18+. Since founding Julie Scheina Editorial Services, she has collaborated with debut and bestselling authors, as well as publishers, packagers and agents. During her career, she has edited numerous acclaimed and bestselling books for children and teens, including #1 New York Times bestsellers, a Lambda Literary Award finalist, a William C. Morris Young Adult Debut Award finalist and an Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy nominee.
Tell us a bit about how you work as an editor.
One of the things I love about being an independent editor is that I get to work on a wide variety of children’s and young adult projects at different stages of the writing and publication process – from concept to draft to submission to publication. On any given day, I might be preparing a critique on a completed manuscript and query letter; sending detailed line edits to a publisher; reviewing queries for a literary agent; brainstorming with an author about a tricky plot point for a novel in progress; working with an author on sales copy; or sharing developmental editorial notes with an author and agent before a book goes out on submission to publishers. In general, my work begins with a close reading of the manuscript, followed by editorial feedback and discussion, which can take different forms depending on the project and the author’s needs. My goal is to share feedback in the way that is most helpful to each author’s creative process; some authors prefer receiving editorial notes via a traditional letter, while others find line edits, phone conversations or a combination of all of the above more helpful.
You’ve edited some incredible award-winning YA books across different genres. Can you identify common elements among the most successful publications?
I don’t think there is a single element that can ensure a novel’s success, though publishers’ jobs would certainly be a lot easier if that were the case! That said, while many novels speak to universal themes and relatable experiences (e.g. falling in love or dealing with loss), the most successful books that I’ve edited address these themes in a distinctive way, filtered through the authors’ specific perspective, experiences and voice. Often books can feel overly inspired by current bestsellers and trends, which makes it all the more refreshing to read a story that surprises you – whether by turning a genre or trope on its head, threading seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive story, introducing an original world or using an unexpected voice or perspective. Helping authors to fully utilise the unique elements in their work is one of my favourite parts of the editorial process.
What makes great selling promotional copy for YA titles?
Effective copy is a balancing act of revealing just the right amount of information to give readers a sense of the story, while also leaving them curious and eager to read more. A book’s copy can also suggest what the reading experience will be like – suspenseful, emotional, romantic, etc. – in order to help the book find its audience.
What are you primarily looking for when you are asked to evaluate manuscripts for agents?
In addition to looking for projects that are a good fit for an agent’s list and tastes, I look for many of the same qualities mentioned above – compelling and original elements that will help to distinguish this story in the marketplace, whether in concept, voice, world, characters, perspective, etc.
Tell us about a forthcoming YA book you’re excited about.
Corrie Wang’s fantastic debut novel, The Takedown; it’s a thought-provoking and compulsively readable thriller that has been described as M.T. Anderson’s Feed meets Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars. And I can’t wait to read the fantasy Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, which was recently announced. It’s not publishing until 2018, but I’ve already heard high praise for the manuscript from editors and agents.
Can you spot any future YA trends on the horizon?
Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a single genre or category in YA that’s trending, though contemporary and fantasy have both been doing well. I believe we’ll see more novels inspired by the current political climate, and while I wouldn’t call it a trend, I think that diversity is going to continue to be a focus for the publishing industry as agents and publishers increase their efforts to reach out to a wider range of voices.