Less than a year after she moved from HarperCollins’s Ecco imprint to Little, Brown to head her own imprint, Lee Boudreaux is putting the finishing touches on her first list of eight books. Originally scheduled to launch in fall 2016, the books, a mix of literary fiction and one work of nonfiction, will be published over the course of the year, starting in January with Sunil Yapa’s debut novel, Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist.
“At Ecco, I really got to get to know my own taste and to take a chance,” says Boudreaux, who plans to do the same at Lee Boudreaux Books. She points to bestsellers like David Wrowblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which seemed like a long shot. But she believed in it, and even before it became an Oprah selection, it hit #2 on the New York Times bestseller list and was on track to sell 300,000 copies.
Similarly, Boudreaux fell for Ben Fountain’s voice. She had wanted to buy his short story collection, Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, before she came to Ecco. She ended up buying it and Fountain’s first novel, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which went on to become a National Book Award finalist.
“I like books where stuff happens,” says Boudreaux. “I need some narrative momentum. But it’s all about the writing. An agent told me, ‘When I think of your books, you have a strong sense of place.’” None of that has changed with the imprint, or her passion. Boudreaux received Yapa’s novel, which follows seven people on a single day during the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, on a Friday. By Sunday morning she had met with the author; that evening she bought the book.
“I love being immersed in every one of these worlds,” says Boudreaux of her first list, which encompasses the fictional story of a man on the run from post-Katrina New Orleans—John Gregory Brown’s A Thousand Miles from Nowhere (June)—as well as the true story of a black man who grew up across the street from drug dealers and is now a rising star at the Met—Dan Bergner’s Sing for Your Life (Sept.).
Yapa speaks for many of Boudreaux’s upcoming authors when he says, “I feel very lucky to be at the beginning of the launch of a new imprint. She has a reputation for taking a risk on unusual voices. I think this is going to be a perfect match.”
Miriam Parker, marketing director for the imprint and deputy marketing director for Little, Brown, views Boudreaux’s imprint as filled with “books that independent booksellers can get behind.
I think these are instant classics.” In addition to prepub tours to introduce booksellers to the authors and the imprint, Little, Brown is giving out Lee Boudreaux tote bags and 1,000 galleys of Yapa’s novel at its booth (2918). Yapa will also be signing today, 11 a.m.–noon, in the autographing area, Table 4.