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Robin Friedman : author and journalist

Janine O'Malley, Associate Editor

Farrar, Straus & Giroux (2003)

Janine O'Malley has a master's degree in history from New York University. She has been at Farrar, Straus & Giroux for five years — her first job in publishing.

FSG accepts unsolicited manuscripts. Send them to Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Books for Young Readers, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003.

How many books does FSG publish every year and what kind of books are they?

We publish 80 trade hardcovers.

How many do you edit per year?

About 10.

What have you edited recently?

MONSOON by Uma Krishnaswami.

Were any manuscripts you edited from the “slush pile”?


Is the slush pile an actual pile? Where is it? How many manuscripts are in it?

Yes, every editor has a few piles in their offices. Too many to count!

What percentage of manuscripts from the slush pile do you estimate get published?

A very, very small percentage.

Why does so much NOT get published?

Most people don't do their research to see what sort of books FSG publishes.

How long does it take FSG to read a manuscript?

About 1 to 3 months.

Do you usually read manuscripts at work or at home in the evenings and on weekends?

At home in the evenings and on the weekends.

What was your favorite book as a child?


Do you have any favorites now?

I still love all of my old favorites, but I've added some books written and illustrated by Lena and Olof Landstrom, the WILL books and the BOO AND BAA books.

Is it every editor's dream to discover the next Sharon Creech or Ruth White?

Of course.

What must a manuscript have to get your attention?

A distinctive voice and strong characters.

Do you read manuscripts all the way through or do you read just the first page? First chapter? First paragraph?

Not all manuscripts are read in their entirety. I usually read the first few chapters before I give up.

Describe the acquisition process. Let's say you found a manuscript you want to acquire. What happens next? Be specific!

I share it with my colleagues for more opinions, and if enough support is given, I do an acquisition memo detailing why I think we should publish the book, which is then given to our editorial and marketing directors. Then I just sit tight and wait for their response.

Do you ever love a book that you have to turn down? Why?

Yes, usually because not everyone loves the book as much as I might.

Do you read manuscripts addressed to you or do you have an assistant?

I read my own manuscripts as well as ones sent to Frances Foster.

When you make an offer to an author, do you expect the author to negotiate the terms or accept the offer on the spot?


Are offers made by telephone or email?

I call first and fax or email the details of the offer.

Which parts of a publishing contract is the publisher most flexible about?

Author copies.

How often do you send “personal rejection letters” versus “form rejection letters”?

Probably for about half of the manuscripts I receive.

What is the approximate print run of a picture book these days? A novel?

Picture book — 7,500-15,000. Novel — 5,000-10,000.

Is it true that most books lose money for the publisher if they don't sell out their first printing? Why?

Yes, because the first print run is usually set so that the advance will earn out.

Is it true that today's books stay in print less time than yesterday's books?

It seems to be the case.

Is it true that editors have little time to “edit” these days? Is it true that they are looking for manuscripts that are more “finished”?

No, I don't find either of these things to be true at FSG.

How has Harry Potter changed the field?

People are more willing to buy hardcovers for middle grade.