What Editors Look For: Fresh Takes On Familiar Stories with Harper Editor Sara Schonfeld

Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

Join our interactive Says/Does Activity + view transcript here: manuscriptacademy.com/faculty-member…sara-schonfeld

We discuss editing with love and patience, acquiring in the age of book bans (let’s just say Florida doesn’t get to choose what the rest of the country reads), how to make your book feel “fresh”–and why so many editors ask for “a new twist on something familiar.”

Book a meeting with Sara here: manuscriptacademy.com/faculty-member…sara-schonfeld

**Sara’s Journey into Publishing (00:00:40)**
Sara shares her accidental entry into publishing and the influence of her professors.

**What Editors Look for in Manuscripts (00:03:37)**
Sara discusses her preference for manuscripts and the importance of compelling writing.

**Creating Compelling First Pages (00:04:58)**
The challenges and advice for authors in creating engaging first pages.

**Balancing Worldbuilding and Character Development in Fantasy (00:06:54)**
Sara’s perspective on worldbuilding and character-driven fantasy stories.

**Freshness in Writing (00:12:14)**
Sara discusses the concept of freshness in writing and the balance between familiarity and authenticity.

**Revising and Streamlining Writing (00:15:32)**
Sara’s tips for effective revision and streamlining of storytelling elements.

**Interconnectedness in storytelling (00:24:19)**
Julie and Sara discuss the interconnectedness of different elements in a story and how changes affect the overall narrative.

**Flexibility in story revision (00:25:13)**
Sara emphasizes the importance of being flexible during story revision and trying out different approaches.

**The “says/does” outline (00:26:15)**
Sara explains the “says/does” outline as a helpful tool for authors to reflect on their writing and ensure effective communication of the story.

**Reading recommendations (00:30:41)**
Sara shares her current reading list and recommends a book she finds relatable.

**Creativity and self-doubt (00:34:25)**
Sara discusses the challenges of maintaining creativity and self-belief in a competitive publishing industry.

**Humor in storytelling (00:37:00)**
Sara discusses the refreshing humor in “Murder on a School Night” and the importance of originality in storytelling.

**Book Banning and Publishing (00:38:50)**
Discussion on book banning, including the pushback faced and examples of flagged content, and the importance of not letting it influence acquisitions.

**Reading and Writing with Love (00:43:25)**
The significance of reading as a writer, advice to read with joy and love, and the act of writing as an invitation to share one’s experience and heart.

**Where to Find Sara Online (00:44:39)**
Sara’s online presence, including her Twitter handle, website, and involvement with the Manuscript Academy.

Sara Schonfeld is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s, working on picture books, middle grade, and teen. After starting her publishing career at Penguin Random House, she joined HarperCollins in 2019. She lives in New York City, and spends most of her time reading, kickboxing, baking, or generally pretending she’s in a Nora Ephron film.

As an author and an editor, she approaches each project with curiosity. Her goal is to ask the questions that get an author inspired and help them uncover the heart of their story—whatever feeling inspired them to put words to paper, and whatever feeling they hope readers take away from the final book.