Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 15, 2017

December’s Featured Editor – Rachael Stein – Interview – Part One

Rachael Stein  is an acquiring Assistant Editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She works on books for kids of all ages, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult and both fiction and nonfiction.

She is a voracious reader and children’s books fanatic. Some of the amazing authors she works with are Linda Sue Park, Gary D. Schmidt, Kate Milford, Ronald L. Smith, and Sarah Beth Durst. Before joining the Clarion team in 2016, Rachael worked at Scholastic, Lee & Low Books, Macmillan, and the Fox Literary Agency. You can follow her on Twitter: @rachaeljstein.

I discovered Rachael while writing up Monday’s post sharing Mira Reisberg’s new online course for writers and illustrator interested in improving their skills writing and illustrating chapter books and middle grade novels. So I asked if she would like to be our featured editor for December and critique four first pages for us and she said, “Yes.” Rachael will be critiquing  in December.

If you have submitted a first page this year and didn’t score a critique, you should try again this month, since the amount of first page submissions are always lower in December. In other words, your odds increase in December.


Can you tell us a little bit about what you do in your editorial associate position?

As an Editorial Associate at Clarion Books, I do a little bit of everything! I read a lot, including picture books, chapter books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction for a range of ages. In addition to providing editorial support for the other editors at my imprint, I handle all paperback editions of our titles, deal with contract paperwork and payments, hire and manage our interns, and a lot more. I’m also looking for some special projects of my own to acquire.

What genres are you interested in receiving?

I read very broadly, but I’m most interested in middle grade and young adult mysteries, realistic fiction, and science fiction and fantasy.

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

I love stories that feature marginalized voices, strong girl characters succeeding against great odds, and themes of challenging the status quo and fighting injustice.

What do you like to see in a submission?

I look for strong writing, a compelling voice, and something unique or very special that distinguishes the submission from what’s already out there.

How important is the query letter?

Query letters are very important and helpful—they should basically tell me what the submission is about and why I should be interested. At the end of the day, the submission will speak for itself, but a good query letter may make me want to read more.

Are you open to unagented submissions?

Yes! I’m passionate about working with writers from marginalized backgrounds, so I think it’s important to cast as wide a net as possible to find those talented writers and great stories.

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

If I like the writing and voice, I will probably ask to see more from an author if the project is otherwise not right for me.

How far do you normally read before you reject a submission?

It really depends. For novels, sometimes I can tell a submission is not for me after 10-15 pages, but other times I read all or most of the manuscript before deciding to reject it.

Do you let writers know if you are not interested in what they submitted?

I respond to all agented and solicited submissions, even if the project is not right for me. Due to the volume of unsolicited submissions that Clarion Books receives, I usually only respond if I see promise.


In the subject line, please write “DECEMBER 2017  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.


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!


REMEMBER: Rachel will be working with Chapter Book and Middle Grade Authors at the Children’s Book Academy’s on-line course on January 15th.

Talk tomorrow,


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