Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books imprint will mark its 10th anniversary in April 2012 and plans to celebrate the milestone with a redesigned Web site, the launch of Emily Bestler Books, and a variety of author and bookselling events. At a time when author tours have declined, Atria publisher Judith Curr plans to use the anniversary to highlight the importance of author and bookstore events to Atria’s success.
To mark the April anniversary, Atria will launch The Great Mystery Bus Tour, featuring three Atria authors (from three countries) that will start in New York City at the Mysterious Bookshop on April 12 and travel by bus to 11 cities in eight days—talking to fans and booksellers, dropping off samplers of Atria authors—and ending in St. Louis on April 19. The tour will feature Irish novelist John Connolly, Scandinavian novelist Liza Marklund, and America’s own M.J. Rose. And they’ll be travelling in style with their books, names, and publisher emblazoned in massive graphics on the side of their giant tour bus.
“We believe in digital and physical books, and in bookstores,” Curr said during a phone interview along with Atria v-p, publicity Paul Olsewski. “Bookstores will be even more important and we want our authors to be there. We need them. It’s our birthday but they’re going to get the presents,” Curr said.
More immediately, this fall Atria plans to send a group of its authors to appearances at stores and libraries “to talk about life issues,” said Olsewski. “We’ve got so much talent, we’re creating a platform for local events.” The first event, Great Reads Addressing Real Women’s Issues, will take place this October, sponsored by the Vernon Area Library in Chicago. It will feature four novelists, including YA novelist Ellen Hopkins (Triangles, her first adult novel, which is written in verse) on the topic of midlife crisis; Amy Hatvany (Best Kept Secret) on alcoholism; Lisa Tucker (Winters in Bloom) on parenting; and Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat) on marriage.
Atria will publish about 98 original titles (plus 83 trade paperback reprints) in 2011 in hardcover and trade paperback. While the house seems to publish a bit of everything, it has had great success with nonfiction, biography, memoir, and celebrity titles in addition to commercial fiction. Olsewski said that the house is now publishing more “cookbooks and now trade paper originals from authors from around the world.” Atria has a strong African-American publishing program (overseen by v-p and senior editor Malaika Adero), which Curr said accounts for about a quarter of Atria’s list.
The house has published such authors as Walter Mosley, Farai Chideya, Zane, Blair Underwood, and Vickie Stringer. Atria also includes the African-American imprint, Strebor Books, founded by bestselling Atria author Zane in 1999, and Atria Books Español, which publishes titles aimed at the Hispanic reader in both English and Spanish. This fall Atria will publish The Time in Between by Maria Duenas, originally a bestseller in Spain (2.5 million copies sold). To promote the title, Atria plans to enlist local author escorts to hand deliver galleys of the novel to booksellers. And the house is launching its new Emily Bestler imprint in November with Kill Shot, a new Mitch Rapp thriller from its bestselling espionage novelist Vince Flynn. The line will publish eight to 10 books a season.
Atria’s new Web site will be unveiled later this fall with a new feature, Ask Atria, a video channel where visitors to the site can direct questions about publishing to editors, the marketing department, and authors, and Atria will post a video answer within days. Curr called it a “community service” for readers and said it will be “better than posting stuff on Facebook.”
The house’s first title in 2002 was Marlo Thomas’s The Right Words at the Right Time, which became a bestseller. To mark the anniversary, Atria is publishing a similar title, Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old-Self, edited by Joseph Galliano (with a foreword by J.K. Rowling), in which celebrities such as Alice Cooper, Stan Lee, and Suze Orman send notes of encouragement to their teenage selves. Much like the Thomas title, Dear Me will support a charity, and $1 from every copy sold will go to Doctors Without Borders.
This fall the house is publishing The Impulse Economy: Understanding Mobile Shoppers and What Makes Them Buy by Gary Schwartz, a book about NFC phones (near field communication) and the fast approaching world of smartphones that allow consumers to purchase stuff anywhere. The book will have codes that will allow anyone with an NFC phone to connect with the author and, if the technology works, Curr said they’ll roll the technology into other Atria books.
Another big fall book is Culo (nicknamed “the book of bottoms”) by acclaimed photographer Mazzucco, an oversized book of lush photography documenting the female derrière. Multifaceted entertainer/mogul P. Diddy is the executive editor of the project, which was produced in partnership with Jimmy Iovine, chairman of Interscope Records. On sale in November, the book will have a massive promotional campaign with tie-ins to Fashion Week in New York, a Web site, TV and print publicity, and social media.
Curr said the name Atria is “plural for a place where things grow and flourish,” and said that is what its publishing program stands for. “That’s what happens to us around here and to our authors. We connect with our readers and we publish books with feeling, books that improve people’s lives.”