Grosset & Dunlap/Price Stern Sloan, New York City
“Eve is extremely creative and innovative and works hard to expand her network. She leaves no stone unturned in terms of finding new ideas and connecting with authors who may have interesting book ideas.”—Sarah Fabiny, editor-in-chief of licensing and series at G&D
When we think of creative types, we often imagine disorganized sorts with messy offices strewn full of works in progress. But, along with diligence and organization, Eve Adler has the ability to possess an outstanding imaginative approach to books. A colleague says she is able to work on a wide range of projects while keeping everything on time and on budget, as well as being a great mentor to younger members of the team.
Beyond Adler’s leadership skills, she is passionate about “making books that will inspire kids. I have fond memories of the books I loved when I was younger, and still remember the impact they had on me. I hope to make books that can help kids in the same way—that will comfort them, expand their horizons, and, of course, entertain them.” Adler has a “soft spot” for Night-Night, Forest Friends, by Annie Bach, one of the first projects she acquired for Grosset in 2011, and says it “makes me want to take a nap every time I read it.” Another past favorite is The Little Misses’ Fabulous Book of Nail Art (a licensee) “because, well, the Little Misses and nail art—what more could you want?”
On the horizon for next spring is The Funny Bunny Factory, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, which Adler says has “the most wonderfully strange retro art you will ever see.” The book is part of the press’s G+D Vintage line: books from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s that Grosset & Dunlap is bringing back into print.
Rachel Kempster Barry
V-P, Marketing & Publicity
DK, New York City
“It’s not always easy to work in an industry that prompts calls like this from your mother:
Mom: ‘I read an article that publishing is dead. Are you going to lose your job?’
Me: ‘No, mom, I’m good.’ ”
Rachel Kempster Barry is having one heck of a summer. She was married in June, and now she’s a Star Watch honoree. Barry is a member of the DK leadership team, a group of 25 influential people responsible for driving the company’s strategy and vision. That vision means keeping the focus on the consumer, which Barry does while pushing boundaries and adopting an “anything is possible” style.
This isn’t the first time that Barry has been recognized for excellence: in 2011 she was named a Penguin Hero, one of 12 recipients of the award across Penguin USA and Penguin UK. That honor was specifically tied to her work promoting DK’s Star Wars publishing list—and that was before she launched one of her most innovative projects, Star Wars Reads Day, a book-focused concept that she introduced to Lucasfilm. After Barry had attended a couple of Comic-Cons, it became obvious to her that Star Wars fans love Star Wars books, and that was the seed of what she describes as “one of the most exciting and exhausting highlights of my career.” Lucasfilm has continued to build and grow Star Wars Reads Day into an annual event with tens of thousands of events planned worldwide in conjunction with a multitude of publishing partners, libraries, and stores.
While admitting that she has “Star Wars on the brain,” because a new movie is due out this December, Barry is equally committed to the all of the DK brands—such as Lego and the Smithsonian Institution—which have legions of fans among parents, teachers, librarians, and, most importantly, kids.
Serendipity Literary Agency, New York City
“We all need to be literary citizens.”
Serendipity is one of the largest African-American literary agencies in the country, and president and founder Regina Brooks says that long before there was a We Need Diverse Books campaign, her agency “heard the cry of diverse authors who wanted to share their literary voices with the world.” More importantly, she answered the call. She emphatically states that “as much as we need diverse books, we need people who can publicize and market them.”
When Brooks speaks of diversity, she means across all channels: the writers, the books, the genres, and the way these books are brought to market. She is keenly aware that a one- size-fits-all approach does not work in today’s marketplace. As Serendipity has expanded, she has brought on agents with myriad skill sets and experiences. One was an attorney whom Brooks describes as a “wonderful advocate who understands how to make a case for something,” for example, and another had been in publicity for 10 years.
Brooks’s goals go beyond just selling books: she is dedicated to building authors’ careers from the ground up, and it has paid off. Two of her authors, Shelia P. Moses and Marilyn Nelson, have been finalists for the National Book Award.
She is also fiercely committed to being a “literary citizen.” She is on the boards of numerous literary organizations and is cofounder of the YB Literary Foundation (YBLF), whose mission is to kindle a passion for literature in high school students, as well as an appreciation for the possibilities and opportunities that reading can provide. One of the signature programs of YBLF is Let Your Words Fly, in which the organization takes kids flying (Brooks happens to be a recreational pilot) and asks them to write about their experience.
Viking Children’s Books, New York City
“Joanna is very much an up-and-coming star of American publishing. With her exquisite editorial sense and keen eye for artwork, she is both breaking out debut talents and attracting seasoned award-winning authors to her list.”—Kenneth Wright, v-p & publisher, Viking Children’s Books
Though Joanna Cardenas’s parents were not big readers themselves (their circumstances “didn’t allow much leisure reading time,” she explains), they supported her reading habit by buying her long lists of Scholastic Book Club choices and making sure that she had role models with whom to discuss books. Enter her elementary school librarian, “a small woman with a big passion for books,” Cardenas says. “She introduced me to Vera B. Williams, Sharon Creech, and Gary Soto.”
The poet Soto had a particular impact on Cardenas and led her to more books that, she says, “took me to places I’d never visited and introduced me to kids I wanted to learn more about. What drives me now as an editor is working with authors and illustrators who will contribute to a young reader’s global perspective in this way.” To that end, Cardenas strives to find works “that use humor and heart to deconstruct big concepts like identity.” She also has a specific interest in narratives that reflect the modern Latino experience in the U.S.
Cardenas is an active member of the children’s publishing community and is a sought-after speaker. Two organizations that she is enthusiastic about are the Comadres and Compadres Latino Writers Conference and a new network (too new to have a name yet) of publishing professionals looking at ways to increase the number of Latinos in the publishing industry and promote literature by, for, and about Latino people. “I’m a bookseller at heart,” says Cardenas, who began her career at Borders in San Diego. “Matching someone with a book I think they’ll love is a rush.”
Manager & Book Buyer
Sherman’s Books and Stationery, Portland, Maine
“I’m driven by the connection to other people in the book trade more than anything else—whether it’s working with editors to craft that perfect piece, or sales reps to bring in the best books of the season, or other booksellers to learn what they’re doing in their stores.”
