Publisher Interview: Kira Lynn on Kane/Miller

Kira Lynn is the publisher at Kane/Miller, “a very small, very specialized, very independent publishing company.” Read the company’s blog, Kane/Miller Kidlit!

What kind of young reader were you?

I read all the time, from the moment I could. I still do. The only difficult thing was that while my comprehension was terrific, I read much, much more than I spoke (or listened, really), so there were frequent–and always embarrassing–incidents of mispronunciation.

What inspired you to make children’s literature your career focus?

I was lucky enough to get a job at The White Rabbit–a phenomenal children’s bookstore–right before I was supposed to start graduate school. I was surrounded, immersed in, and consumed by a passion for children’s literature that’s not left me since.

How about publishing specifically?

I’ve always admired people who can just…write. It’s one of those things I wish I could do. Since I can’t, being involved somehow in the creative process is wonderful.

How did you prepare for this career?

Reading. Reading. Reading. Really, that’s the best preparation there is. I’ve taken classes in children’s literature and children’s writing, in education (theory and practice) and in publishing, but the best preparation is reading–everything and anything and all the time.

How did you break into the business?

While I was working at The White Rabbit, one of the owners was offered a job at a major publishing house. She very kindly took me with her.

How did you get from day one to your current position?

Kane/Miller was started as a family business. My mother and my uncle began the publishing house in 1984. They ran it as a very small company (four-to-six books a year, no employees) until they retired in 2000. We’ve changed many things since then, but it was a wonderful place to start building.

What makes Kane/Miller special? How is it different from other houses?

I think the fact that we are so, so small allows us to make everything more personal. We all get to know our publishing partners, we all speak to our authors and illustrators, we all take orders, speak to customers, attend conferences, and decide upon (and argue about) the books we publish.

Would you please describe the list?

Kane/Miller specializes in award-winning children’s books from around the world. We publish picture books and short fiction with the aim of bringing the children of the world closer to each other through sharing stories and ideas, while exploring cultural differences and similarities.

How are your books acquired?

We find many of our titles at the Bologna and Frankfurt book fairs. Others are sent to us by publishers, authors, and/or illustrators. Recently, we’ve published our first original work from an unsolicited manuscript.

Why is international/multicultural publishing important to you? To young readers?

The simple answer is because our world is international and multicultural. Books can be the bridge between cultures–a shared history, a common denominator, a bond…at the very least, something to talk about.

And of course, the more you know about other people and other cultures, well, the more you know. They become real. And it’s hard to dismiss or ignore or fight with real people.

In what ways does the house work with and/or reach out to teachers and librarians?

We have a special affection for teachers and librarians, as many of us at Kane/Miller have an education background. We offer free Teacher Tips and Play Pages on our website, which can be used in the classroom, the home or the library, and provide additional ways in which the book can be used beyond a standard story time.

What new directions should we know about?

In the past, the bulk of our list was purchased directly from foreign publishers. Now though, we are seeking fiction and nonfiction manuscripts (from the U.S. too!) evocative of another country or culture.

What new books are you especially excited about in 2008?

It’s hard to pick just a few…Snake and Lizard, a work of short fiction by Joy Crowley is one of the best books I’ve read in years. I think it has enormous potential. Vivian French’s Singing to the Sun, an original fairy tale with illustrations by Jackie Morris has the most fabulous, unexpected ending ever…and of course, No! That’s Wrong!, our first original work from China. Red underpants, rabbits…what’s not to love?

How have you seen publishing change for the better since you began your career? What are the new challenges?

There have been enormous changes since I began my career, and it’s ongoing. Technology has made our particular kind of publishing–working with foreign authors, illustrators and publishers–much easier and more efficient.

And while the business of publishing is more challenging than ever before, the challenges themselves remain the same–how do you find the best possible books and get them into the hands of the children who need them?

What do you do outside your editorial/publishing life?

I’m at that stage in a working-mom’s life where when I’m not working I’m driving my children somewhere (soccer practice, karate, ballet or music lessons.) In between the working and the driving–and occasionally the sleeping–I read, jog, walk my dog, and leave lists for my husband!

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that I can’t imagine a better professional community to be a part of than this one.