Monday, June 30, 2008

Allyn Johnston on Her New Simon & Schuster Imprint...

After more than two decades working at Harcourt (most recently as VP and editorial director), Allyn Johnston was relieved of her position after a corporate merger between Harcourt and Houghton Mifflin. But before she seemingly had time to pack up her office, it was announced that Johnston would be heading up a new imprint--she joined Simon & Schuster as vice president and publisher of a not-quite-named imprint (more on that below) under which she'll publish mostly picture books out of San Diego. Here Johnston talks a little about this new phase in her long and successful editorial career.

Your imprint with Simon & Schuster was announced almost immediately after you left Harcourt. Is it something you’d been considering? How did it come about so quickly?

I hadn’t been considering another job because I’d been told by Houghton that I’d still have one, even though they had decided to close the San Diego Harcourt office. Then my job was eliminated in March, and Rubin Pfeffer, Senior Vice President and Publisher at Simon & Schuster, called immediately.

After working at Harcourt for more than two decades, what’s it like doing something else? Weird? Liberating? Weirdly liberating? How has that transition been for you?

In a word, it’s been like freefall.

Will you have additional editors working with you?

Yes, Andrea Welch, with whom I worked for more than eight years at Harcourt, will be joining the imprint on July 14—and I can’t wait!

You haven’t named your imprint yet. Why did you choose not to simply go with Allyn Johnston Books? What type of name do you have in mind?

We wanted the imprint name to reflect our west-coasty-ness rather than be tied to my name. But you would not believe what a challenge it’s been to find one with the perfect simplicity and spirit and tone that wasn’t already taken! (Or didn’t sound like a Hallmark card or, worse, a real estate office.)

We do have a name now, and I wish I could tell you what it is, but I don’t want to risk jinxing it. (What I can say is we’re gonna be located in a second-floor studio space on a flower-filled lane about a block from the beach.)

Is there a philosophy behind your imprint? Tell me about what sort of books you want to publish. Are there certain qualities you’re looking for?

We want our list to be made up of the kinds of books that people buy multiple copies of and give over and over again at birthday parties.

Are you open to unsolicited submissions?

Unfortunately, we will not be able to accept unsolicited submissions.

How many books will you be publishing and when do you estimate the first book under your imprint will be released?

We’ll be publishing about 18-20 books a year, and the list will be officially launched in Summer 09 (though three books will be coming out in Spring 09). The imprint will mostly be a picture-book list, though we’ll also publish an occasional middle-grade and YA novel. Among the authors and illustrators on our list will be Mem Fox, Marla Frazee, Lois Ehlert, Douglas Florian, Cynthia Rylant, Debra Frasier, M. T. Anderson, and many others, both new and recognized.


Editor Cassandra said...

This is off topic but I couldn't find anything on google to help me out and so i'm depending on your expert knowledge:

i have a couple of small things published in the chapbook of my undergratduate school . This is not put out by a publishing house, but is printed on and the college has it copywrited under them There is no ISBN number. Does this mean that these things are technically "published"?

Carly said...

I will jump in here, but EA should feel free to correct me if anything I say is errant.

Cassie, since Lulu is a self-publishing/POD service, it's not generally considered a "publishing company" for purposes of a query or manuscript submission.

A tricky way to get around that is to say something like, "I am the author of two stories accepted to Twinkie University's Forever Preserved anthology."

Carly said...

Oops, did I write EA? I meant Alice. I'm getting my blogs mixed up... it's too early in the morning!

Editor Cassandra said...

Thanks for your input, Carly.

Thing is, I would like for them to NOT be published... I want to submit a short story to a literary magazine that will not accept stuff that has been previously published. If it's going in a university anthology, should I just cut my losses and write something else to submit, or will this "not considered a publishing company" thing allow me to submit it elsewhere?

Carly said...

Cassie... honestly, in that instance, I suppose I would just contact the literary magazine directly and ask what their policy is regarding self-published work. That will save you the time and effort of submitting something that might be automatically rejected. It couldn't hurt to write something new and just send that in, though. Your call!

JoAnne said...

Do you still own the rights to your stories? You said "the college has it copywrited under them." If so, you will have to get permission from the college before it can be printed in the literary magazine.