Bookrageous is the name of the podcast that Josh Christie produces, and it is an apt description for this bookseller, author, and passionate literary citizen who has previously been recognized for his zeal. In 2010, he was a recipient of the Rusty Drugan Scholarship for Emerging Leaders from the New England Independent Booksellers Association (NEIBA). Now a manager at Sherman’s Books and Stationery in Portland, Maine, and a buyer for the store’s five locations, Christie revels in his work. “This community and the conversations it drives make my work enjoyable, energizing, challenging, and different every day,” he says. “Who wouldn’t be passionate about that?”
Christie is a believer in bookstores as a “third place, a social place for people away from work and home.” And he certainly wants this to be so for the Portland store, which he has been a part of from conception through building, to stocking, hiring, and opening the store—an accomplishment he considers the high point of his career thus far. With the store open for about two years, Christie wants to expand its events programming and online presence.
Christie’s extracurricular life is also all about books. Since 2011 he has been on the board of NEIBA and, with his term about to expire, Christie is looking forward to a role on the advisory council. When Christie says he “lives and breathes books,” he’s almost not exaggerating. He has written four of them—the latest of which is due out next year.
BOA Editions Ltd., Rochester, N.Y.
“Peter Conners’s star has been on a meteoric rise, and his success in all aspects of American publishing deserves to be celebrated.”—Melissa Hall, development director, BOA Editions
Working at BOA Editions, a nonprofit publisher of poetry and other literary works, Peter Conners faces challenges quite different from those of his peers at the Big Five, where the advance for a debut author might be more than BOA’s entire annual operating budget. Only 40% of BOA’s support comes from the sales of its publications. The rest comes from grants and private donations, so Conners has fund-raising duties in addition to doing what all publishers try to do: get great authors and great books in front of readers.
He recently spearheaded a successful $100,000 campaign to support the publication of The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton, 1965–2010, secured a $40,000 matching grant to support the major gifts campaign for BOA’s 40th anniversary, and sold the organization’s archives to the University of Rochester’s special collections library.
These activities have not hindered Conners’s ability to find and nurture great talent. On his roster is the 2015 Whiting Award winner Aracelis Girmay; Jillian Weise, winner of the 2013 James Laughlin Award for her collection The Book of Goodbyes; and Geffrey Davis, a 2015 finalist for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for poetry. A champion of the arts, Conners lectures on writing and publishing at universities, high schools, and literary organizations, and is a frequent guest on public radio and collaborator with arts organizations. In June, he received a Community Arts Award from the Arts & Cultural Council of Greater Rochester for his various artistic and professional contributions.
V-P & Editorial Director
Diversion Books, New York City
“In publishing, we frequently lament how few people read, and then we try to corral those who do into buying the books that we publish instead of those of our competitors. Very few people have the vision and the drive to attempt to grow the pie, but this is what Mary Cummings has set out to do.”—Scott Waxman, founder, Diversion Books
Both inside and outside of Diversion Books, Mary Cummings is heralded as an asset to and an advocate of all things publishing—from bringing new readers into the fold, to transitioning lost literary gems to the new publishing landscape. She is lauded for her macro- and microlevel understanding of the markets, trends, production, and business aspects of publishing, as well as being an unrelenting champion of Diversion’s authors.
Literary agent Scott Waxman launched Diversion in 2010 as the e-book arm of his agency. Since then Cummings has grown it exponentially: from a small player in the independent e-book business with two full-time employees (herself included) to a full-service publisher with more than 1,000 titles in its catalogue, nine full-time employees and a network of freelancers. As part of her “grow the pie” vision, she publishes across all genres, customizing the publishing plan for each title. She has acquired backlist titles from luminaries such as Ursula K. Le Guin and S.E. Hinton, and has grown Diversion’s frontlist, brokering deals to win bestselling authors such as Greg Behrendt (It’s Just a F***ing Date) and the mother-daughter author team Kristin Cast and P.C. Cast (House of Night series).
For Cummings, publishing is “never static; we are constantly evolving”—and growing, one might add. In summer, Diversion announced plans to branch out and add more traditional print publishing to its primarily digital focus. Cummings notes that as “we get to know our consumer base, we are constantly finding new things to do,” lending new meaning to the concept of hybrid publishing.
Director of Subsidiary Rights
Kensington Publishing, New York City
“As someone who works with amazing publishers and editors all over the world, I am excited about the growth of translated titles making it to the U.S. market: there is literally a whole other world out there that American readers haven’t been able to experience fully. What I look forward to every year is helping debut authors—in print or digital—get their books into new languages and markets or into audio editions. It is getting harder and harder to get publishers to take chances on new voices or fresh directions, and I consider every time a debut author gets placed a victory.”
When Jackie Dinas joined Kensington in 2009 as a foreign rights associate at the age of 21 , she handled more than 20 international territories and represented Kensington at the Frankfurt and London book fairs. This year, at the age of 27, she rose to the rank of director of sub rights, making her the youngest department head in the company’s 40-year history.
Dinas learned the ABCs of the business from her parents, who both worked in publishing. “Discussions of the industry were pretty par for the course at home while growing up,” she says. “Having parents who worked in the industry helped me to understand the realities of working in publishing.” But, according to a supervisor, though Dinas may have followed in her parents’ footsteps, she has clearly managed to carve her own path and make a name for herself with enthusiasm and passion for the business of selling books that “are singular and contagious.”
Advertising & Promotions Coordinator
Berkley Publishing Group, New York City
“Books have had an incredible impact on my life. They’ve made me a more well-rounded and interesting person. Many of my friendships were cemented because we bonded while discussing books. Readers make the best fans, and I’m always looking for ways to connect with readers.”
When Nicole Estrin began her publishing career as an assistant in the international and subsidiary rights department at Abrams, she was immediately thrown into the mammoth task of managing more than 45 licensees for Diary of a Wimpy Kid. But that was nothing compared to her next big leap: across the ocean to attend the Bologna book fair with less than two years of experience. The department was undergoing transition at the time and, as her Abrams colleague said, “there’s nothing like being thrown into the pond to sink or swim to prove one’s moxie and talent.”
Not only did Estrin swim and not sink, but just this summer she swam away to the Berkley Publishing Group. She credits Abrams with having a “powerful impact on my personal development—I was encouraged to expand my comfort zone.” She cites the Bologna Book Fair as an “experience that strengthened my voice and presence. I was introduced to publishing on a global scale and met amazing people from all over the world.”
