What do billionaires, aspiring novelists, celebrities, literary agencies, publishers, and bestselling authors all have in common? The answer is Kevin Anderson & Associates, a comprehensive ghostwriting, editing, and publishing consultation company that offers agents and publishers a professionalized approach to the book-writing process. And for authors who need help navigating the publishing landscape, few services provide the flexibility, personal touch, and industry connections of KAA—a team that has produced 10 #1 New York Times bestsellers, more than 250 national bestsellers, and 1,500 traditionally published books.
Kevin Anderson’s path to operating KAA, despite his industry credentials, was anything but typical and not exactly literary in nature. Raised on a small farm in a remote area of Northern Alberta, Canada, Kevin’s career path included planting trees via helidrop in British Columbia, cleaning oil spills on the rigs of the tar sands, and founding a soup kitchen for the homeless.
He would eventually land at Harvard, where his graduate studies concentrated on literary criticism. Intending to complete his PhD and embark on a career as a college professor, Kevin caught the entrepreneurial spirit instead and started a tutoring company that would eventually become Dissertation Editor, LLC—an editing, formatting, and statistical analysis service for doctoral candidates developing their dissertations. The all-PhD staff caught the attention of a few small publishers who began utilizing the service as a single source for editing and formatting full-length manuscripts in lieu of hiring multiple freelancers. It didn’t take long for Anderson to identify an unfilled niche for a professionalized approach to book writing and editing, so he decided to launch KAA.
Typically, Anderson says, “If someone wanted to hire a book writer or editor, their options were basically to hire individual freelancers, often with limited protection should anything go wrong.” Unlike the freelance route or hiring a matchmaker firm, KAA— which now operates offices in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and Nashville, with one in London set to open next year—offers a professionally managed approach that includes customized contracts, free writer replacements, and quality assurances.
Publishers and agents in particular seem to appreciate how a professionalized process benefits them. Jeff James, vice president and publisher at HarperCollins Leadership, whose notable authors include Tilman Fertita, Rachel Hollis, and John Maxwell, says, “Pairing an author with the right ghostwriter is inherently fraught with built-in challenges, and these challenges cause risk for both the publisher and the author. KAA reduces those risks by providing a layer of expertise and oversight on the entire process of selecting, coordinating, and managing the contract-writing process. The end result is a better book because the right ghostwriter was chosen, the project was managed efficiently, and editorial quality was greatly increased.”
It’s easy to see the advantages of hiring a single firm to handle multiple projects. “When I joined KAA, one of the first projects I worked on was a 10-book contract for HarperCollins that was being published on a very aggressive timeline,” says Elizabeth Bruce, a senior editor at KAA and former acquisitions editor at Picador. “They were the sort of titles that your sales force loves to have in the catalogue but that, logistically, make an editor’s head spin. But we were able to generate 10 books— with eight different writers, replacing a few due to illness midstream—in less than five months.”
KAA’s unique position in the industry—working so closely with publishers and agents as well as with other key players, such as publicists and marketers—offers aspiring authors inside access to the world of publishing. Guiding them through the publishing process is a roster of former Big Five acquisitions editors and bestselling authors who provide comprehensive care throughout the entire journey. This can be a huge relief, given the multitude of options authors face when it comes to developing their book and determining their best publishing options.
Mark Weinstein, KAA’s editorial director, was immediately drawn to the company’s business model. “After spending 20 years as an acquisitions editor,” Weinstein says, “I could sense that the industry was shifting and that the gatekeeping element of traditional publishing was beginning to wane.” He saw a clear opportunity for KAA to take a leading role in championing great books that might otherwise slip through the cracks in a competitive publishing world. “I’ve been able to help a ton of talented, commercially viable writers who, for one reason or another, felt shut out by the traditional model when they were pursuing their publishing dreams,” he says. “In a business that can be defined by its cynicism, that has been truly fulfilling.”
KAA’s emphasis on being comprehensive is evident in its range of services and highly personalized options. Book planning, publishing strategy, book proposals, book doctoring, editing, ghostwriting, agent solicitation, publishing consultation, bestseller-list targeting, publishing-contract negotiation, and publishing navigation are just a few of KAA’s popular services. KAA even includes beta testing with many of their service packages, allowing clients to test titles, covers, and entire manuscripts with lay readers, which affords authors the confidence to make editorial decisions based on data.
This broad-gauge approach has yielded impressive results in a variety of genres, with projects ranging from #1 New York Times–bestselling YA series, Five Nights at Freddy’s, with more than a million copies sold, to the recent Wall Street Journal and #1 Barnes & Noble business bestseller, Built, Not Born by Paychex founder Tom Golisano. It probably helps that KAA routinely goes the distance and has sent book-writing teams all over the world to meet with clients in their homes or offices. Will Murphy—senior executive editor-at-large at KAA, who in his former role at Random House acquired dozens of New York Times– bestselling titles—says, “Kevin and his team occupy a unique space in the publishing and content ecosystem. They have created a new way to develop and publish writers, ideas, and books. As a longtime editor who thoroughly enjoys the challenge of shaping words and concepts, I was drawn to KAA for two specific reasons— their entrepreneurial spirit and their understanding of the broad marketplace that exists for writers and thinkers.”
Cole Gustafson, KAA’s chief culture officer, credits the firm’s many successes to open communication and the invaluable insight that there is no typical client. “Speaking candidly with each client and utilizing our industry knowledge to help the client achieve their definition of success are key aspects of our process,” Gustafson says. As KAA continues to evolve, Gustafson looks forward to meeting the needs of more writers who are eager to tell their stories and more agents and publishers who want to hear them. “Whenever agents, agencies, publishers, and so on first learn about our firm and our services and processes, they often ask us, ‘Where have you been my whole life?’” he says. “It’s a tremendous feeling to be able to add that kind of value to the industry.”