How It Works

Think of the Book Engineer as a movie producer—but for books. We make books happen, and we do it by working together with brands, publishers, agents, and authors to get them just what they need. Here’s how the Book Engineer can help you.


If you’re considering creating books to expand the reach of your brand, the Book Engineer can help. If you produce TV, movies, video games, toys, or web content, we can work with you to design a tie-in publishing program, giving your audience even more ways to interact with your characters. Selling a book is different from a selling a TV show or other product, and you are far more likely to get an enthusiastic response from publishers if you go in with specific proposals for what your brand’s books could look like, not just a deck with your audience engagement statistics. Publishers and readers are looking for something that’s not only a tie-in to a brand that they like, but is a good book that succeeds on its own merit. 


The Book Engineer works with artists, actors, journalists, politicians, athletes, musicians, scientists, chefs, CEOs, and other influencers to conceptualize and create stories that only they could tell. This may involve exploring your platform and your passions to figure out the best direction for your book (is it a memoir? a graphic novel? a cookbook?); crafting a book proposal; and working with an agent to place your book with the right publishing house.

Leila is a fantastic editor. She’s great with the biggest big picture stuff and she’s great with the tiniest details. Her creative vision has been invaluable. And, maybe most importantly, Leila is kind, patient, and always enjoyable to work with.

Max BrallierNew York Times bestselling author of The Last Kids on Earth series

Working with Leila was a dream. She understands the writing process from both a writer’s and an editor’s perspective, and that really comes through in her work. She’s intuitive, smart, insightful, and always gave guidance that was clear, actionable, and deeply grounded from a character and story perspective. Leila was also delightful to work with on a personal level—generous, funny, a great (and prompt!) communicator, and the consummate professional.

Danielle Younge-Ullman, author of Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined


The Book Engineer is an editorial consultant here to help your clients create more saleable projects. This may be as simple as a freelance edit of a novel that they’re struggling to revise, or it may get much more personalized: adapting a client’s successful nonfiction book for a younger audience, co-writing a manuscript with a client who doesn’t have the time or expertise to go it alone, or doing a deep-dive through a client’s past work to pitch ideas for what should come next. We can be especially helpful with clients who are talented storytellers but don’t have book-writing experience: for example, we worked with the actress Viola Davis and the fine artist Xu Bing to create their first books.  If you have clients who need help delivering that next project, the Book Engineer can work with them in whatever way they need.

Leila has consistently surprised and impressed me with her brilliant writing, incisive thinking, and keen understanding of the publishing industry in all its facets. I consider myself lucky to work with Leila, and I know others will benefit tremendously from her guidance.

Stephen Barbara, literary agent with InkWell Management


The Book Engineer is here to help you meet market needs. Rather than tell every agent over coffee that you’re looking for a book about Vikings (or about trains, or Phyllis Wheatley, or the future of the Internet), tell us, and we can package that book for you. We can help find the writer, create the proposal, and make the book that you’re dreaming of actually exist. That’s what we did with The Little Book of Little Activists: we saw a demand for books about children’s activism, so we created one from scratch. Alternatively, if you have a book under contract and the author needs help delivering a manuscript that meets your needs, we can work with the author to turn the idea into a final product that you’ll be excited to publish.

Leila is a rare combination of creative and pragmatic, artistic and business-oriented. She is an all-around joy to work with, and a true collaborator. Working with her is as productive as it is fun. Any author trying to improve their writing would be lucky to have Leila’s thoughts on their work. Funny, gregarious, well-read, smart, and professional, Leila is a credit to the book industry.

Joy Peskin, editorial director at Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers

Frequently Asked Questions

How would we work together?  The approach depends on what you’re comfortable with, but it generally includes a mix of emails, phone calls, and occasional in-person meetings. We start by figuring out a general topic, tone, and audience for your book. Next, we put together a detailed outline. From there we create the proposal and/or manuscript. The role that the Book Engineer plays for the author is something between co-writer and very involved editor.

How are you different from a literary agent?  Most authors who work with the Book Engineer already have representation. Your agent will take lead on selling the project to a publisher and will receive the same commission as always. Agents may bring on the Book Engineer to work with a client who has a book idea but don’t know quite how to execute it, or to help out a client with a platform but without a book idea. If you’re an agent with a great stable of talent, we can help that talent create more and better projects for you to sell.

Are you like a book packager?  Sort of, in that we help come up with book ideas, and we do a lot of editing to make the manuscript as strong as possible. But there are a few key differences. The big one is that our books are not IP. We start with the author and help them figure out their story, rather than outlining a story and then auditioning writers to tell it. As such, the rights stay with the author, not the Book Engineer. The story belongs to the author; without them, it doesn’t exist.

What does it cost?  For most projects where we are involved in the conceptualization and creation of a book, the Book Engineer receives an agreed-upon percentage of the author’s advance and royalties, just as an agent or a co-writer would. Occasionally, in the case of a simple consulting job, a flat fee may be used in place of a percentage of earnings.

Do you do normal freelance editing, too?  Yes. If you’re a publisher, agent, or author with a draft of a manuscript that needs an editorial letter or line edits, we can do that for a mutually agreeable flat fee.

Can you find me an agent?  No. The Book Engineer is not an agent-matchmaker service, and indeed many of our clients already have representation and/or book deals when they come to us.

Leila is that rare type of writer: a mind-reader. Her ability to see what a book needs on both the macro and the micro level is why she excels on both sides of publishing. Incredibly versatile in the types of stories she contains, she is among the best natural voices in children’s fiction working today. She is also one of the funniest people I’ve ever worked with.”

Taylor Norman, editor, Chronicle Books

As an author and editor, Leila Sales knows the book industry inside and out. Author Leila can make a good story great. And editor Leila can take that great story to the next level you never knew was possible.

Josh Funk, author of How to Code a Sandcastle

My favorite thing about working with Leila is that she was always interested in helping me to make my books the way I wanted to make them. She would ask big questions and push and prod when I needed her to—and always in service to making something smart, artful, and honest. I consider myself lucky to have worked with her.

Greg Pizzoli, Geisel Award-winning author and illustrator