At Berkley, Estrin is looking forward to new creative opportunities and new ways to connect with readers. Only weeks on the job, she has already begun writing personal selection emails for Goodreads about J.D. Robb’s upcoming book, Devoted in Death. Estrin is also excited about being part of the team to promote Rachel Caine’s Ink and Bone.
Greenleaf Book Group, Austin, Tex.
“At any given moment, there is a stack of books on my desk, a Kindle in my purse, a bag from BookPeople in the back seat of my car, and a book (or six) on hold at the library. I don’t think this is uncommon for anyone who works in the publishing industry, but I can’t help but feel exceptionally lucky to have parlayed my bookish ways into my livelihood.”
Armed with an M.B.A., a B.S. in marketing and professional English composition, and a certification in advanced social media skills, Foster didn’t initially set her sights on the publishing world. She honed her marketing skills early on in a few different industries, including real estate, food, and computers. At the same time, she says, she “serendipitously connected” with two authors from the Big Five publishers who were looking for additional marketing support. Foster offered them new book-marketing strategies, and they offered her publishing industry knowledge.
As her roster of very-satisfied authors grew, Foster actively began to seek a position with a publisher and found one with Greenleaf in 2011. As a hybrid publisher dedicated to independent authors and small presses, it was the right fit for Foster, and she won a promotion after only three months with the company.
Foster continues to fine-tune her publishing knowledge: just this year, she completed the Yale publishing course. At the same time, she keeps her finger on the pulse of new marketing strategies across various platforms. She is an active member of the blogging community, which she says “shares a passion for content creation and idea sharing,” and she speaks regularly at industry events such as the Independent Book Publishers Association’s Publishing University, WordPress’s WordCamp, and South by Southwest.
Ooligan Press, Portland, Ore.
“There are few individuals doing more for the future of publishing than Abbey in her compassionate and tireless efforts to enable and challenge the up-and-coming literary intellectuals studying to become publishing professionals.” — Corinne Gould, student, Portland State University
Abbey Gaterud has an unusual role at an uncommon press. Ooligan is a teaching press staffed by students pursuing master’s degrees in the English Department at Portland State University. But it is also a general trade publisher with national distribution, making Gaterud both a publisher and an instructor. In the latter role, a colleague says, “Abbey propels conscientious action and critical analysis of the current publishing industry. With her guidance, her students examine books as cultural artifacts and publishers as merchants of value.”
Gaterud is energized by the group of young professionals that she leads. “As a publisher, I’ve made a lot of books over the years” she says. “But we all remember the amazement when the first book we worked on finally appeared on the shelves at the bookstore. I get to work with the sense of amazement every day.”
Gaterud leads an environment where there are no limitations and no rules. She and her students experiment with the publishing formula, testing ideas that seem crazy, and even some that prove untenable. Forward movement at the press is about innovation, whether it is changing direction with regard to organization or creativity, rearranging workflow, researching new imprints, or designing strategies to increase the press’s visibility.
Meghan Dietsche Goel
Children’s & Young Adult Book Buyer
BookPeople, Austin, Tex.
“As part of a local, independent store, we have the amazing opportunity to get out into the community and into the schools to find new ways to engage with Austin kids. Pushing our programming into the community and finding ways to collaborate is one of the most exciting things about my job.”
For Meghan Goel there are no walls between the bricks-and-mortar structure of BookPeople and the community of Austin. It’s not just about the books: it’s about creating events and facilitating collaborations that reach new readers and foster a love of books. She adamantly refuses to take individual credit for any accomplishments. “Everything I do here is done collaboratively with the rest of the BookPeople team, which really supports creativity and trying new things,” she says.
Goel also credits those outside the store: “Austin has such a robust community of local authors and dedicated school librarians to partner with that it makes all of that work fun.”
One example is the work that she has done for the Texas Teen Book Festival. In 2009, she helped launch the free YA festival with a local librarian. Goel serves as the program director for the festival, which has grown each year. In 2014 the festival attracted more than 4,000 readers.
Partnering with local educators is very important to Goel, as well. As part of an initiative that received a James Patterson grant, she joined with members of the Austin Independent School District’s Office of Academics and area authors to develop in-depth curriculum tie-ins that provide teachers with tools to bring books to life. Fifty schools participated last year. She also brings teens into the store. Five years ago she initiated the Teen Press Corps: 10–15 young readers who meet with one of BookPeople’s YA booksellers to produce online content, in-store recommendation cards, and more.
Simon & Schuster, New York City
“Emily Graff has been performing small miracles for us since her arrival in 2012.” —Jonathan Karp, president & publisher, S&S Publishing Group
In the three years that she has been with S&S, Graff has distinguished herself by her impressive range of books. Her projects include The Sweetheart by Angelina Mirabella, a novel about a woman wrestler in the 1950s, which she won in an auction and which received an enthusiastic review in the New York Times Book Review; Arms and the Dudes, the true story of three Miami Beach stoners who became the most unlikely arms dealers in recent history; and a variety of cookbooks. Just this past summer, Graff worked on Blue, by Joe Domanick, a book about the redemption of the Los Angeles Police Department in the wake of the Rodney King beating, and Tales from the Back Row by Amy Odell, a behind-the-scenes peek into the fashion industry.
Graff says that, although the books appear to have very little in common, “at their core, they share a similar goal: to make the reader feel like he or she is in the middle of the action, whether that be at the intersection of Florence and Normandie, during the L.A. riots, or backstage, during Alexander Wang’s spring fashion show.” Similarly, she adds, in The Sweetheart “readers are transported back in time, to the 1950s, and ringside, to watch the hero take her first fall on the mat.”
“Alice Mayhew once told us, as assistants, that the job of the editor is to be the ‘best, first reader,’ ” Graff says. “I’ve always been an enthusiastic and curious reader, so it makes sense, to me, that I would be an enthusiastic and curious editor. On the page, I tend to ask similar questions, no matter the genre: does this word, sentence, paragraph lead to the most lucid and most powerful expression of the author’s intent?”
Penguin Young Readers Group, New York City
“Publishing is a rich world of art, literature, and thoughtful people. It’s motivating to think that, by delivering great work, I get to inspire the next generation of young readers who will grow up and reshape the world around them. I love that it’s my job to help create something clever and provocative, something that’s meaningful to society, and to wrap it up in a beautiful package.”
