A bookseller once said that readers think they love writers, but without knowing it, they love editors just as much. That notion is at the foundation of Avid Reader Press, the newly announced Simon & Schuster imprint that sprang from two editors’ love for Avid Reader: A Life, the 2016 memoir by Knopf editor-in-chief Robert Gottlieb.
“It’s not a lie to say we read Bob’s book when it came out and both looked at each other and said, ‘Wow. Could we create that here?’ ” says Ben Loehnen, who cofounded Avid Reader with longtime S&S editor Jofie Ferrari-Adler.
“There was a spirit of partnership that animated his book,” says Ferrari-Adler. “We looked back at all of our own happiest publications, and that was the common denominator that ran through them.”
As a result, Loehnen and Ferrari-Adler caution that Avid Reader isn’t looking to publish a certain type of book. Instead, the duo are eager to publish a certain kind of author, one who is willing to work in close collaboration with the imprint’s team.
The first author to work with the team is Lisa Taddeo, whose debut nonfiction Three Women (July) follows the intimate sexual lives of its subjects. Ferrari-Adler had picked up the manuscript as a prospectus and worked with Taddeo from the very beginning of the initial research and writing, during which the author threw out thousands of words. Further collaboration took place, since she delivered a manuscript that was 120 pages longer than what was eventually published
Taddeo credits Ferrari-Adler for making what seemed an insurmountable task of writing, researching, and editing and cutting somehow possible. The collaborative aspect of Avid Reader gave her a sense of security. “What Jofie first said to me is that he wants everyone to be fluid,” says Taddeo. “I feel like I can e-mail anyone at Avid a question and that person, whether or not it’s their specific field, will send me their honest opinion.”
For the editors, that kind of partnership is essential to creating lasting relationships and publishing successful books. “On a practical level,” says Ferrari-Adler, “bringing everyone into the group with the author right away, they know the team, they know the team they’ll have two years from now, and three years from now.”
Avid Reader has a slate of titles to follow Three Women, the first being Garrett Graff’s The Only Plane in the Sky (Sept.), a 500-page oral history of 9/11. Subsequent books include a take on middle age by New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, an exploration of business and philanthropy by Blackstone cofounder Steve Schwarzman, and a look at Harry Houdini and his present-day followers by Joe Posnanski.
Avid Reader plans to publish more than 20 fiction and nonfiction titles in 2020, and it already has plans to grow the team next year. For Loehnen and Ferrari-Adler, it’s an all-consuming task, and just where they want to be, guided by what Loehnen calls “a sort of can-do-ism, a cheerfulness, a faith, a sense of optimism.”
Today, 10–11 a.m. Lisa Taddeo will sign at the S&S booth (1838, 1839).