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Publishing With Teeth: Megan Tingley & Twilight

Breaking Dawn Part 1, the latest film version of Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling Twilight saga sank a stake into the weekend box office pulling in an estimated $283.5 million worldwide. A monster share of the take ($72 million of $139.5 million domestically) was earned on Friday alone.

Long before Taylor Lautner had abs, this Hollywood juggernaut started as a manuscript about teen longing that Sr. Vice President and Publisher at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Megan Tingley, read on a plane. During her distinguished career, the books Tingley has helped to shepherd into existence include decorated picture books, bestselling middle grade series, and National Book Award-winners.

This weekend, I asked her about discovering genius, how she measures success, and what's next.

Pub Crawl: When you first read it, did you know that Twilight would end up being what it is today? Why did you pick this book when others had turned it down? 

Megan Tingley: Did I ever imagine that girls would be screaming and crying at Stephenie’s book signings, or women would be naming their baby daughters Isabella, or that Twilight would propel an explosion in paranormal literature? Of course not! That said, I did have a distinct feeling when I read it—my heart was racing and my mind was reeling. The scenes came alive for me in a such a way that I felt I was right in the action with the characters. And I could see it as a book immediately. In fact, the text excerpt that appears on the back of Twilight is a passage I circled on the original manuscript while I was reading it for the first time on the plane—before I had even bought it. So, there was never any doubt or hesitation on my part that the first novel would be successful, but obviously I couldn’t have predicted the extent of that success.

PC: When it comes to books for young readers, are there other forms of success besides NY Times Bestsellers and blockbuster movies?

MT: Bestsellers and movies are exciting but to me success is more about creating an enduring work. The idea that people will still be reading and loving some of the books I have published many, many years from now is deeply gratifying. With Twilight, the thing I am proudest of is that this series instilled a passionate love of reading in so many young people. So many teens have said Twilight was the first book they loved reading and we get letters from parents thanking us for getting their kids reading and writing. Stephenie is an inspiring role model and it is so great to see kids idolize a writer alongside the usual rock bands, sports stars, and celebrities.

PC: Little, Brown almost single-handedly created the genre fiction craze for young adults with the Twilight books quickly crossing over onto adult bestseller lists. What excites you now about the current state of children's publishing? 

MT: This is an exciting time to be publishing for young readers. There is a tremendous amount of innovation in the field right now, both in terms of the depth and breadth of subject matter YA writers are tackling in their work and the growing number of new ways in which we can reach readers. Next year is my 25th anniversary at Little, BrownI can’t believe how much the business has changed since then and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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