Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 9, 2016

Featured Editor – Kelly Delaney – Interview Part One& Book Winners

The first three winners of our Book Giveaway Extravaganza are:

Weight of Zero – Donna Marie Taylor
Writing Irresistible Kidlit – Susan Leopold
Molly, by Golly – Carol Federlin Baldwin
Magical Destinations – Carol Jones

PLEASE SEND ADDRESSES: Kathy.temean (at)

Kelly Delaney is an Associate Editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers has agreed to be our featured Editor and critique four first pages submitted.

For the last few years I have skipped doing first page critiques in December, because people are busy and didn’t submit. This is a great opportunity due to having a higher chance of getting their first page selected. Please note: The deadline to submit is December 15th.


Kelly Delaney is an Associate Editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, where she acquires and edits picture books and middle grade and young adult novels. She has a master’s degree in Publishing: Digital and Print Media from NYU and has been at Random House Children’s Books for six years. In that time she has been fortunate enough to work with many esteemed authors including R.J. Palacio, Markus Zusak, Anita Lobel, Eileen Spinelli, Kevin Hawkes, and Norton Juster, among many others. She is always on the lookout for quirky humor, bright characters, and writers that don’t underestimate their readers. You can follow her on Twitter at @kellyunderwater.

Kelly Delaney Interview – Part One

What are your thoughts on rhyming picture books?

There are many stories that are best told in a rhyming format, but, like many editors, I do have a bit of a knee-jerk reaction against rhyme. Rhyme often causes a writer’s voice to be stifled, because conforming to the structure ends up taking precedence over the story that’s being told. I think it’s important to understand why you’re writing in rhyme. If it’s because that format strengthens your voice and the story, then that’s great. But if you’re having trouble with it, I always recommend trying a draft or two in prose instead. 

What do you feel is a good word count for picture books?

Every book is different, but if you’re looking for a ballpark guideline, try to keep it under 500-600 words. And of course, there’s no minimum. 

What genres are you interested in receiving?

I acquire all genres and all ages from picture books to young adult—if it’s a compelling voice that I haven’t heard before, the genre doesn’t matter. I do tend to gravitate towards warmer, more upbeat stories with a lot of humor, especially when it comes to picture books. 

Do you have a story or theme you like to receive?

Not really—as I said above, my interest is more about the voice than the topic. I do love books with humor and with topics relating to science (especially if they feature female protagonists). But I’m constantly surprised by the books I end up falling for.

What do you like to see in a submission?

Again, a compelling, fresh voice is the most important thing. But at the end of the day, publishing is a business—I should be able to tell from the submission who the readers of this book will be and why they’ll want this book instead of or in addition to whatever else is out there. The market is so full of great books right now, so it’s important to know what’s doing well, what there’s already a lot of, and why your book is needed, too.

How important is the query letter?

Very! This is where you’ll communicate all the things I mentioned in the previous answer. Your query letter should tell an agent or editor what your book is about and who you are, but it should also demonstrate that you know what else is out there, why your book will stand out, and who will be reading it. Show that you know who your readers are and that your book will have a place in the current marketplace by mentioning current comparative titles. A good query letter can become the foundation for the agent’s query to editors, the editor’s acquisition paperwork, and even jacket copy.

Any tips on how an author can get you to ask to see more?

For picture book authors, it’s a good idea to mention very briefly that you have more manuscripts available. This way, if I like your voice but the topic is not quite right, I’ll know that there might be a better project for us to work on together. No need to detail what these projects are, but it’s worth mentioning that they exist.



In the subject line, please write “December critique” and paste the text in the email, plus attached it as a Word document to the email. Please make sure you include your name, the title of the piece, and whether it’s a picture book, middle grade, or young adult, etc. at the top on both the email and the Word document (Make sure you include your name with the title of your book, when you save the first page).

Your First Page Word document should be formatted using one inch margins and 12 point New Times Roman font – double space – no more than 23 lines – only one page. Send to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDELINES: Your submission will be passed over if you do not follow the directions for both the pasted email and the attached Word doc. This is where most people mess up.

DEADLINE: December 15th

RESULTS: December 30th

Please only submit one first page a month, but do try again if your first page wasn’t one of the pages randomly picked. Thanks!

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Thanks in advance for the book! I’ll send you my mailing address.


  2. Congrats to the winners! Donna, You will LOVE!!! THE WEIGHT OF ZERO. An amazing debut. Haven’t read the others…yet.


    • Thanks, Darlene 🙂 For sure, when I won WHEELS OF CHANGE through Kathy’s blog, it became one of my absolute favorites, so I have high hopes for this, too 😀

      And of course, THANK YOU, Karen and Kathy! There’s something about winning a book that gives me butterflies 🙂 Perhaps the anticipation of “fluttering” pages? 😉


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