Jennifer Rees, Scholastic

UPDATE, September, 2011: Harold Underdown reports, “Scholastic Press editor Jennifer Rees is leaving the company. She tells me: “I’m expecting my third child and have decided to move into freelance editing.”

One main reason to attend a national conference is to meet editors, listen to how they describe their lists, and find out what they are looking for. Attendees are usually offered an opportunity to submit for a short period of time, even if the house policy is no unsolicited manuscripts.

Needs Books that Inspire this Response

If you have a book that makes others say, “You’ve got to read this book!”, then Jennifer Rees, Editor at Scholastic Press wants to see it. More than other editors, she comes at this enterprise as an enthusiastic reader who only wants to connect your story with many more readers. Smart, articulate and savvy describes her presentation.

Genre almost doesn’t matter to Rees, as long as the story is making a connection with the reader; for those stories, Rees wants to make an editorial connection with the author and help him/her grow.

She grew up on a Pittsburg farm, has an English degree, and worked for several years at an independent book store where she literally hand-sold books with the comment, “You’ve got to read this book!” Her five-year-old son finally realized that she helps make books and told her, “That’s cool! But not as cool as Batman!”

Scholastic’s Submission Policy: Agented submissions only.

Because she pays little attention to genre, instead, she provided this list of what she’s looking for:

  1. Distinctive voice
  2. Memorable, real, believable characters. She wants to know them inside and out.
  3. Something that aims to set its own trends. (She sees far too many Harry Potter and Twilight ripoffs.)
  4. Story that keeps her guessing — in a good way.
  5. Story out of the Box — surprise, storyline, blended genres, etc.
  6. Risky writing. Write the story that keeps you awake at night.
  7. Lyrical writing. Make it sing. NOT flowery, but something you can’t put down.
  8. Professional package. She suggests you workshop your cover and query letters, too.
  9. Writers who know the market.
  10. Manuscripts that are a good match for her and for Scholastic — no blind submissions.
  11. Satisfy your inner child and it will satisfy her inner child. Write a love letter to yourself as a child.

Tips from Jennifer Rees

  • Query letters. These should read like flap copy or an elevator pitch. They should make her excited to read the entire manuscript.
  • Stand alone v. series. Pitch a stand alone book, not a series. If the first does well, you can talk series.
  • Hates email queries.
  • Poetry should be disguised as a picture book.
  • Rees defines “edgy” as “fiction with attitude.”

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