Mallory Grigg is a designer who doesn’t color within the lines. A colleague has called her “a true ambassador for good design,” as well as someone who shows “an endless drive to be a good publishing citizen while maintaining the highest standards.” These are accolades that are not limited to any one of the covers on the books and series on which she has worked.
Grigg’s notable projects include the rebranding of the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, illustrating the covers for the Almost Identical series, and designing the newly rebranded Ruth Heller art series. Grigg is particularly proud of her work on the bestselling Where Is? and What Was? series.
What really excites Grigg, however, is the bigger picture on several fronts. Looking at the year ahead, Grigg says that she is “thrilled that so many of the books I’m working on focus on enabling and inspiring young women to engage with their worlds in a brilliant, confident, and honest way.” She’s equally dedicated to the notion of making books “that better represent the diversity of all young readers in our society today.”
Adaptive Books, Los Angeles
“Jordan is an innovative editor and publishing mind who is not afraid of steering a forward-thinking young startup company and helping to make it thrive.”— Marshall Lewy, Adaptive cofounder & chief creative officer
Founded just over a year ago, Adaptive Studios set out to rescue abandoned intellectual property, primarily movie scripts, and repurpose them in a multitude of ways, including books and other media projects. This past summer Adaptive Books was launched to do the same for a wider arena of intellectual property orphans and to ramp up its book program overall. To lead the new division, they saved another orphan, Jordan Hamessley, who was abandoned by the closing of Egmont USA where she was an editor who was quickly moving up the ranks after joining the company from Penguin.
It’s a win-win for all. “My background at Penguin was in licensing and movie tie-ins,” Hamessley told PW last month, “so I’m prepared for how Adaptive works.” Projects she had previously worked on include Dinosaur Train and Madagascar 3. At Egmont she edited such books as Ilsa J. Bick’s Dark Passages horror series and Bree Despain’s Into the Dark trilogy. At Adaptive she aims to create quality books in and of themselves, not just as future content for film. One of Hamessley’s big books for the fall is DC Trip, a new novel by comedian Sara Benincasa that she described as “Amy Schumer raunchy.”
Meanwhile, the rescue efforts continue as Hamessley has brought some of the canceled acquisitions from Egmont to the new press. Her role at her new home goes beyond building the list; she oversees the sales team’s interaction with Ingram Publisher Services and coordinates all marketing and publicity with a team of freelancers.
Co-owner & Events Coordinator
Women & Children First, Chicago
“When people ask me why I love books, I often paraphrase that famous quote by James Baldwin: ‘It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.’ I’m passionate about books and bookstores and the work that is done in these spaces, because I believe that one of the most honorable things you can do with your life is to expand your own and others’ capacity for empathy.”
Despite the resurgence of the independent bookstore, it remains a monumental challenge to maintain a thriving bookstore. Add to that the feminism-is-dead mantra, and Women & Children First emerges as a bona fide wonder of the world. Last year, Sarah Hollenbeck and a fellow employee, Lynn Mooney, purchased the five-decades-old store from its owners and then funded a renovation with an Indiegogo campaign.Hollenbeck keeps her eye on the prize. She is able to put aside the quotidian aggravations of the proprietor of a bookshop such as computer malfunctions and inconvenient back orders. “In the midst of all that nonsense,” she says, “I invariably have these exhilarating and heartwarming daily interactions with teenagers and toddlers, grandmothers and 20-somethings who are looking for books or want to tell me about books that offer another way of seeing and being in the world.”
Hollenbeck believes that, naysayers aside, “we are in the middle of such an exciting and important time because there is all of this ferocious energy around feminism.” If the goings on at the bookstore are any indication, her belief is solid. In October alone Women & Children First will be hosting events with such luminaries as Jenny Lawson and Bonnie Jo Campbell, as well as what she calls “a phenomenally exciting conversation” between Roxane Gay and Gloria Steinem.
Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham, Md.
“Arthur Conan Doyle once wrote, ‘Writing should first be intelligible, then interesting, and if possible clever.’ Sarah Jubar seems to adhere to this advice as an editor. I am so grateful to have worked with someone who made the world of books, editing, and publishing feel like such a vital, generous place.”—Erik Shonstrom, author
When Sarah Jubar was a senior in college and considering a career in publishing, she was concerned that not living in New York, which wasn’t in her plans, would hinder her ambitions. Now, five years later Jubar is a highly regarded acquisitions editor at Rowman & Littlefield’s education division, based in Baltimore. Both inside and outside of the publishing house, Jubar is praised for her outstanding work.
Colleagues say Jubar has proved to be an editor who can achieve “quantifiable success,” while exuding “immeasurable enthusiasm for publishing quality content.” Jubar not only exceeded her assigned target of acquiring 25 titles last year, but smashed it, putting more than 30 titles on the 2016 list. But what really makes her stand out is her ability to see gaps and weaknesses in a text, help an author organize, revise, trim down, and round out their manuscript. Quoting the distinguished writer and editor Arthur Plotnik, a colleague said: “‘You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.’ With the guidance of Sarah Jubar, countless books will not only find their light, but shine through bright against the competition.”
Jubar is just as popular among her authors, one of whom called her a compassionate, brilliant, down-to-earth editor. She has made her impression by making what can be a harrowing, depersonalizing experience for an author—particularly a novice—into a positive, enriching experience.
Owner & Founder
Kaye Publicity, Chicago
“Dana Kaye has launched the careers of debut authors, boosted midlist authors onto the New York Times bestseller list, and has secured corporate partnerships and sponsorships for numerous projects. In an industry that is so often clouded with doom and gloom, Kaye sheds light on the world of publishing.”—Sarah Simpson-Weiss, assistant, Kaye Publicity
A self-starter who doesn’t settle for the status quo, Dane Kaye launched her company in 2009, primarily to help her friend Jamie Freveletti successfully promote her debut book. Kaye went far beyond the standard promotion that Freveletti’s publisher had planned, which was already a strong campaign that included a book tour. She secured a corporate partnership to sponsor the book trailer and to promote the book to their accounts. Not surprisingly, in less than a year Kaye’s client list went from one name to 30.
Kaye’s involvement in the book world outside of her company is equally as impressive. One goal of hers is to establish Chicago as a literary hub and to that end she founded the Chicago Literati Networking Event, a quarterly gathering for booksellers, authors, and those in the publishing industry. She is committed to teaching people about the publishing industry and sharing her passion about books.
