Gallery Books Group senior v-p and publisher Jennifer Bergstrom described Gallery , which marked its 10th anniversary in January, as the “love child of the merger of Pocket Books and Simon Spotlight Entertainment” back in 2010.
“We ended up with a bigger imprint with the best of both,” said Bergstrom, who has been with Gallery since its launch and followed Louise Burke as publisher. “Our mission has been to serve every kind of reader. We’re doing it, publishing novels with heart, self-help that really helps people, memoir, suspense, and smart, upscale nonfiction.”
Gallery Books has a staff of 40 and publishes more than 200 titles a year across all its imprints.“We’ve got books on poker, on women in the workplace, and books on equal pay,” Bergstrom said, citing a list of bestselling titles from across the Gallery Book Group, which includes Gallery Books as well as Scout Press, Saga Press, Gallery 13, and Pocket Books. Indeed, Bergstrom emphasizes the range of the Gallery list, which includes, for instance, a number of very successful, though very different, kinds of polemical social commentary—the smart, upscale nonfiction she referred to. Among them are essayist Meghan Daum’s The Problem with Everything, former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards’s Make Trouble, and Omarosa Manigault Newman’s White House exposé, Unhinged.
Over the last decade, the imprint has published a long list of bestselling novels by Gallery’s bread-and-butter author, Mary Alice Monroe; bestselling paranormal romance from J.R. Ward (The Savior) and romance by the authorial duo writing under the pen name Christina Lauren (The Unhoneymooners); memoirist Clint Hill (Mrs. Kennedy and Me, close to 705,000 copies in print across all formats); and YouTube star Miranda Sings (Self-Help has nearly 721,000 copies in print and e-books). The Gallery list also features bestsellers by comedian/authors, among them Amy Schumer’s Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (more than 1.9 million copies in print across all formats) and Tiffany Haddish’s The Last Black Unicorn (nearly 940,000 copies across all formats).
“Editorially, we’re on the lookout for what will be popular before the topic, celebrity, or influencer becomes the next big thing,” Bergstrom said. She credits the house’s success to two distinct editorial meetings focused on acquisitions. The first, she said, is a meeting to “assess and discuss” what’s been submitted to the house; there’s a second and separate meeting about “what’s hot in the culture.” And for the second meeting, she emphasized that “everyone on staff is involved. We talk about what’s on Instagram, what’s in the zeitgeist. This is really where the magic happens.”
“We’re looking for books that are of the moment, and we’re open to ideas from everyone on the bench; the editorial assistants can give us ideas,” Bergstrom said. “We’re entrepreneurial—we float ideas, we develop books in-house, and we go after the celebrities that we’re interested in.”
One longtime pursuit involved podcaster Mike Rowe—best known for his focus on working-class issues and for his former longtime role on the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs TV show—and a bestselling Gallery title, The Way I Heard It (nearly 575,000 copies in print across all formats). “We chased him for 10 years,” she said. And she pointed to the publishing career of neuroscientist-turned-novelist Lisa Genova, whose self-published 2007 novel, Still Alice, about an accomplished woman stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, later became a bestseller for Gallery Books, then a critically acclaimed film starring Julianne Moore.
At Gallery, Bergstrom explained, the editors have “lanes,” or acquisitional affinities. “But they can step outside of those lanes if they want,” she said. According to her, Gallery v-p and executive editor Jeremie Ruby-Strauss “discovered the YouTubers and can work really well with celebrities,” while editorial director Aimee Bell, who joined GB from Vanity Fair magazine, “looks for smart, upscale nonfiction.”
Alison Callahan, executive editor at Gallery’s Scout Press, Bergstrom continued, specializes in “dark, edgy literary fiction.” And Gallery Books senior editor Ed Schlesinger (who oversees the Star Trek titles and Stephen King, as well as Gallery 13, GB’s graphic novel imprint) and Joe Monti, editorial director at sci-fi and fantasy imprint Saga Press, are the “genre guys.”
“Our editors have to be innovative, tap into what’s going on in pop culture, and spot talent,” Bergstrom said.
Coming up in 2020 from Gallery Books are Christina Lauren’s new romance The Honey-Don’t List in March, and in May perennial bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe returns with On Ocean Boulevard.
Look for “big surprises in nonfiction this year,” she said, though declining to give any hints. “And we’re still looking for more books.”
Update: The titles and the in-print totals for several titles have been adjusted from what was stated in an earlier version of this story.