Interview With Alessandra Balzer, Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray!

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When Alessandra Balzer was fresh out of Colgate University, where she majored in French Literature and minored in English, she took her first job at HarperCollins as an editorial assistant. Years later she would become co-publisher of her own imprint at the same company. Balzer and Donna Bray, a fellow HarperCollins colleague, were both experienced and eager to become entrepreneurs. In 2008, they launched Balzer + Bray. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy, The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth, Beyond the Pond, authored and illustrated by Joseph Kuefler, I Am Enough by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah Ariel and Leah on The OffBeat by Becky Albertalli are among just the few of the New York Times bestselling, critically-acclaimed and award-winning titles that Balzer + Bray have published.  Many of these titles have also become feature films, including The Hate U Give, which is slated to hit the big screens in October. “We like to do books that are risk-taking, when it’s appropriate, and when it offers a new voice and perspective,” Balzer told So Booking Cool.

Balzer is excited for the forthcoming titles at her company, including Kheryn Callender‘s second book and first YA novel, This Is Kind of An Epic Love Story (due in the fall) and writer and screenwriter Ben Philippe‘s Field Guide to the North American Teenager. “Thank goodness we’re finally seeing more different voices represented in children’s books and we have a long way to go still,” Balzer said. “[Field Guide] is an important book because it’s about a black boy having love stories, friendships, and drama, like anyone else. And I feel like we need a lot more of those.”

Balzer, whose publishing career spans 24 years (including a tenure at Disney Hyperion), worked under the tutelage of Katherine Tegen (Katherine Tegen Books, HarperCollins) and Nancy Siscoe (Knopf Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House). She went on to edit titles that became National Book Award Finalists (Sold by Patricia McCormick, The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich; Clementine by Sara Pennypacker and Marla Frazee)  Caldecott Honors (Mo Willems),and Newbery Medal-winner Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi, to name a few.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about publishing, Balzer’s advice for aspiring book editors, such as the pros and cons of specializing in one genre and being involved in multiple genres, the inspiration behind of I Am Not Enough, her favorite projects, and more! For more information, follow the co-publisher on Twitter.

Interview With Emma Dryden, Founder and Principal of drydenbks!

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When Emma Dryden was among the many publishing professionals who got laid off in 2009, she allowed herself time to regroup and ultimately took matters into her own hands. Just a year later, the praised drydenbks was launched. Dryden utilized her expertise and connections as a longtime publisher at Simon and Schuster and founded her own consultancy service for children’s books, in which she supports authors, illustrators, publishers, and agents. Her clients also include those thinking of joining the consultancy field. In other words, she still gets to live her passion every day, and has now worked in the industry for more than 30 years.

P1050536Emma posing with her book What Does it Mean to be an Entrepreneur? that she co-wrote with by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Ken Min

“I urge people not to undervalue themselves,” Dryden told So Booking Cool.

The English graduate’s books have been awarded by many including a John Newbery Medal and Honor, Caldecott, three Coretta Scott King awards (author, author honor and illustration), New York Times Best Illustrated Award and Edgar Allan Poe, just to name a few. She credits the authors she’s worked with for these honors. In addition to running her company, Dryden is also an author and speaker, and hopes to expand into the podcast world.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about drydenbks and how you can become a client or start your own consultant business, perseverance, her thoughts on children’s television, the mistakes she made earlier on in her career as an editor, her favorite adult series, and more! For more information visit her website.