Interview with Josh Plattner, Editor at Scarletta

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By Paul Czajak

Today I have the pleasure of introducing to you Josh Plattner, Senior Editor at Scarletta. He has graciously agreed to take time out of his busy schedule and answer a few questions about himself and the publishing world. Now, for full disclosure I have to say that Josh is my editor for the Monster&Me™ series as well as for Seaver the Weaver, a new picture book due April 2015. So you may see some subtle self-promotion.

Now on to the interview.

Q: Why did you decide to become an editor in the children’s book industry? And don’t say because Scarletta hired me.
I’d love to not say “because Scarletta hired me,” but it’s sort of the truth! Ha! Well, I suppose there is more to the story. I’ve always, always been a book lover. My mother owned an indie bookstore when I was younger and I never stood a chance against the bite of the book bug. My love of books held strong throughout high school and college, but it wasn’t until my senior year at Gustavus Adolphus College that I realized working in a bookish industry made a lot of sense for me. After moving to Minneapolis, I was fortunate to find an editorial internship at Scarletta and discovered that working with children’s books was a very natural fit for my skill set and passions.

Q. As an editor, what is the biggest mistake that aspiring picture book writers tend to make?
Overwriting. OVERWRITING. PAUL, OVERWRITING IS A BIG ISSUE! There’s nothing more frustrating, to me, than receiving submissions for children’s picture books that are wrought with exposition. Picture books have the intrinsic advantage of illustration, which means that so much of your story can be told through pictures, animation, expression, etc. So many authors don’t quite grasp how to utilize reduction as a very successful editorial technique. Scarletta puts out very graphic, loudly illustrated picture books: there’s no reason to bog your manuscripts down with superfluous words, sentences, or paragraphs.

I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps next time I will conduct the entire interview solely with illustrations!
Q. What trends do you see in publishing?
Have you heard of e-books? Apparently they’re sort of a big deal. Electronic publishing is what all the kids are talking about these days. But seriously, as far as children’s picture books, there are two major concerns I think that the industry as a whole is trying to address. The first major shift is the Common Core State Standards for schools [in English / Language Arts and Mathematics] that have been adopted by [45 out of] 50 states. Publishers have to be very conscious that their titles are falling within the range of approved material for CCSS so that schools, parents, educators, etc. will pay attention to their publications. If you aren’t finding ways to make your books relevant to these measures, you’re falling behind. The second huge issue–which is not necessarily new–is the ever-declining reading rates with young boys. Kids just aren’t interested in reading as much these days as they have been in the past. Many blame the prevalence and availability of exciting technology to engage kids and pull them away from books and, unfortunately, literacy. I think finding that right material to get boys hooked on reading from a very early age is the only way to offset this trend, and to do that, you have to find something that’s more or equally exciting than their other options. That’s one challenge that’s particularly tricky.

Q. What upcoming Monster-related book releases are you especially excited about? Okay, okay, also non-Monster-related.
Well of course I am more than excited for Monster Needs His Sleep. It’s equally as delightful as Monster Needs a Costume, and I actually got to work on the text of this one. I am also thrilled for If An Armadillo Went To A Restaurant by Ellen Fischer, a spring picture book about animals’ eating habits. The illustrations from Laura Wood are so charming. The first book I’ve had a heavy editorial hand in, The Shark Whisperer by Ellen Prager, is also seeing publication in spring 2014. It’s a great season to be at Scarletta.

Q. The big question: With all the submissions you have read and seeing what is on the market now, what kind of story are you missing? What do you wish someone would send to you? What are you sick of seeing?
We’re missing a NYT Bestseller, of course! We have great authors, exceptional stories, dynamic illustrators: we just need a little more recognition for our quality work. We’re not missing a great story–we have those in spades–but I wish we’d find some great outlets for our work.

I am SICK of seeing rhyming picture books with bad meter and rhyme. Ugh. Is there anything worse? No. No, there’s not.

Well, the scratch-and-sniff version of Everyone Poops was pretty bad. Luckily they re-designed it before it made it to print.

Q. Final question. Paul Czajak: great picture book author or greatest picture book author? Take as much time as you need to answer that.
I’ll choose the latter, I guess. 🙂

Thanks, Josh, for answering my questions, and I will get going writing that NYT Bestseller. I just wished you could have asked me sooner.

For those wishing to submit potential NYT Bestsellers, Scarletta is open to unsolicited submissions from September 1st to June 1st using their online submission manager, Submittable. Read the descriptions to choose the most appropriate imprint for your work: Scarletta Kids, Scarletta Junior Readers, or Scarletta Press.

Read the Scarletta blog.
Follow Scarletta on Twitter @Scarletta_Kids and @ScarlettaPress.

9 comments

  1. Terrific interview, full of humor and good information. The publishing trends are particularly helpful. And any publisher who vetoes a scratch and sniff version of Everyone Poops is aces in my book!

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  2. I love your sense of humor, Paul. And there’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion. It comes with the territory. And I love Scarletta Press and appreciate getting to “meet” Josh Plattner. Now on that overwriting issue…as a former teacher working with common core standards, we want to have a balance in our picture book of beautiful language and all kinds of lessons teachers of elementary students can use with their students. I always read my fourth graders longer picture books. I tend to write those now myself.

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