Kaye conducts workshops such as “Your Book, Your Brand,” “Rising Above the Din,” and “Online Presence 101.” She is also a frequent speaker at conferences, including the Romance Writers of America Annual Conference, Bouchercon World Mystery Convention, the Illinois Women’s Press Association, and many more. Kaye is apparently one of those dynamos who doesn’t need to sleep—she also writes and comments about branding, social media, book promotion, and other small business topics for NBC Chicago, Huffington Post, the career site Little Pink Book, Fast Company, the entrepreneur site Young Upstarts, and Mediabistro.
Associate Manager, Advertising & Promotion
Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, New York City
“Kelly is the kind of talent you hope walks through your door, and I’m so grateful she came through mine.”— Mariel Dawson, director of advertising & promotion, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Right after graduating from Notre Dame and then the Denver Publishing Institute, Kelly McGauley headed to New York City with “not much more than a dream and a great pair of shoes.”
McGauley’s manager recalls that she remains the only candidate to look her in the eye and pronounce: “I want this job.” What immediately stood out was McGauley’s passion about all things books, whether as a voracious reader or a prolific writer. McGauley hasn’t disappointed. “From the day she started, Kelly was invested and immersed,” that same manager says. “She wanted to learn everything, she was interested in all the aspects of the business, and she remains so eager to learn, so willing to improve, always giving 150%.”
Since she began, McGauley has been promoted every year, from assistant to associate, to associate manager. She has been integral to an overhaul of the organization, systems, and operations of the department to increase efficiency. She was a key player in the launch of the company’s first Twitter ad campaign. High-profile projects that she is involved in include the Lunar Chronicles, Bad Kitty, and Six of Crows. She is currently handling the advertising and promotion campaign for Newbery Medalist Katherine Applegate’s forthcoming book, Crenshaw. McGauley sits on the editorial board of Swoon Reads, a teen romance imprint and community where writers and readers can share manuscripts for publication consideration under Macmillan’s Feiwel and Friends imprint.
Razorbill, New York City
“What’s so wonderful about Casey is her ability to work with editorial, marketing, and sales. Casey understands authors and what they need, from project inception all the way through the publication process. She’s also able to listen to editors and to translate their belief in their books into marketing plans that our sales group can run with.”
— Ben Schrank, president & publisher, Razorbill
Casey McIntyre began her career at Penguin as a publicist and helped build Richelle Mead’s career, among others. But McIntyre left to work in Harper’s publicity group, where one of her authors was Veronica Roth. A former Penguin colleague sat next to her at Roth’s wedding and was reminded of the level of connection between McIntyre and her authors. About a year ago, he wooed her back to Penguin’s Razorbill imprint.
McIntyre’s colleagues have noticed her work on such projects as the Falling Kingdoms and Zodiac series and Una LaMarche’s Like No Other, which has commanded excellent review attention. McIntyre considers working on Mead’s Vampire Academy series one of her career highlights, but is equally excited about working with Mead for this fall’s publication of her 16th book with Razorbill and first standalone fantasy, Soundless. “It’s a privilege to work with an author over several years and watch her master a completely new genre,” she says. McIntyre says she achieves results because “I am constantly focused on planning and executing publicity campaigns that feel dynamic and extraordinary. It’s not just about a few key media hits—it’s about identifying the touch points for a book’s audience and engaging with those readers across a variety of platforms.”
Cofounder & Publisher
The Devastator, Hollywood, Calif.
“It’s hard to suppress being a comedy nerd. When my copublisher, Geoffrey [Golden], and I found the right opportunity to start a small press devoted to comedy in late 2009, it was like someone pulled a lever—a rush of energy flooded the circuit boards. We share a passion to make really zany satire in print.”
In just a few years, Amanda Meadows leapt from publicity manager of Phoenix Books to publisher of the critically acclaimed Devastator Press, a comedy publisher that she cofounded with Geoffrey Golden in 2009. What began as a four-figure Kickstarter project to launch a magazine is now an all-humor publishing house, releasing 12 titles per year. Driven by their inner comedy nerds’ hunger for all things zany and hilarious, they have brought together writers from humor giants such as The Daily Show, the Onion, Adult Swim, Fantagraphics, and Marvel.
Meadows’s slate has attracted attention from outlets such as the AV Club, Wired, ComicsAlliance, and many more. For Meadows, a particularly gratifying moment was when the AV Club, which she calls “my favorite review site since I was in high school,” started reviewing Devastator’s books. “It was massive validation,” Meadows says. “I literally laugh-cried when they deemed the Devastator ‘not optional.’ ”
“Not optional” might also be a way to describe Meadows’s commitment to staying in motion. She is a member of multiple communities, including Women in Comics, and was part of a black creators spotlight panel at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego. She sees the Devastator growing from “a cultish small press into the Adult Swim of books—an experimental comedy brand in the print space.” She continues: “Our first step is getting distribution, which we’re hoping to do this year. I think weird, challenging material actually thrives best with mainstream availability.”
Oyster, New York City
“I’ve been astounded by the depth of Kevin’s knowledge about books and publishing, as well as by the clear and influential voice he has built, and continues to build, in the industry. He approaches everything he does with enthusiasm, an open mind, and a thoughtful perspective—attributes that I’ve found are (rightfully) valued in the publishing industry.”— Sarah Forster, brand & PR manager, Oyster
Oyster, as described by a colleague of Kevin Nguyen’s, “sits at the intersection of publishing and technology,” a spot where Nguyen has been before. He was previously at Amazon, where he ran the Best Books of the Month program. He also penned an influential book column for Grantland for three years and has been credited with playing a part in the success of several wildly successful books—including Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, and Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist—by championing them early on.
At Oyster, according to a colleague, “Kevin brings his deep knowledge about books and unique perspective to every part of our business and has been a major driving force behind Oyster’s growing presence in the literary community.” Nguyen edits the Oyster Review, Oyster’s online books magazine, which features exclusive content including essays, interviews, comics, and readers’ guides. He also has enhanced interaction with authors through the company’s Author Advisory Board.
