Thursday, August 18, 2016

From Submission to Offer with Alison Weiss

I'm thrilled to share my interview with Alison Weiss, an editor at Sky Pony Press. I got to pick her brain about Sarah S. Reida's MONSTERVILLE: A LISSA BLACK PRODUCTION, which comes out on September 20, but we're giving away a signed copy right here. DETAILS ON THAT GIVEAWAY ARE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE POST, but in the meantime, enjoy the interview!

KV: First off, tell us a bit about MONSTERVILLE. What is it about, and what did you love about it?

AW: If I had to give a one-liner for Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production, I'd call it Boxtrolls meets Jumanji meets Goonies meets Candyland. The novel stars Lissa, who's moved from New York City to Freeburg, PA--a town that might as well be the miiddle of nowhere. Lissa dreams of being a famous actor, writer, and director, and that's just not going to happen in this small town. And then, walking in the woods, she runs into a very mixed up monster. And what do you do with a monster? Make monster movies of course! It's Lissa's ticket to fame and fortune! But when her little sister is taken to the monster realm, Lissa will have to venture Down Below to stage a rescue and become something else--an epic hero.

I fell for Monsterville because it's just brimming with heart. Lissa is a total fish out of water, and she's also a little bit of a snob at the beginning o f the book. But that comes out of a sense of a worry that all of her friends from back in New York will move on without her, and I just couldn't help but feel for her. And I couldn't help but love Sarah's characters. In addition to LIssa, Blue (our beloved monster) and Haylie (Lissa's little sister) and Adam (the ever-prepared soon-to-be-friend) have such wonderful, warm, personalities. They really feel like living beings to me.

KV: Do you recall how quickly you read Ms. Reida's manuscript? Is that pretty typical of your response times, or do those vary?

AW: I really can't remember how long it took me to read Monsterville. Sarah would probably say too long. I try to be prompt on manuscript reading, but there are so many manuscripts and only one me, and despite best intentions, editing and life sometimes get in the way. I try to get back in a month, but I know I miss that more often than I'd like. I never mind a gentle nudge, though. And I try to respond on everything. Even if it's been an eon. 

KV: Once you decided to take MONSTERVILLE to your acquisitions meeting/editorial board, did you inform Ms. Reida’s agent of your interest in the manuscript? Do you typically keep in contact with the agent throughout the process, or do you prefer to have a final decision in hand before you reach out?

AW: Acquisitions at Sky Pony goes a little bit differently than it does at some other houses. We don't have a formal acquisitions board. But we still have to make our case to our editorial director if we'd like to take on a project. In the case of Monsterville, I think I let the agent know I was taking the project to acquisitions. In general, though, I try to play my cards pretty close to my chest. I'll let agents know if I'm reading and really loving something--you don't want them to go take a pre-empt on something you're head-over-heels for--but there's always a strong possibility that an agent will go drumming up other interest if they know you're interested. I guess I decide the best approach with each project. And sometimes that means having to stop my hand from rattling off a gushing email to an agent until I'm ready to go.

KV: How did you prepare to bring MONSTERVILLE to your editorial director?

AW: I put together a pitch for the book thinking about questions like: Where would I position this in the market? Why is it a good prospect for the Sky Pony list? What are some comparable titles and how did they sell? I had a conversation wit my editorial director, as well. I think she read a little bit of the manuscript before we moved it on to the next stage.

KV: How did you present your offer to Ms. Reida's agent, and what was that conversation like?

AW: I think I just sent her a gushing offer letter and the terms I was offering. And we did a little bit of negotiation on terms and then moved forward.

KV: I know Sky Pony Press is open to unagented submissions, so what other kinds of stories are you looking for?

AW: I tend to have quite eclectic tastes. I like to edit all sorts of books across a list. In middle grade, I always love stories that have a lot of heart and a bit of a classic feel, while still resonating with a contemporary audience. Books like Circus Mirandus and The Penderwicks and Savvy. In YA, I love a sweeping romance--I'd especially love a sweeping Southern Gothic. And across the board I really enjoy spies and assassins and thieves--but the Robin Hood-types. You have to have a crook with a heart of gold.

KV: What's the best way to submit to you?

AW: The easiest way to submit to me if you're unagented is to follow the submission guidelines on Sky Pony's website. You can email

Thank you for these helpful answers, Ms. Weiss! It's really nice to know that at least one editor likes to play her cards close to her chest:)

And now on to the giveaway for a signed copy of MONSTERVILLE! To enter, leave a comment below that includes your e-mail address. This contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents and closes in two weeks, on Thursday, September 1, at 11:59 p.m. EST (or 8:59 p.m. PST). I'll announce the winners the next day!


Beware what lurks beneath your bed. . . . It could lead to a monstrous adventure.

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is anything but happy when her parents force her to move from New York City, the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress, to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s not much for Lissa to do there, except play Monsterville, a Candyland-esque quest to survive, which Lissa’s little sister, Haylie, has becomed obsessed with, and hang out with her new neighbor, Adam, who is intent to prove to her that Freeburg is a great place to live.

But even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring when a trek into the woods lands her face-to-face with a sea monster looking for brains to eat and then a Sasquatch that moos! With Adam’s help, she discovers a monster secret . . . or maybe just a monster: a poor little goblin they name Blue, who’s fled the world Down Below, desperate to decide on his scary form.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? You make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and Blue must ventrure Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice.


Candice Conner said...

Yay for Sarah and Alison! This book sounds so good, thanks for giving us a little insight on the behind-the-scenes in acquisition. I can't wait to read Monsterville and would love a chance at this giveaway!

Unknown said...

Very interesting interview. And the book sounds great. I'd love to read it to my kids. rchancock (at gmail).

Anonymous said...

Great interview! It's nice to hear that Ms. Weiss considers unagented work. Monsterville sounds awesome!