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Feb 22, 2021

Editor Spotlight Series - Elizabeth Stranahan

A warm welcome to Elizabeth Stranahan, Associate Editor at Crown Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Children's Books. Elizabeth is interested in young adult and middle-grade fiction that is character driven, filled with banter, and challenges readers to life’s big questions, as well as middle-grade nonfiction that makes complex concepts accessible and relatable. At Crown, she has worked with New York Times bestselling author Nicole Williams, Elle McNicoll, whose debut A Kind of Spark was a Blackwell Best Book of the Year, YA thriller writer Alexa Donne, and the Smithsonian Latino Center among others. When not tending to her email, Elizabeth can be found catching up on the latest gymnastics competition, quilting, and rewatching Derry Girls—occasionally at the same time.

CM: How did you become an editor? Can you describe the career path for those looking to enter the publishing industry?
Elizabeth: I knew I wanted to pursue publishing, editing specifically, relatively early in college. I watched an interview between an editor and an author and became fascinated with the idea of a job where your role was to try and ask the right questions to draw out a story. 

Actually, getting a position took a bit longer. I left school with few publishing contacts, but I landed a magazine internship in Atlanta. At the time, I was also freelancing for a sports website and volunteering at my local library. I made it my mission to ask every person I met if they knew anyone who worked in book publishing. Networking can be uncomfortable, and I often felt nervous I was imposing on others, but most people were more than willing to share their expertise, and I’m so appreciative they did.

It took about a year, but after many informational interviews, both on the phone and in person, I was recommended for two interviews, one of which became my internship at Penguin Random House, where I have been ever since. 

To those looking to get into the industry, I recommend being persistent. It doesn’t always happen overnight. And also, stay busy! My previous jobs and internships taught me valuable skills that I now transition to my work as an editor. And the effort it took to find my first position makes me appreciative every day for the opportunity to do this work.

: Share a fun fact about you!
Elizabeth: In college, I competed as a Division I gymnast, and shortly after graduating, I had the opportunity to work providing written and video coverage of the US National gymnastics team. I even got to travel to Italy to cover a competition once.

CM: How many authors/books do you work with per year?  
Elizabeth: At the associate level, I am both building my own list while continuing to assist on titles my publisher brings in. I touch roughly 30 books per year in all stages of development. 

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Elizabeth: This is an oldie I was sleeping on, but I recently read Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky, and I have not stopped thinking about it since. It was timely yet surprising, twisty with a hint of absurd, and best of all, it had something to say about how we view, treat, and participate in fan culture. I love a book that pokes a reader to think critically about their world while also treating them to an entertaining show, and Moldavsky did just that. She has a new YA thriller, The Mary Shelley Club, coming out in April, and you better believe I will not be waiting to get my hands on her book this time.

CM: What is a common myth about editors? 
Elizabeth: The most common myth you are likely to hear about editors is that we read all day when in reality we get to do so much more! The bulk of my day isn’t spent reading, but instead talking with authors about their ideas, discussing cover concepts with design, double—and triple and quadruple—checking text for accuracy with copyediting, and coordinating with several more departments in between. I love reading, but I love even more getting to bring stories to life with my creators and co-workers. 

CM: An editor-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best author relationships share? 
Elizabeth: The best editor-author relationships often mirror what I think makes for the best relationships in general: honest communication and trust. And that very much goes both ways. From the time I start a dialogue with a creator, I try to be as clear as possible about what I envision for the project and the process, and I hope I invite a space for them to do so as well. The more I can hear from the author about what is a priority for them both in the story and in their publication process, the more I can work to address those ideas. That’s not to say we are always in agreement, but if I know the sticking points upfront, we can have a conversation about what is and isn’t likely. From that point, the conversation is ongoing. As challenges and successes arise, clear pathways of communication help keep everyone in the loop, allow us the best chance to problem-solve together when needed, and maintain a collaborative environment—which is the best part of storytelling! 

CM: What is the demand for stories set in a COVID-19 world?
Elizabeth: I try not to speak for other editors as tastes are personal and specific to the needs of an imprint, but for me, I am not actively looking for fiction that is set in a Covid-19 world. While I love children’s nonfiction that is helping our young readers work through this time with educational workbooks, backyard experiments, or even teaching how vaccines are made, in my fiction space, I am still very much trying to escape our current reality. As Mason Cooley says, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” And as we all have to stay where we are a bit longer, I am okay to travel via the pages of a book.

CM: Is there something else you would like to share with our community? 
Elizabeth: When I do informational interviews, the biggest piece of advice I pass on for those early years is to ask questions and find the teachers around you. At least for me, there was a steep learning curve stepping into the job. The industry has a rhythm of its own, but I was—and am—surrounded by leaders in the craft. I was fortunate to have several colleagues who were generous with their time and willing to share their expertise; all I had to do was ask. And should the day come when someone else is wandering by your desk with a question you know the answer to, be generous too.  


Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re acquiring:
  • Young Adult Fiction – contemporary; urban fantasy
  • Middle Grade Fiction – coming-of-age; macabre stories with humor
  • Middle Grade Nonfiction – titles that make complex concepts relatable and relevant for tweens, bonus points if it is funny and hands-on
What you’re not interested in:
  • Epic high fantasy or sci-fi

Do you accept un-agented submissions? No

Client Examples
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