The AALA has put together a day of panels and learning sessions at the U.S. Book Show, bringing the industry together for continuing education around issues of mutual interest. Designed for agents, editors, and other publishing professionals, the program will be held in person at the NYU Kimmel Center and livestreamed.
Tuesday, May 23
This session is geared toward agents and concludes with lunch and an AALA member meeting.
• Andrea Chambers, associate dean, Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts, NYU School of Professional Studies
• Jennifer Weltz, president, AALA
Anatomy of a Bestseller
How does a book become a bestseller when the author isn’t a celebrity or doesn’t have a huge platform? Publishers reveal the keys to positioning a title for success in various book categories.
• Sally Kim is senior v-p and publisher of G.P. Putnam’s Sons at Penguin Random House, where she oversees the imprint and edits her own list of fiction, including bestselling authors Megan Abbott, Kiley Reid, and Chloe Benjamin.
• Arthur Levine is the president and editor-in-chief of children’s publisher Levine Querido. His authors include Newbery Medalist Donna Barba Higuera, Printz Medalist Daniel Nayeri, and Printz Honor author Eric Gansworth.
• Karen Rinaldi has been a publishing executive for more than three decades. She is currently at HarperCollins, where she founded the Harper Wave imprint, and has edited and published across a wide range of
categories, from the literary to the prescriptive.
• Cindy Spiegel was a founding editor of Riverhead Books and later copublisher and cofounder, with Julie Grau, of Spiegel & Grau. She has launched the literary careers of writers including James McBride, Khaled Hosseini, and Gary Shteyngart.
Moderator: Cherise Fisher is a literary agent at Wendy Sherman Associates.
Breakout I: Acquisition by Data
Publishers and agents are increasingly leveraging data and metadata in the acquisition process. Learn where they get this information, how it’s used to make decisions about categories and titles, the results of these initiatives, and how you can apply it to your own list.
• Christa Desir is the editorial director for Bloom Books at Sourcebooks. She has acquired and edited fiction from EL James, Scarlett St. Clair, Elle Kennedy, Ana Huang, Lauren Asher, Lucy Score, Kennedy Ryan, and others. She also runs a mentorship program and freelance consortium for BIPOC editors who are looking to break into publishing.
• Peter Hildick-Smith founded Codex-Group in 2004. Its book audience testing programs have helped authors including Hillary Clinton, Tina Fey, and Joe Biden reach the bestseller list.
• Richard Rhorer is the founding publisher of Simon Element, a Simon & Schuster imprint established in 2021 and dedicated to books in the lifestyle and prescriptive nonfiction categories.
• David Walter is in his 15th year in the publishing and data space. He currently leads the team at Circana BookScan, formerly NPD BookScan, that delivers book industry data and insights to publishers, retailers, and content creators.
Moderator: Regina Brooks is CEO of Serendipity Literary Agency.
Breakout II: Listen Up: Making the Most from Audiobooks
Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in book publishing. Learn how to pitch projects for audio originals, what categories are best suited for audio originals, how to leverage backlist titles, and best practices for creating an audiobook that will have a sales life of its own.
• Lance Fitzgerald is v-p of content and business development for PRH Audio, leading the editorial acquisitions, art, and licensing teams. Under his leadership, the audio editorial team has acquired audiobook originals from Timothy Snyder, Erik Larson, Steven Rinella, and others, as well as audiobook-first projects from authors including Ali Hazelwood and Brandon Sanderson.
• Anthony Goff, president, Blackstone Publishing, started his career at Dow Jones Inc. before making his foray into book publishing at St. Martin’s Press, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster. Under his tenure as v-p, associate publisher, then senior v-p and publisher, Hachette Audio won seven Grammy Awards and four Audiobook of the Year distinctions.
• Carol Mackey is senior acquisitions editor at Recorded Books, responsible for licensing fiction and nonfiction titles for audio. Carol enjoys bringing in books by bestselling and established authors, but her greatest joy is discovering new and upcoming authors and helping them build their brands in the audio space.
• Scott Sherratt specializes in audiobook productions for the world’s major publishers. He has worked on 14 Grammy-nominated projects as producer, director, recording engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer.
Moderator: Katie Kotchman is a literary agent at Don Congdon Associates.