Nguyen distinguishes himself by guiding the editorial ethos of the company with the recommendations it makes to its readers. Nguyen worked with cofounder and chief product officer Willem Van Lancker to shape Oyster’s e-bookstore, which launched in April. His colleague says that “by prioritizing curation and a strong editorial voice, they together designed a mobile book-buying experience that feels like an indie bookstore, rather than like a warehouse in the vein of so many other online retail experiences.”
Founder & Publisher
Polis Books, New York City
“Jason Pinter is one of the hardest working editors/publishers I have had the insane pleasure of working with. He has the connections of a Big Five editor/publisher with the heart and personal attention of an indie. I always know my client is in great hands with Jason. I truly hope to be able to sell many more books to Jason at Polis. It’s an utter joy to work with him.”— Bree Ogden, literary agent, Red Sofa Literary
Only 10 years after he began his publishing career at Warner Books as an editorial assistant, Jason Pinter had the audacious notion to launch his own independent press, making him, at 35, one of the youngest publishers in the industry. Since its first title was published in November 2013, Polis Books has seen tremendous growth. Eighteen titles were published in 2014, and this year will see close to 40 in both print and digital formats. Polis has also signed agreements with co-agents in 24 territories around the world. Pinter’s list includes such acclaimed authors as Jason Starr, Rob Hart, Patricia Abbott, and J.D. Rhoades.
In addition to defying the odds by achieving rapid growth and success as an independent publisher, Pinter is an internationally bestselling author of six novels—five thrillers and a middle-grade novel—that have nearly 1.5 million copies in print worldwide, and have been nominated for several awards.
Aside from running his company—for which he has refused outside investors in order to maintain creative and financial control—and writing bestsellers, Pinter is a frequent contributor to the Daily Beast, Entrepreneur, and Huffington Post and is a frequent speaker at various industry conferences.
Scribd, San Francisco
“In the midst of Silicon Valley, where people tend to value what’s newest, fastest, and buzziest, Alex Posey has dedicated herself to making great writing as accessible as possible without devaluing the work of writers, editors, and publishers who produce it.”— Freya Sampson, marketing coordinator, Scribd
When she was fresh out of college, Alex Posey was part of a project to republish works in the public domain as custom-designed e-books. She worked intimately with what she describes as “some of the preeminent books of all time” and adds that “I still can’t believe I was paid to do that.”
A Scribd colleague says that Posey, who has a background in literature and editing, “works to bridge the gap between traditional publishing and modern technology.” She leads merchandising efforts between the company’s subscription reading service and the major publishers and plays a key role in building the company’s editorial efforts.
Posey is excited about a back-to-school “dream reading list” promotion that she has been putting together for the fall. She is equally enthusiastic about the company’s drive for a more robust editorial presence online. Outside of Scribd she works on the editorial team for Radio Silence, a Bay Area magazine of literature and rock ’n’ roll. But it all comes back to books. “I’m always amazed by the effect a great book has on me—my mood, my perspective, the way I encounter the world,” Posey says. “V.S. Naipaul said, ‘I am the sum of my books.’ He was referring to the books he himself had written, but in so many ways I feel like the sum of all the books I’ve read and loved over the years. They shape you. And I love to believe that I’m helping others find the next book that will shape them.”
Sarabande Books, Louisville, Ky./New York City
“I’m not being hyperbolic in saying that, when I hear fears about the end of books or the demise of the publishing industry, I know that as long as we have people like Kristen—with her limitless drive, her vision, her unyielding forward momentum, and lack of complacency—these fears are unfounded.”— Kristen Miller, director of operations & outreach, Sarabande Books
When Kristen Radtke opened a second office for Sarabande Books in New York City in 2014, sales rose over 50% within the year. This is a remarkable feat, but even more so given that Sarabande is a small house that is dedicated to underrepresented genres: poetry, short fiction, and essays. Radtke’s “unyielding forward momentum” means that she wears multiple hats and wears them well. She spent three years as Sarabande’s marketing and publicity director before being promoted earlier this year to her current position as managing editor. But, even before her editorial role was made official, she was designing and acquiring books. Now she does everything, such as in the case of Thrown, a book that she singlehandedly acquired, edited, designed, packaged, marketed, and publicized. And she did it all well enough that the book appeared on several prestigious best-of-the-year lists, was named a finalist for the PEN award, and has been translated into half a dozen languages.
Radtke is also credited with substantially increasing publicity for the Sarabande list and taking the house’s design to new heights. Like many small presses, Sarabande took a formulaic approach to book design and packaging, but Radtke has revamped the process, finding ways to cut costs in order to create books that are objects to be cherished.
Radtke also designs covers for other publishers, both large and small. And she has somehow managed to find time to write her own book, which will be released by Pantheon in 2016.
Grove/Atlantic, New York City
“I’m pretty obsessed with language! Reading something that’s beautifully written and carries its own music is one of the greatest joys. If a piece of writing can illuminate and open up to me an experience of humanity and teach me more about empathy and life, that’s, for want of a better phrase, the icing on the cake.”
It’s not surprising that Katie Raissian, born and raised in Ireland, is deeply knowledgeable about the Irish literary scene. Nevertheless, the success of her first acquisition with Morgan Entrekin at Grove surprised, and impressed, her colleagues. That book—Young Skins, by Colin Barrett—was acquired in 2013. By the time it was published in the United States in March 2015, it had won major prizes, including the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. It has become one of Grove’s best reviewed titles of 2015.
Colleagues describe Raissian “as a reader and editor with impeccable literary discernment whose taste and judgment can be trusted implicitly,” and that reputation is reinforced with each acquisition. She is particularly excited about the upcoming debut short story collection Goodnight, Beautiful Women, by Anna Noyes, acquired with Elizabeth Schmitz.
Raissian’s interest in books beyond the U.S. market doesn’t stop in Ireland and covers a broad international range, with a particular awareness of Spanish and Latin American literature. She also publishes outside the halls of Grove: Raissian is the founding publisher and editor-in-chief of Stonecutter, an art and literary journal that publishes writers from all over the world. The forthcoming issue will feature work from Sara Baume, Francesca Capone, Tings Chak, Andre Epstein, Anthony Gerace, Ali Power, Nina Puro, Sally Rooney, and Nicole Sealey, among many others.
Atria/Emily Bestler Books, New York City
“As young editors, we’re called on to be tastemakers, perhaps even more so than our more established counterparts. We get to become more agile in some ways because we’re very much expected to be growing new talent, new voices, and new audiences. For me, that’s a passion as well as a responsibility.”
