Soho Press, an independent publisher with a full-time staff of nine, is made up of a band of fiercely loyal book lovers. The press was taken over by publisher Bronwen Hruska in 2010. Juliet Grames, Soho’s senior editor, said, about working with her: “For our first 25 years we were a quality literary house that got great reviews, but which people hadn’t heard of. You absolutely can’t say that anymore.” Pointing to Soho’s increasing numbers, Grames added, “Our revenue has ballooned since [Hruska] started—our books are sold in channels we never imagined before. Her tenure here has seen more bestsellers than the rest of Soho’s history put together.”
Hruska (called “modest” by her team) confesses she knew little about publishing outside of what she learned from her mother, the late Laura Hruska, who cofounded Soho Press in 1986 with her husband, Alan, and Juris Jurjevics, a publishing veteran. But that was never a shortcoming, and she quickly surrounded herself with impassioned book people and gave them ownership of their lists. “The result is that everyone from editorial to publicity really, really loves their books,” said Hruska.
As an independent publisher, Hruska said, Soho “sits at perhaps the most dynamic junction in the publishing world,” and a number of changes have swept through the offices since she took over. For one, digital sales have skyrocketed, especially for Soho Crime, a cornerstone of the press’s identity. Soho has also switched distributors, from Consortium to Random House. Recently, it has found a winner in Luminarium by Alex Shakar—a novel that received year-end recognition from PW, the Washington Post, the New York Times and, in April, picked up the fiction prize at the Los Angeles Times Book Festival. The recognition that Shakar’s book received is the latest in Soho’s literary lineage, which traces back to the likes of Edwidge Danticat, Garth Stein, and Stephen Fry.
Soho’s small staff makes it especially important that its cogs work together, exemplified by the way Soho Crime and Soho’s literary offerings help one another. “Indies have always been able to acquire with more liberty than many major houses, because a little quirk, a little edge, is what gives us our identity, particularly in our literary endeavors,” Hruska said. “Having an anchor like Soho Crime nurtures our ability to be ambitious about the types of things we publish.” The success of titles like The Boy in the Suitcase, the New York Times bestselling Danish thriller published in 2011, has enabled Soho and literary fiction editor Mark Doten to do 10 to 12 titles in 2012, including Nine Months by Paula Bomer, and That’s Not a Feeling by Dan Josefson, supposedly the last book that David Foster Wallace blurbed.
In addition to developing the crime and literary lists, 2013 will see the launch of Soho Teen, edited by Dan Ehrenhaft. Said Hruska: “Central to Soho Teen books is a mystery or thriller element, which allows us to publish across many genres while still bringing to bear our relationships and expertise in the crime and mystery world.” The imprint has six titles lined up, with a Rear Window-esque psychological thriller and a charity anthology including pieces from Dave Eggers and John Green that benefits 826NYC, a nonprofit helping children improve their writing skills.
All this ambition ultimately comes back to Hruska, and her team is behind her every step of the way. “I just don’t know how else to put it—she’s a really effing amazing boss,” said Grames. “Anyone else here at Soho would have said the exact same thing.”