This is the second part in our series of posts about the publishers – the people who make the books we read. Today we feature HarperCollins, publisher of many well-loved books for children and young adults.

Melanie Saward from HarperCollins talks about the company and the wonderful books they are publishing.

What kind of books do you publish?

HarperCollins publishes lots and lots of different books. We have lots of beautiful picture books, interesting non-fiction, exciting novels, and great stories on our list.

What do you love most about your work?

As a kid I always used to get report cards that said I would be a better student if I ‘put down the book.’ One teacher told me that I needed to concentrate on other things because reading books under my desk wasn’t going to get me a job. I love that I proved him wrong and that reading books is a HUGE part of my job (and that I don’t have to read them under my desk).

Thanks for sharing this wonderful anecdote with us, Melanie. So many readers will relate to this one. I love that you proved your teacher wrong too.

2012 is The National Year of Reading. Why do you think reading is important for both children and adults?

I could go on about why reading is important for hours!

One of the big reasons it’s important, in my opinion, is because reading opens up different worlds, cultures, ways of living and makes the world just that bit smaller. A really good example of that for me recently was reading Anna Perera’s The Glass Collector. This story, about a boy who collects, sorts, and sells the rubbish of Egypt, made me look at things in a different way, and educated me about a group of people I had never heard of before.

What is your current submissions process for authors and illustrators?

We don’t currently accept unsolicited manuscripts. If you’re an aspiring writer or illustrator, I’d recommend contacting your local writers’ centre for advice, or, keeping your eye out for competitions and mentorships that can not only help you develop and refine your skills, but can help catch the eye of agents and publishers.

What were some of your favourite HarperCollins book titles from 2011?

I loved Exile and Muse by Rebecca Lim, which are the second and third books in Rebecca’s wonderful Mercy series about an angel who has been exiled from heaven and who is doomed to return repeatedly to earth inhabiting different people’s bodies and lives; Silvermay by James Moloney, which is the first book in a new fantasy trilogy by one of my favourite authors; Nanberry Black Brother White by Jackie French made me laugh and cry; Divergent by Veronica Roth—a book that was so fast-paced and exciting I didn’t want to put it down; and, the return of Mothball Wombat in Christmas Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley.

What titles do you have coming up in 2012 that you’re really excited about?

We have so many great books coming this year. One in particular that we’re all really excited about is The Industry by Rose Foster. This is an exciting YA thriller about Kirra Hayward, an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl who stumbles across an unusual puzzle on the Internet and solves it. She’s Kidnapped by a shadowy organisation known only as The Industry, Kirra soon discovers how valuable her code-breaking skills are. And when she stubbornly refuses to help them, they decide to break her by any means at their disposal.

The Hunger Pains by the Harvard Lampoon is a hilarious send-up of the extremely popular Hunger Games and it’s out now! The hero of the story, Kantkiss Neverclean feels unprepared to fight in The Hunger Games, the second highest rated reality TV show in Peaceland, right after Extreme Home Makeover. But when her survival rests on choosing between the dreamy hunk from home, Carol Handsomestein, or the doughy klutz, Pita Malarkey, Kantkiss finds that the toughest conflicts may not be found on the battlefield but in her own heart, which is unfortunately on a battlefield.

The Cartographer by Peter Twohig is also out now. This is a wonderful book about an eleven-year-old boy who witnesses a murder while spying through the window of a strange house. Now, having been seen by the angry murderer, he is a kid on the run. With only a shady grandfather, a professional standover man and an incongruous local couple as adult mentors, he takes refuge in the dark drains and grimy tunnels beneath the city, transforming himself into a series of superheroes and creating a rather unreliable map to plot out places where he is unlikely to cross paths with the bogeyman.

And some last mentions: Fury is the last book in the Mercy series by Rebecca Lim and it’ll be out in May; Tamlyn, the second book in the Silvermay trilogy will be released in June; and, keep an eye out for a gorgeous picture book by Kate Knapp called Ruby Red Shoes in November (and if you’d like to see some advance cuteness, have a look at Ruby’s blog:

Thanks for sharing all this great information about your new and existing titles, Melanie.  It sounds like Harper Collins has some great things planned for 2012.