11:30 a.m.–12:15 p.m.
Breakout I: The Fine Print: Ethics, Copyright, and Contracts
Representatives will provide an update on emerging legal, contracts, copyright, and ethics issues and answer questions. What does it mean to double-dip? How does AI affect copyright and contractual language? What does it mean operationally to be a fiduciary? No question is too small. It’s the agent’s job to know the fine print.
• Vicky Bijur started her literary agency in 1988. She represents fiction and nonfiction authors, including in memoir, biography, cookbooks, food writing, journalism, health/wellness, and graphic nonfiction. She has served as president of the AALA and as chair of its ethics committee.
• Ginger Clark launched Ginger Clark Literary in 2021. In addition to active work in major positions at the American Association of Literary Agents, Ginger is an expert in contracts, foreign rights, and negotiating.
• Gina Maccoby is a New York literary agent representing authors of literary and commercial fiction and nonfiction for adults and children. A longtime member of AALA, Gina served four terms on the organization’s board of directors, is on the contracts committee and the royalties committee, and is co-chair of the ethics committee.
• Jaime Wolf, a transactional attorney in New York City, chaired the City Bar’s entertainment law committee from 2016 to 2019 and has wide experience in the publishing business. He has worked with a variety of authors, illustrators, literary agencies, publishers, and packagers, handling archive sales, contract negotiations, intellectual property matters and pre-publication legal review of manuscripts.
Moderator: Lynn Johnston is president of Lynn Johnston Literary.
Breakout II: Everything Flows Through Sales: Understanding the Acquisition P&L
What goes into the P&L when a publisher is pursuing a book project? S&S’s finance director discusses what makes a perfect comp book, how much impact an author’s track record has, when editors get pushback on their sales projections, and what agents need to know about publishing math when pitching a project.
• Kristal Batanjany was named finance director for Simon & Schuster in 2021 and has worked in the publishing industry for more than eight years. She also teaches at NYU’s Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts.
Lunch and AALA Annual Member Meeting
12:15 p.m.–1:30 p.m.
This session is open to industry professionals and includes panels, breakouts, and a closing networking session
Registration for industry professionals opens
Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt discusses the state of bookselling, current initiatives, and plans for the future.
Spotlight on Arabic Literature
• Shahad Al Rawi is the author of Banner over the Republic Bridge.
• Yasmine AlSayyad is a writer and the co-deputy head of fact-checking at the New Yorker.
Breakout I: The Campaign: Leveraging PR and Marketing
Industry pros discuss how authors can make the most of marketing and PR resources to launch their books, including what gets the publishing team excited, when to bring in outside help, and what currently moves books (and what doesn’t).
• Michelle Aielli, as associate publisher of the Hachette Books imprints, oversees publicity and marketing for the group, liaises with HBG’s sales team, and consults on all aspects of the publishing process. Michelle has spent more than two decades in book publishing and has worked with such authors as James Patterson, Michael Connelly, and Donna Tartt.
• Natalie Ramirez is director of marketing and imprint partnerships at Zando, where she oversees marketing campaigns and brand positioning for each of Zando’s nine imprints, including Gillian Flynn Books and Sarah Jessica Parker’s SJP Lit.
• Alison Rich is senior v-p, author development, at Penguin Random House, where she created the company’s first team dedicated to extending author reach and revenue in channels including podcasting, online learning, licensing, merchandising, speaking, social media, and newsletters.
• Brianna Yamashita, executive director of marketing at Simon & Schuster, has strategized and executed bestselling campaigns for Anthony Doerr, Stephen King, and Jennifer Egan, among others.
Moderator: Audra Boltion-Ortiz is the president and CEO of Boltion Group Public Relations.
Breakout II: Beating Back the Flames: The 4-Day Work Week & Solutions for Managing Burnout
The crisis is real when 89% of publishing professionals surveyed say they are experiencing undue stress. This panel, featuring publishers that have gone to the four-day work week, shares their experiences and explores steps individuals, teams, and companies can take to manage burnout, as well as how agents and editors can work better together to alleviate stress.
• Jhanteigh Kupihea, senior v-p and publisher, Quirk Books, held editorial positions at Simon & Schuster and Penguin USA before joining Quirk in 2018.
