David Linker is an executive editor at HarperCollins. He agreed to answer a few questions about becoming a publisher, the business, and how artists should approach their dreams of publication. For artists who want to publish comics, this interview is offers brief but very useful insight into publishing from someone who knows its well.
How did you get into the publishing business?
I started with a dream of being a full-time writer myself. I got my Master’s in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. I’d been working part-time teaching SAT prep to make ends meet while I was doing my graduate work, and I was able to parlay that into a job developing workbooks and other titles for The Princeton Review. From there, I went to Disney Publishing, where I was the Executive Managing Editor, then to InnovativeKids, where I was the Editorial Director, and then here, HarperCollins, where I’m an Executive Editor on the children’s books team.
As you can see from my trajectory, there’s no one path to getting into publishing. A lot of people get post-graduate degrees in publishing. It’s a great way to learn the business. Some land summer internships to get started. And others, like me, take a more circuitous route. The key is to have a passion for reading and book-selling. If you love it and really want to do it, I believe you’ll find a way in.
Who have you worked with/what have you published?
I’ve been fortunate to work with a wide variety of talented writers and illustrators. I’ve worked with comic artist Mark Parisi on his new series Marty Pants, with bestselling author Peter Lerangis on his Seven Wonders and Max Tilt series, with award-winning author Ridley Pearson on Lock & Key, with screenwriter Ron McGee on Ryan Quinn, with James Dean on Pete the Cat, Mike Berenstain on the Berenstain Bears series, Ross Burach on his hilarious new picture book “I Am Not a Chair” and many many more. I try to keep a variety of titles in a wide range of titles on my list. Keeps life interesting.
The publisher’s perspective
How does a publisher search for the next big opportunity?
Reading. That may seem like a facile answer, but I try to read everything I can get my hands on. There’s no better next big thing than a truly great book.
The trick is to know what you want to accomplish and not to evaluate every book by the same standard.
What metrics or indicators do you look for in gauging potential success?
It varies from book to book. Some books you hope to sell a lot of copies, some you hope for great reviews, some you pitch to a specific audience and you hope it resonates with them. The trick is to know what you want to accomplish and not to evaluate every book by the same standard.
Where do you see print publishing in ten years’ time now that electronic media is so widespread?
If anything, I’m more encouraged about the viability of printed books now than I have been in a long time. I think people like reading ink on paper. I feel confident that in ten years, people will still want to read printed books. How they buy books may change radically, but I think readers will be buying paper books for a long time.
Publishing advice for artists, from an editor
What’s the best way for a cartoonist to reach out to a publisher for a deal?
Get an agent. There’s lots of great resources for finding a literary agent whether through the Author’s Guild or through SCBWI or other organizations. But finding an agent who’s willing to represent your book with publishers is the best first step to getting published.
What does the general timeline of a book deal look like?
It depends, but generally, it takes about 18-24 months from the time a book is acquired until it comes out in print.
Unless you’re writing a memoir, life is just inspiration. Use it, but don’t be a slave to it.
What are some red flags creators should look out for in a publishing deal?
No one should ever charge you to read your manuscript. If someone asks you to pay them to read your book before they’ll consider it, they’re likely not very reputable.
What are the biggest mistakes new authors can make when putting together their first book?
Thinking that just because it really happened a certain way means that’s the way the story needs to be told. Unless you’re writing a memoir, life is just inspiration. Use it, but don’t be a slave to it.
If someone asks you to pay them to read your book before they’ll consider it, they’re likely not very reputable.
What resources would you recommend to aspiring artists?
Read. Read. Read. Read everything you can – from the great novels to airport fiction. Every story can teach you something. Every book has a secret. There is a lesson to be learned in everything you read.
David Linker is an Executive Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books. He’s worked with bestselling authors and illustrators such as Peter Lerangis, RL Stine, Ridley Pearson, Kelly Clarkson, Kid President, James Dean, and Rob Scotton to name a few and landed more than two dozen books on the New York Times bestseller lists. David is a graduate of Oberlin College and holds an MA from Johns Hopkins University’s creative writing program. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, two sons, and a goldfish named Racer (who never actually seems to move).
Thanks to David Linker for taking the time to answer these questions.
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