Editor Spotlight: Andi Diehn
Sept. 15, 2017
Today we feature author and editor Andi Diehn, who is an Associate Editor at Nomad Press, an independent publisher of children's nonfiction books.
Enter to win one of three of Andi's books!
Welcome to Kidlit411. Tell us about Nomad Press - what are you all about?
Nomad Press is an independent publisher of children’s nonfiction books—we are passionate about feeding the natural curiosity kids have about the world around them. Many of our books offer independent learning opportunities in the form of activities that promote critical and creative thinking skills. We also offer a series of contemporary biographies that dive deep into the STEM careers of successful women, and another series of compelling true history stories that offer middle schoolers the chance to get excited about the past. Nomad is always looking for innovative ways to engage kids beyond the pages of our books, including using QR codes to link to primary sources, quality websites, and videos.
We are a small staff, and we are all extremely engaged in the entire process. As an editor, I might do everything from finding new writers to corresponding with illustrators to editing books at all stages of publication to researching marketing opportunities. It’s a very varied job!
Tell us about your background and how you came to be an editor.
In my interview for this job, my (now) boss asked me, “So what makes you think you can be an editor when you don’t actually have any editing experience on your resume?” Which was a great question! I crossed my fingers for luck and explained that editing was an inherent part of writing, which I’d been doing on a freelance basis for the past 10 years, and that I had also spent decades editing the work of critique group members. Plus, reading two or three books a week made me uniquely qualified to understand how books work. I also mentioned the frustration I always felt as a book reviewer, that I could point out all the things that a book could do better after it was published instead of catching the author on the first draft and helping them make a better book. My answer worked—I got the job and discovered that editing is pretty much the perfect role for me.
Before becoming an editor, I spent several years as a freelance magazine writer, writing novels and short stories in my spare time. I received an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College in 2002 and graduated while four months pregnant with my first child. Freelancing was something I could do when my kids were babies, and that experience neatly launched me into this next phase of my career.
What kind of books/stories are you looking to acquire these days? What are some of your favorite titles you have worked on recently?
We publish nonfictional educational books for kids that are usually used in classrooms, libraries, home schools, and anywhere else kids are learning, and we usually have a good idea of the topics we want to cover in a season. Which isn’t to say that we aren’t open to pitches. Occasionally a writer will come to us with a fantastic idea for a book or a series and we’ll find a way for it to fit with our style and content needs.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, my favorite titles are the ones I write! One of the perks about working as an editor here is if we decide to do a book that I’m especially interested in, I can speak up about writing it. I’ve written a book on reading and writing poetry, a book about Shakespeare and his influence on today’s media, a biography of women working in technology, and a series of children’s nonfiction picture books about different physical science concepts, called Curious Concepts for Kids. This set of four books comes out in the spring and it’s been a huge pleasure to watch these titles come to life through an incredibly talented illustrator.
Does Nomad Press contract with authors on a work-for-hire basis or traditional contracts? If you are open to submissions, how should authors and illustrators query you?
We offer traditional contracts to our authors with advances against future royalties. That way, they are even more invested in making their book a success. It’s not enough, these days, to simply write a book—you’ve got to be pushing that book out into the world long after you complete your final draft. We love it when authors show initiative and set up their own school visits, guest blogs, conference talks, Amazon giveaways, social media announcements, etc. There’s a myriad of ways to get your books into the hands of people who want to read it.
Writers and illustrators who are interested in becoming contributors are welcome to email me a query letter and writing samples at andi (at) nomad press (dot) net.
What causes you to reject a query? What excites you about a potential new author?
When a writer sends a query letter that oozes enthusiasm and showcases excellent writing skills, I get very excited. If the writer includes their website and samples or links to samples, I pay even closer attention. Make it easy for editors to research you by providing websites where your work can be found!
Another thing I notice is when the writer has done some research about what we publish and can name a series or two of ours they are especially interested in contributing to. That shows me they’ve put in some effort to learn about us.
And of course, proofread your query before hitting send. But you all know that already.
What advice would you give to children's writers who focus on nonfiction?
Be curious about the world and let that curiosity infuse your writing.
· Read the genre you’re writing. What are other authors doing? How can you do it better? As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time visiting the children’s sections of local bookstores and libraries and talking to teachers and librarians. There’s a lot to learn there.
· Diversity is as crucial in children’s nonfiction as it is in fiction. ALL kids need to see people who look like them making strides in science, social studies, engineering, math, language arts, and every other discipline.
· Never write (or talk) down to your readers! Kids have a nose for condescension. The best nonfiction books are ones in which the author seems as enchanted by the topic as the readers hopefully are.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I can recite most of the 1970s British sitcom Fawlty Towers by heart. There is no practical use for this skill, but I’m proud of it anyway.
Where can people find you online?
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Andi Diehn is a writer and editor with a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from Vermont College. She has published several children’s nonfiction books with Nomad Press along with dozens of articles, stories, and essays, both online and in print, in places such as Kirkus Reviews, Yankee Magazine, and Good Housekeeping. She lives in Enfield, New Hampshire, with her family.