• Ashton Lattimore, editor-in-chief, Prism Reports, is an author and journalist whose work lives at the intersections of racial justice, gender, and culture. She practiced law for four years before returning to her first loves, storytelling and journalism. Her debut novel, All We Were Promised,is forthcoming from Ballantine Books in 2024.
• Monika Woods is a literary agent, writer, editor, and founder of Triangle House. She is a board member of the AALA and has worked closely with leading voices in contemporary literature over her decadelong publishing career.
Breakout I: How to Talk About Books
How do you get people not only to buy and read a book but also talk about it with friends and colleagues in a way that draws others to it? From op-eds to podcasts to BookTok, learn what makes book lovers and casual readers notice and care.
• Maiysha Kai is the lifestyle editor of TheGrio and host-creator of the literary podcast Writing Black. Her cultural commentary has been cited by the New York Times, Vanity Fair, the Guardian, and CNN. A Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and voiceover actress, Maiysha is a frequent on-air pundit who has appeared on ABC’s Nightline and CBS This Morning.
• Miwa Messer is a career bookseller and the creator, executive producer, and host of Poured Over, the Barnes & Noble podcast.
• Vanessa Mobley is op-ed editor at the New York Times, where she edits guest essays for the opinion section. Prior to working at the Times, she was a book editor. Her authors included Samantha Power, Clint Smith, Sheri Fink, and Ronan Farrow.
• Felicity Vallence, an Australian in New York, has worked in publishing for nearly 20 years and in digital marketing for more than a decade. She works in the young adult category, helping authors develop their online presence and creating strategies to reach young readers.
Moderator: Soumeya Bendimerad Roberts is a literary agent and v-p of foreign rights at HG Literary.
Breakout II: All About Auctions
Agents and editors compare notes about best practices for structuring and executing successful auctions.
• Caitlin Blasdell has been a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates since 2002 with a focus on commercial fiction. Before becoming an agent, she was a senior editor at HarperCollins.
• Heather Jackson vaulted over the desk to the agent side in 2016, after a career as a trade editor for dozens of bestselling authors including Tim Ferriss, Jillian Michaels, Steven Gundry, and Mallika Chopra.
• Serena Jones, v-p and executive editor at Henry Holt, joined Holt in 2010 after working at HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and NAL. Serena has worked with, among others, Stacey Abrams, Jimmy Carter, Minka Kelly, Lenny Kravitz, Skip Hollandsworth, Gretchen Morgenson, Bill O’Reilly, and Walter Isaacson.
• Tanya McKinnon founded McKinnon Literary in 2014. Previously, she was an editor at South End Press before becoming a scout at Mary Evans, Inc, where she spent nine years as an agent. She has represented National Book Award winners and numerous bestsellers. She teaches in the publishing certificate program at City College.
• Eric Nelson is executive editor at Harper and v-p, editorial director of Broadside, HarperCollins’s conservative imprint. Since joining Harper in 2017, he has published numerous bestsellers. Prior to HarperCollins, he worked for Penguin and Wiley.
• Connie Hsu is editorial director at Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan. Books she’s edited include Caldecott Medal winner The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat and Caldecott Honor book Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol. She is a founding member of the Children’s Book Council diversity committee and member of the Brooklyn Book Festival planning committee.
Moderator: David Moldawer is the president of Bookitect.
When the It Hits the Fan
A panel discusses the impact of cancel culture, book banning, and what the industry can and should do about them.
• Charlotte Clymer is a writer, communications consultant, transgender activist, and military veteran. She writes Charlotte’s Web Thoughts, a Substack newsletter about politics, religion, and culture. In 2023, she was named a finalist for Outstanding Blog at the 34th Annual GLAAD Media Awards and Best Blog & Micro-blog at the 15th Annual Shorty Awards.|
• Lisa Sharkey, director of creative development at HarperCollins, joined in 2007and has since published numerous bestsellers. Sharkey is also a social media expert and oversaw the company’s video initiatives and its Facebook and Instagram programming for more than seven years.
• Adrian Zackheim joined Penguin Group in September 2001 as founder and publisher of Portfolio, where he is responsible for multiple bestsellers. He founded the conservative imprint Sentinel in April 2003.
Moderator: Monica Odom is the president of Odom Media Management.
5:30–6:30 p.m.: Cocktail reception and networking