Megan Reid’s very first acquisition was Misty Copeland’s memoir, Life in Motion, which became an instant New York Times bestseller and helped propel the Misty mania that still surrounds Copeland, the first black principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre company’s 75-year history. For Reid, “it is also the book that speaks most to who I am as an editor. It’s a cinematic story of achievement and success, told by a fascinating personality, gorgeously written on a line-by-line basis, and with big smart questions about identity, sacrifice, and art at its core.”
Reid says that, as a young black American woman editor, she was aware of a readership that others in publishing were not. Additionally, “I could reach out to the author in a way that other editors simply would not have been able to.” Reid is business-savvy enough to know exactly what it means to her career to have achieved this success so early on. But “it’s also a book I edited keeping my younger sisters and my friends in mind,” she says. “It was a book I wanted to give to a younger version of me.”
Reid is excited about several books on her 2016 list, including the international thriller Overwatch, by Matthew Betley; a humorous, edgy women’s fiction title, The Regulars, by Georgia Clark; and Barren Cove, by Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee Ariel Winter, which Reid describes as “a very odd and heartbreaking literary novel.”
V-P, Director of Digital Strategy & Associate Digital Publisher
Random House, New York City
“I feel lucky to have a front-row seat to the ever-changing landscape of book publishing, and even luckier to have a job where my
goal is to strategize how to adapt quickly to best serve our authors and readers.”
Matthew Schwartz oversees a team responsible for the care and management of Random House Publishing Group’s digital catalogue of more than 7,500 titles from hundreds of different authors. Though some might find this daunting, Schwartz welcomes the challenge. “I find it thrilling to know that there are dozens, if not hundreds, of data points, merchandising opportunities, and online and offline activities that can impact a book’s performance,” Schwartz says. “In particular, as more book purchasing occurs online, discoverability has become simultaneously a publisher’s biggest challenge and opportunity,” he adds.
Schwartz bridges old school and new. With his retail background, knowledge of online consumer behavior, and digital marketing experience, he is all about finding what is most effective to move the needle on a book’s sales. “It’s great to know that there may be a hundred things you can do to help a book sell,” he says. “It’s even better to know which five of those things are the most important to devote additional resources to.” Armed with this information, Schwartz works with the marketing department to implement cutting-edge digital marketing initiatives.
Schwartz recognizes that his digital world “is a game with rules that change from day to day.” But, he adds, “it’s a game I find both fun to play and exciting to learn how to play better. Whether it’s through working with new technologies that allow us to further understand consumer purchasing behavior or testing metadata points on a title-by-title basis, I think the next year—and beyond—will prove to be an amazingly exciting time to be in publishing.”
First Second Books, New York City
“My dream from the start of First Second was that it would foster flourishing careers for graphic novel creators. For that, the graphic novel needs a vast and varied audience in America, and for that First Second needed to be a successful business. And the dream is starting to happen.”
Mark Siegel, editorial director of First Second Books, is as passionate about the Macmillan imprint that he founded—dedicated exclusively to graphic novels—as he is to growing this unique corner of the publishing world. Siegel’s “twin passions” are fine arts and writing, which be believes are exemplified by the graphic novel.
As both a proprietor of other people’s works and an author himself, Siegel freely admits that his life as and editor and author have never been totally separate. For him, First Second is both a business and a project, with the end goal to crack America open for new kinds of great graphic novels. Since 2006, when First Second’s books first landed in stores, the company has become known for being the literary house for author-driven comics.
On the eve of First Second Books’ 10th anniversary, Siegel proudly says that “the trend in graphic novels is for many of us in the field a time of dreams coming true.” Certainly it is for Siegel and his imprint, whose authors and books have won unprecedented awards. Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese was the first graphic novel ever nominated for a National Book Award and the first to win the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award for YA literature from the American Library Association. This year, First Second’s This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, earned a Caldecott Honor and became the first book to be on both the Caldecott and Printz honor lists. For Siegel, this goes far beyond him and his imprint: “This only cements the fact that the graphic novel belongs in the American literary conversation.”
Mira Books, New York City
“Liz is poised for a distinguished career in editorial, following in the footsteps of the brilliant women from whom she has learned. In her short time at Mira, she has proven to be a wonderful asset to our blossoming literary fiction program, as well as a colleague the team can trust and rely on.”— Erika Imranyi, senior editor, Mira Books
Like so many entering the publishing field, Liz Stein didn’t initially land where she wanted to be when she joined Dutton in 2008 as assistant to the managing editor. Her passion was editorial, and she was determined to make the transition with the Penguin Group. That first opportunity came with Pamela Dorman, who acted as mentor and helped Stein sharpen her eye for commercial fiction. Then, in 2011, she joined Amy Einhorn at her eponymous imprint as an editorial assistant, but was quickly promoted to assistant editor and helped guide authors—including bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Jenny Lawson. Then, in 2014, Stein moved over to Putnam as an associate editor and helped expand its debut fiction program.
This past year Stein joined the Harlequin imprint Mira as an editor and has continued to turn her sharp eye to acquiring commercial fiction with major bestselling potential. She has already made a mark there by having her finger on the pulse of the market and industry, both domestic and foreign. Stein works closely with scouts to stay on top of what is selling around the world.
Stein’s authors value her insights and kind manner, while agents know and respect her. But Stein doesn’t rest on her laurels. She stays abreast of new innovations and best practices by taking courses at the NYU Summer Publishing Institute to continue to deepen her knowledge, understanding, and awareness of the ever-changing industry.
Alloy Entertainment, New York City
“I’ve loved learning to navigate the content needs of various platforms and strategically guiding my authors as they perfect their stories for multiple mediums.”
After only five years in publishing, Annie Stone is making a mark. Before joining Alloy, she was at working on young adult fiction at Harlequin, where she increased the size of the YA list by nearly 50%. Not only did she bring in books from authors like Adi Alsaid and Tracy Barrett, which earned starred reviews and award nominations, she expanded the scope of the list and formed partnerships with companies such as Paper Lantern Lit and Alloy Entertainment.
After hopping over to Alloy’s book publishing division a year ago, Stone has already made an impact—no small feat at the company that developed the Gossip Girls, Vampire Diaries, and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants franchises. She works with a more recent crop of authors including Kass Morgan (The 100) and Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars). Out of the 10 or so authors she is currently working with, more than half have projects that are in various stages of development for TV and film.
