Former Crown publisher Molly Stern has returned to book publishing as the founder of Zando, an independent publisher that will develop its own list as well as partner with “influential people, platforms and institutions to acquire and publish new titles under their own imprints,” according to the release announcing the venture.

Stern told PW she borrowed the idea of creating a publisher that had different ways to publish a book from her time at Crown where she worked with Sarah Jessica Parker to launch her SJP imprint for Crown’s Hogarth. “I want to find ways to best support an author’s book,” she said, whether that is by releasing it through Zando or as part of what she is calling a “catalyst partners’ ” list. “It’s all about finding the best ways to make authentic connections for the book.”

Stern said she wants to improve the discoverability of books and to do that she is rethinking the way large publishers do some things such as distribution and direct-to-consumer sales. She said while the big publishers do lots of things well, “I thought there was something missing. Right now, we have lots of possibilities to explore.”

Zando has received financial backing from SISTER, the independent studio formed in 2019 by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider, and Jane Featherstone to develop, produce and invest in new types of storytellers. Though the principals of SISTERS have ties to a variety of media platforms and has made investments in other media-related startups, Stern said Zando has no obligations to offer first look deals to SISTER. Stern said while she looks forward to working with a range of creatives and to develop projects “at its heart Zando is a book publisher.”

The first Zando list is scheduled to be released in fall 2021. The company’s first catalyst partners are expected to be announced soon as is the company’s distributor. Joining Stern at Zando is Alexander Czik, who is overseeing operations. Stern met Czik at Crown and he most recently worked on strategy for Macmillan. Zando is also expected to announce its first editorial hires soon.

Stern, who is Zando CEO, is one of publishing’s most high-profile publisher/editors. While at Crown, she edited Michelle Obama’s Becoming and worked on scores of award-winning and commercially successful books. She left Penguin Random House at the end of 2018 following a restructuring that merged the Crown division into the Random House Publishing Group.