Thursday, February 10, 2011

Editor Interview - Sharon Coatney, Libraries Unlimited

Today I am so excited to host an interview with my editor, Sharon Coatney. Sharon is the Senior Acquisitions Editor at Libraries Unlimited, A Division of ABC-CLIO.

Tell us a little about yourself, Sharon.
I was a teacher and a school librarian for 30 years in Kansas. I have been active in the American Library Association for many years, serving as the President of the school division, American Association of School Librarians and as a Councilor at Large of the ALA for 8 years. I like to read, travel and visit my two grandchildren. We live with our dog, Wonder Dog, and a strange black cat, Electra, in a beautiful wooded area of eastern Kansas in a rural setting near Lawrence, home of the KU Jayhawks!

How did you become an editor?
I started as an English teacher in a rural K-12 school. My children went to school there and I was going to have them in my class. My husband suggested I get a library degree so I wouldn't teach my own children. So I did. My first job was part time at the same school, so I ended up teaching my kids anyway. Later I commuted to a larger school in the city. It was a sort of model library that had won awards. The senior librarian there insisted that we become part of the American Library Association. I became very active in the association and its government and met a lot of people. As changes took place in my school, I began looking for other things to do. Through networking with the folks at ALA, I took a job as a consultant for Libraries Unlimited. About ten years ago, I retired from teaching and went to work for them full time. It evolved through time and networking, but I was always an editor in the sense that I was an English teacher.

Describe a typical work day.

I work at home. I have an office upstairs that looks out over our land. I can see the pond in the back yard. It's a nice place to work. I usually work from 9 am to 5 pm, but it's a flexible schedule if I need to go out for something. I do travel a lot. Last year I went to 11 conferences. They are library and teacher conferences, so they are usually in the spring and the fall.

Do you spend most of the day reading manuscripts?

Yes, I read manuscripts and proposals. My job as acquisitions editor is to find manuscripts for the company, so I do a lot of e-mailing and phone conversations with people. Our editorial team meets once a week to discuss any books we're considering. And of course I read all the manuscripts that I'm working with. Last year I put 40 books into production.

What makes a proposal stand out?

We are primarily a library publisher. We do have a small Teacher Idea Press, but even those books must be something that a librarian in a school would use or want to have in her media center for teachers. The Readers Theatre books are in this category. So I'm looking for that focus in any proposal I read. I've learned after doing this for many years that if a proposal isn't very clear, there's no point in going forward. There will be so much developmental editing, it isn't worth it.

Do you write, as well as edit?

I do. I have a book coming out this spring called, The Many Faces of Library Leadership. It's a collected volume of essays by people in the field, and I wrote a chapter for the book. There's a series of books called the MAC, Information Detective series. I've written the educator's guides for those. I wrote a column for five years in Library Magazine. Now I write a column on leadership in a magazine our company owns, called School Library Monthly. And I do have a picture book I've been trying to get published for many years. It's a family story I wrote for my kids years ago when I was teaching, and it was very successful in the classroom. But you know how that goes. It's hard to get picture books published.

What kind of proposal would you like to see come across your desk?

I'm looking for library information right now. Anything on eBooks and how to use them, or eReaders, the kind of policies libraries should use for these new tools. I'm looking for anything on the common core standards and incorporating them into school library use. Whatever is new in education and library land.

What should writers know before submitting a proposal to you?

New writers don't always know they should not submit a proposal to more than one publisher at a time. I'm not talking about query letter, but a formal proposal.

Thank you for joining me today, Sharon.

Here is Sharon's contact information if you would like to send a query or a proposal.
Sharon Coatney
Sr. Acquisitions Editor Libraries Unlimited
A Division of ABC-CLIO

Free Download: If you would like to see my proposal for Readers Theatre for Global Explorers, e-mail me at I'll send you a pdf of the proposal, and you can compare it to the submission guidelines on the website at Libraries Unlimited.

Questions from Mrs. Gill's Fourth Grade Class:

What is one thing you don't like about being an author?
Endings are the hardest thing for me to write. I don't like it when I can't find the end!

How long have you been writing stories?
I've been writing stories for children for about ten years.

Which book was the most difficult to write?
The one I'm working on at the moment!

Yesterday's Question: Who was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe?

Answer: Jeanne Baret. Jeanne’s journey began in 1766 on the French ship Etoile. Jeanne appears in Readers Theatre for Global Explorers as a monologue. She lived in a small French village all her life where she cooked, cleaned and took care of the garden, but she wanted to see the world. After her parents died, she found a job as a housekeeper for Dr. Philibert Commerson. When the doctor announced that he was had been invited to be part of the first French expedition around the world, Jeanne determined to find a way to go, too. She disguised herself as a man, like her namesake Joan of Arc, and hired onto the ship as a servant. They were half way around the world before anyone discovered she was a woman.

If you’d like to know more about Jeanne’s remarkable journey, read How High Can We Climb: The Story of Women Explorers by Jeannine Atkins. It's one of the free books I'll be giving away in the drawing.

Today's Question: Which explorer's story was originally told in poetic form?

It's a perfect question for tomorrow's Poetry Friday in the Kidslitosphere. Leave a post and I'll enter you name for the drawing for the three books I'll be giving away.


  1. Wow, what a gal Sharon is! And how generous of you, Doraine, to offer a pdf of your winning proposal. Looking forward to tomorrow's Poetry Friday post!

  2. Sharon is a sweet lady, Irene. I really enjoyed working with her. And her husband is a poet! I published one of his poems in the "Infantry Bugler" a few issues back. It was a very fun connections. Thanks for hosting me yesterday and for visiting.

  3. Terrific interview Doraine and Sharon! I was unaware of Libraries Unlimited until now. It's always great to learn about new publishers :)

  4. Thank you for the interview, Doraine and Sharon. Even though I don't know the answer to your question, Doraine, it is always nice to find out more information.

  5. Thank you for this interview, Doraine and Sharon. I love hearing about the many ways people who love reading and writing find jobs that put their skills and interests to work.

  6. P.J., Yes, she's a talented lady. I can't even imagine working on forty books in a year.

    Jo, I'm so glad to introduce you to Libraries Unlimited. They have been great to work with.

    Patricia, Check back tomorrow and I'l give you the answer.

    Thanks for stopping, Sarah. I always appreciate your comments.

  7. Wonderful interview, Doraine - you are both so generous! Thanks to you and Sharon for sharing, and congratulations to both of you on your new Readers Theatre book.

  8. Thanks, Robyn. I am excited about the new book. And working with Sharon was a wonderful experience.

  9. Great interview and wonderful to meet a new compatrioy! My guess is Marco Polo. I'm not sure why other than the fact that somewhere in the conwebs of my mind, that sounds familiar:0(

  10. Thanks, Gail. I know you meant cobwebs of my mind, but I read it as cornwebs of my mind. I actually like that image. Cornwebs is a good new word. Answers tomorrow.