When Frances Coady arrived at Picador in 2000, she spoke to many of her new colleagues in the industry, asking for their impression of Picador. “They seemed immensely confused,” Coady says now. “It didn't have a clear identity.” People knew Picador published literary titles, but the combination of hardcovers and paperbacks puzzled them.
Nine years later, with Coady at the helm, Picador is known as Macmillan's literary paperback imprint. It works across Macmillan to publish paperback editions of hardcovers (usually from Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Henry Holt), and publishes original fiction and nonfiction in paperback by Paul Auster, Alan Bennett, Michael Cunningham, Siri Hustvedt, Andrea Levy, Yoko Ogawa, and others. In addition, Picador is home to literary paperback series such as the Paris Review Interviews and BIG IDEAS//small books, short titles that address such issues as time, morality, violence, and youth. What Coady would like the industry to know, above all else, is that Picador doesn't just print paperbacks published by other Macmillan houses. “We republish; we don't just reissue,” she says forcefully.
What does that mean, exactly? Coady uses one word to explain what distinguishes republishing from reissuing: hindsight. “A paperback publisher has the great benefit of hindsight. That's an argument why you want a paperback publishing arm that is totally unto itself, that can start again. It's really hard to reinvent your own books. And we have a dedicated staff to do that.” Picador's editorial, publicity, and marketing staff has repackaged books like Jeffrey Eugenides's Middlesex, Tom Wolfe's I Am Charlotte Simmons, and Marilyn Robinson's Housekeeping—with great success. “There are some books that work much better in paperback,” Coady says. “There are some books that you can start over with, that the packaging and positioning, for whatever reason, didn't work [in hardcover]. And it's nobody's fault.”
Coady should know about publishing hardcovers: through a unique arrangement, she is not only the publisher of Picador, but she also publishes hardcovers via other Macmillan arms, particularly FSG and Holt. Mainly literary fiction and political nonfiction, Coady's hardcovers are released as “A Frances Coady Book.” Many of the authors Coady edits in hardcover are among her trade paperback stars including Naomi Klein, Richard Powers, Paul Auster, Siri Hustvedt, Andrea Levy, and Alan Bennett.
Before coming from the U.K. to the U.S. to work for Picador, Coady was publisher at Granta Books. She had built a publishing career in the U.K., where she was the founding publisher of Vintage Paperbacks, a publishing director at Random House U.K., and held positions at Faber & Faber, BBC television, and Jonathan Cape. Coady's mixture of editorial and publishing management made her a good candidate to run Picador. “I'm as passionate about publishing as I am about editing,” she says. Aside from her wide-ranging experience, Coady brought with her the conviction that it made financial sense to keep paperbacks within groups instead of selling them to outside houses. “It's crazy to spend all the money that you do in launching a hardcover for another company to benefit when it comes to the paperback. Why would we give that away? Why would FSG publish The Corrections and then go give it somebody else? It doesn't make sense.” (However, one of the first things Coady did when she arrived at Picador was to buy paperback rights to Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay from Random House, “something that you now would not be able to do,” she says—and it went on to be a bestseller for Picador.)
Although there may have once been a stigma attached to paperback originals, that has long since faded. “The trade continually tells us they want more paperback originals,” she says. “Let's face it: it's more affordable. If you're trying to break somebody through, then I think it's terrific. If you look at the reviews everywhere, nobody's making that distinction” between a hardcover and a paperback original.
Coady also makes the case that paperbacks live longer than hardcovers. “You put a hardcover out, what's it selling for? Three months? Six months? Nine months? A hardcover doesn't really have a very long life, unfortunately. In paperback, that's where the book continues to sell.”