Stone doesn’t limit her time and energy and smarts to what goes on inside Alloy. For the past two years, Stone has been a volunteer for the Women’s National Book Association where she has been on the executive board, first as the chairwoman of outreach to students and young professionals and now as v-p of programming, a position that she is “thrilled to have,” she says. There, too, she’s a standout according to her fellow volunteers, who praise her passion for facilitating dialogue among publishing professionals.
C. Spike Trotman
Comics Artist & Publisher
Iron Circus Comics, Chicago
“Trotman is smart and hilarious, and a wonderful public speaker, character, and activist for indie comics, in addition to being one of the most knowledgeable and reliable experts on using crowdfunding to publish.”—Calvin Reid, senior editor, Publishers Weekly
Since C. Spike Trotman released Templar, Arizona as a webcomic in 2005 to some acclaim and subsequently published it in four print volumes via Iron Circus Comics, the company she founded, Trotman has created a variety of other comics publications. That’s impressive, but where she really excels is in her brilliant use of crowdfunding—specifically Kickstarter—to publish books. Having raised more than $400,000 to publish five anthologies, it is clear why Trotman has become something of a go-to source for best practices on crowdfunding.
In a recent PW article, Trotman explained how Kickstarter allows small publishers like Iron Circus, which she called “a rinky-dink operation,” to use fundraising to gauge consumer demand for a project: “I can’t afford to overprint a run. I can’t afford the cost, or the space for storing dead stock. Knowing how popular a book is before it even hits the printing press is too convenient for words.”
Until this year, Trotman’s fund-raising efforts were for the benefit of her own projects, but with the May publication of an omnibus print edition of E.J. Weaver’s The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, a popular webcomic about a queer love affair, Iron Circus is looking more like a traditional publisher—albeit one that used Kickstarter to raise $65,000 for the project. In the future, Trotman wants Iron Circus to be an inclusive publisher of works for which a hunger exists—works by creators who have been underrepresented or ignored by mainstream comics.
New Leaf Literary & Media, New York City
“Joanna would credit our whole team with making New Leaf into what it is today, but really we would be just any other agency without her.” — Suzie Townsend, director of literary services & literary agent, New Leaf
Joanna Volpe might not yet be a household name in publishing but her authors certainly are. They include Veronica Roth, Kody Keplinger, Leigh Bardugo, and Danielle Paige, among many others. What is even more remarkable is that New Leaf was founded by Volpe only three years ago, when she hadn’t yet turned 30. In this
short amount of time, the agency has grown from four employees to a team of 12 “passionate, enthusiastic book nerds,” as one New Leaf staffer puts it.
Another colleague on the New Leaf team says that under Volpe’s leadership the agency has become “an innovative and collaborative creativity think tank focused on developing with and advocating for talented content creators.” She notes that it is Volpe who favors the term “content creator” over author because New Leaf’s client list is “full of folks doing amazing things across many platforms: Web channels, podcasts, game creators, screenwriters, illustrators, and animators.”
Volpe is involved with all aspects of the publishing program for her clients and involves her entire staff as well. One staffer says that “every time we consider a new client, we discuss the full potential for that author with all departments and come up with a strategy for their long-term career, including marketing, publicity, and especially brand-building.”
Bridget Watson Payne
Senior Editor, Art Publishing
Chronicle Books, San Francisco
“Simply put, I love bringing more art to more people. My approach to art publishing is essentially populist and democratic. I care deeply about making outstanding books of the highest quality.”
Bridget Watson Payne’s list represents a vast array of art, design, photography, and fashion topics. For Payne, all these books are part of what she declares is her life’s work: “to make books that are beautiful, smart, and new.”
Fascinated by the intersections of art and fashion and art and science, Payne is particularly excited about two books on the fall list. Art + Fashion, by E.P. Cutler and Julien Tomasello, features 25 collaborations between luminary artists and fashion figures. “It’s a huge, gorgeous book full of absolutely amazing work in a fabulous package,” Payne says. The other book, Photographs from the Archives of NASA, is “a truly awe-inspiring collection of photos of space from NASA’s archives.”
A project that Payne is particularly proud of is 642 Things to Draw, an in-house creation that now has 11 related titles in print, 23 more titles to come, brand licensing underway, and a growing online community. “It’s been a huge honor to get to be the person shepherding this property from single title to successful series to global brand,” Payne says. Also upcoming are books by authors such as Susan O’Malley, Sophie Blackall, and the #LadiesDrawingNight crew, brands like Marimekko and Pantone, and historical luminaries including Helen Frankenthaler and Beatrix Potter. “It’s going to be a fantastic lineup,” she says. On top of all that, Payne is in the midst of writing two books herself and says that “it’s really fun and invigorating to be on the other side of the publishing equation, and I think the insights I’m gaining about what it’s like to be an author will also make me a better editor as well.”
Grove/Atlantic, New York City
“It’s a thrill to realize how global the publishing world is, and to be part of a business where personal connections are so important and long-lasting. Every publishing market is different, but we’re all united by falling in love with a project and thinking/hoping that we can bring it to as broad an audience as possible in the right way.”
It seems like it took longer for Peter Blackstock to fly across the Atlantic from the United Kingdom than it did for him to conquer the New York publishing scene. After only five months at Grove/Atlantic, where he started in 2011 as assistant to publisher Morgan Entrekin, he acquired his first book, Fobbit. It became a house favorite, New York Times Notable Book, and B&N Discover pick, and it was shortlisted for the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction.
Before joining Grove/Atlantic, Blackstock worked as a literary scout with Rosalind Ramsay Ltd., where he read and reported on everything from very-commercial to very-literary projects. “I think scouting is the ideal first job in publishing,” he says. “It gave me a real sense of the range of the business, which was so useful coming from a background of canonical European literature. I think having that reading acumen was part of what made Morgan interested in hiring me.” That and perhaps his language skills: Blackstock holds a B.A. in modern languages (Russian and German) from Oxford University and reads Russian.
When it comes to naming a career highlight thus far, Blackstock is unequivocal: it was when a review of The Sympathizer, a debut novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen that he acquired, landed on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review. “Reading the review that afternoon and calling up Viet to tell him the good news was an unforgettable career moment,” he says.