The phrase “orphaned manuscript” strikes dread in the heart of every writer: it refers to a project acquired by an editor who leaves the company before the book is published. But the situation can be just as disheartening for the staffers who are forced to divvy up the departing editor’s work and take on manuscripts signed up by somebody else. This is the scenario, however, that led Julie to meet John.

Julie Strauss-Gabel was a new editor at Dutton in 2003, when Donna Brooks acquired (for an $8,000 advance) a manuscript recommended to her by Booklist editor Ilene Cooper. The manuscript was by a 25-year-old named John Green, whom Cooper had taken under her wing. “It wasn’t quite slush, because it had the right people helping it, but it definitely did not come in the door as a ‘big book,’ ” Strauss-Gabel recalled. Brooks left Dutton before Green finished the revisions and Looking for Alaska was assigned to Strauss-Gabel, who published it in 2005. Alaska won the Printz Award, and has been on and off (mostly on) bestseller lists ever since, changing the lives of both author and accidental editor. “My belief in that book taught me to be loud. There was no ‘if’ about it,” Strauss-Gabel said. “To discover that confidence is a huge part of being an editor and a huge part of being a publisher: learning to trust my gut.”

Now Strauss-Gabel is the publisher of Dutton Books, the oldest continually operating children’s imprint in the U.S. Her books have won the Printz, two Edgars, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the E.B. White Read-Aloud Award, and have been named to numerous state award lists. Not bad for someone who initially had trouble finding her way in publishing, despite sterling academic credentials: “I interned as an editorial assistant but I wrote reader reports like they were miniature theses, so it wasn’t really a shock that I wasn’t hired.”

Her first job was in subsidiary rights at Disney-Hyperion. Looking back, she sees it as a lucky break. “I learned a part of the business most editors don’t know,” she said. The position gave her a “360-degree view that I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

Still, the itch to edit remained and her Hyperion bosses helped her transition to editorial when she learned of an opening at Houghton Mifflin’s Clarion imprint. She spent five years there under the tutelage of a staff—Dorothy Briley, Dinah Stevenson, Jim Giblin, and Virginia Buckley—regularly turning out Newbery and Caldecott winners. But Clarion’s list at the time “skewed young,” while Strauss-Gabel’s tastes skewed older. In 2002, Stephanie Owens Lurie hired her at Dutton, at a moment when the success of Harry Potter had revealed an enormous readership among tweens and teens. Strauss-Gabel signed up middle-grade author Lauren Myracle and had a modest hit with The Guitar Girl by British author Sarra Manning.

Looking for Alaska was her first bestseller, and Green followed up with An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns. Because he talked about their relationship a lot—mostly in self-deprecating confessionals about how much he relied on her—Strauss-Gabel started to see more YA submissions just when YA was becoming the hottest category in publishing.

In 2011, Penguin refashioned Dutton, the original publisher of Winnie-the-Pooh in America, into a boutique house focused on middle-grade and YA with Strauss-Gabel as publisher. The list dropped from 30 to 40 titles a year to a dozen or fewer. “The great thing about being editor and publisher is that I get to do it on my own terms,” she said, citing as a favorite success story Adam Gidwitz, a substitute teacher who was “great with kids,” but had written an “unpublishable 50-page story.”

Strauss-Gabel suggested he expand it into a novel. “She thought because it was 4,000 words long and because the main characters were decapitated, that it probably wasn’t a picture book,” Gidwitz recalled. What became A Tale Dark and Grimm was named a best book of the year by the New York Times, School Library Journal, and PW. Gidwitz followed with two successful sequels, each of which went through multiple revisions guided by Strauss-Gabel.

Even Green is not immune to the need for revision. “Her editorial letters are famously intimidating,” he said, recalling the letter he received after submitting the first draft of what would become The Fault in Our Stars. “I think the letter... began with a single sentence about how the novel was in moments very interesting and ambitious. Then came 20 pages of relentless critical analysis that forced me to rethink everything about the story.” The book, published in January 2012, has sold more than a million copies. Both Strauss-Gabel and Green love the film version, which was released on June 6. “I was terrified, but it’s great,” she said. “Our big concern was always, ‘Will all the people who love this book walk out of the film feeling okay about it?’ Both John and I are completely confident they will.”

Age: 42

Current title: V-p, publisher, Dutton Children’s Books

Almost became: Children’s literature professor

Higher education: B.A, Amherst College; Ed.M., Harvard Graduate School of Education

A partial list of authors and projects:

Ally Condie




Atlantia (forthcoming)

Esther Earl with Wayne and Lori Earl

This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl

Gayle Forman

If I Stay

Where She Went

Just One Day

Just One Year

Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark & Grimm

In a Glass Grimmly

The Grimm Conclusion

John Green

Looking for Alaska

An Abundance of Katherines

Paper Towns

Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with David Levithan)

The Fault in Our Stars

John Grisham

The Theodore Boone series

Nina LaCour

Hold Still

The Disenchantments

Everything Leads to You

Lauren Myracle




Thirteen Plus One

The Fashion Disaster That Changed My Life

The Life of Ty, Books 1-3

Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the French Kiss

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Isla and the Happily Ever After (forthcoming)

Kat Rosenfield

Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone


Carrie Ryan

Turnabout (forthcoming)

Andrew Smith

Grasshopper Jungle

The Alex Crow (forthcoming)

Nova Ren Suma

Imaginary Girls

17 & Gone

Maya VanWagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek

Meg Wolitzer

Belzhar (forthcoming)