It would be hard for a new imprint to get off to a better start with its first book than Simon & Schuster’s Avid Reader Press did with the release of Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. The book, published July 9, immediately hit a number of bestseller lists, landing at #4 on PW’s Hardcover Frontlist Nonfiction list. Now in its eighth printing, Three Woman has 180,000 copies in print, according to Jofie Ferrari-Adler, Avid Reader v-p and publisher.
The imprint was formed late last October by Ferrari-Adler and editor-in-chief Ben Loehnen, both of whom had been editors at S&S’s flagship imprint. Ferrari-Adler acknowledged that starting an imprint at the company where he worked, as opposed to moving to a different house, provided some advantages—most notably that he already had a pipeline of books that could be released under the Avid Reader banner. One of those books was Three Women, which he acquired in 2010. The success of Three Women “has given the team lots of confidence” about the imprint’s future, he said.
With the recent hiring of editorial director Lauren Wein, who will oversee the imprint’s fiction program, that team is now up to 11 people. Ferrari-Adler gave credit for Three Women’s success to a number of the staff, including art director Alison Forner, deputy director of publicity Jordan Rodman, and associate publisher Meredith Vilarello. Ferrari-Adler believes Three Women also illustrates the success of one of Avid’s three main operating principles: building partnerships. He noted that Three Women was a huge favorite inside S&S, and that it was quickly adopted by independent booksellers, who made it a #1 IndieNext pick for July. Even before the book was released, Ferrari-Adler said, there was a good working relationship between Taddeo; her agent, Jennifer Joel; and the Avid staff. “We are looking to build a feel-good vibe here,” he added.
That vibe will be created in part by keeping the list relatively small (25–30 titles per year when the imprint is fully staffed)—an approach that will allow Avid to “publish with a lot of focus,” Ferrari-Adler said.
Ferrari-Adler noted that originally, he had seen 2019 as something of a “soft launch” for Avid—a year when he and Loehnen would build the team they wanted while demonstrating to the industry what Avid is all about. The splash made by Three Women, which was recently optioned by Showtime, accelerated his plan somewhat, but Ferrari-Adler has been around publishing long enough to know that he won’t always be on top.
Still, Ferrari-Adler believes that Avid could have a hit with its second book. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett Graff received a PW starred review ahead of its September 10 release and has a 35,000-copy first printing. Four other titles are planned for 2019: Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan; The Life and Afterlife of Harry Houdini by Joe Posnanski; Life is Magic by Jon Dorenbos; and What It Takes by Stephen Schwarzman, chairman, CEO and cofounder of Blackstone.
“We’re gratified by the early support,” Ferrari-Adler said. “When I look back on my most satisfying publishing experiences, they all had one thing in common: collaboration. We plan to keep collaborating with authors, agents, booksellers, and the media.”