The venerable magazine New York Review of Books (booth 4044), which already has two book imprints, NYRB Classics and NYRB Children’s Collection, will announce at BEA the launch of NYRB Lit, a new, select e-book series to be edited by Sue Halpern, a longtime contributor to the New York Review.
The first four books in the new series were all published to great acclaim and in some cases enormous sales abroad, including On the Edge by Swiss writer Markus Weiner, whose book, a thriller, sold more than 400,000 copies in Germany, and 1948, a memoir by Israeli writer Yoram Kaniuk, which sold 100,000 copies in Israel and won the prestigious Sapir Prize.
Halpern told PW that she has been working on the idea for two years—an attempt to address the imperiling of literary books—and literary books in translation—as current new business models convulse the marketplace. “It occurred to me one day that the New York Review, which is deeply involved in the industry, might be in a position to do something, a new model to invert the old model.” She points to the visionary leadership of Robert Silvers at the Review and is eager to use the “trusted brand” of the Review to build a readership for books that people somewhere have already been passionate about.
As with all New York Review imprints, Random House will distribute the titles in e-book format. “If we are successful,” says Halpern, “they will distribute them in print, too. But,” she adds, “success is not to be measured by whether something makes it to print.” Halpern’s imprint will be making heavy use of social media to get the word out and start conversations. In an unusual move, she has invited certain New York Review contributors to engage with a book and consider writing, not a review per se, but a piece inspired by the work.
At BEA, Halpern will be meeting with agents as she scouts for new books. It has been agents and editorial acquaintances so far who have been her “gate-keepers.” Although Halpern is working “solo” as editor of the imprint, she is utilizing talent at Middlebury College, where she runs the Fellowship in Narrative Journalism program. A talented sophomore, Ian Stewart, has designed all the covers so far—“and Random House loved them.” Middlebury students are also hosting a series of podcasts on the books—“for credit or for pay,” she points out. Indeed, a new model for changing times.