Zando, former Crown publisher Molly Stern’s venture into independent publishing, announced this morning its first book acquisition, which will be produced in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The world rights to You Are Not Alone: the NAMI Guide to Mental Illness and Recovery by Dr. Ken Duckworth were acquired for six figures at auction involving half-a-dozen publishers. You Are Not Alone will be published by Zando in fall 2022.

The author is a triple board-certified child, adolescent, and adult psychiatrist who is an assistant professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and serves as NAMI’s chief medical officer.

According to a Zando release, You Are Not Alone “aims to erase the persistent stigma and discrimination around mental illness” and the six-month-old company expects the book to resonate in a world where “millions [are] dealing with the emotional and neuro-psychological fallout from what is widely considered ‘the fourth wave’ of the pandemic.” While Zando intends to publish some books with influential people and organizations under their own imprints, You Are Not Alone, Stern said, will be published under the Zando imprint.

“But NAMI will be a huge piece of the partnership,” she told PW. “The aim is to publish more books in partnership with NAMI; we are already imagining books that focus on young people and mental health issues. To start, we’ll publish the Ken Duckworth book in partnership with NAMI. But this partnership will function very much like an imprint, we hope. It’s very exciting for our first acquisition to feel like it is kind of like an annuity – it’ll be updated, it’ll have lasting value over many years. For a company that has no backlist, to feel as invested in something that will have lasting value is really moving to us, and valuable for our premise going forward.”

Editor Quynh Do, who acquired You Are Not Alone, described Duckworth’s philosophy as helping people to not just identify mental illness in themselves or in loved ones, but also “to find community and work towards what he calls ‘whole person recovery’ with the understanding that mental illness can be cyclical, it can be chronic, and there are certain ways of addressing the different disorders."

“This felt like an important book to announce as a first acquisition,” Stern said, disclosing that the company has also recently acquired two other books. “It’s an exemplary book for many reasons. Also, it reflects a lot of the values at Zando and what we’re trying to enshrine in our company, which is partnership, which is about breadth of opportunity for a book and leveraging every opportunity that we can to create awareness.”

Pointing out that NAMI has over 350,000 members in 650 state chapters around the U.S., Stern noted of the acquisition, “The opportunity we see to drive sales and awareness was an incredibly important issue. Dr. Duckworth is a very prominent physician. It felt really meaningful for us as an independent startup publisher to begin to prove our ideas on partnership and how to rethink publishing more effectively.”

Stern believes that after the pandemic subsides, “there’s going to be a crisis for an astonishing number of people. With Dr. Duckworth’s expertise, and all the relationships NAMI has with prominent people, celebrities, we think there’s an opportunity to elevate the conversation around this book nationally. It’s a three-pronged approach, using NAMI locally and using media and relationships nationally, and Dr. Duckworth’s prominence will drive a huge amount of awareness for this book.”

Zando, which currently has seven employees, plans on moving into fiction and children’s book publishing with future acquisitions. “Our view is that we need to support our partners in all their interests,” Stern said, “We are making no assumptions about what our partners will be interested in, but we will be working closely with them to find their interests and we will have the editorial staff to support those interests.”

Stern said that Zando has signed on with a distributor and promises an announcement in the near future, teasing, “It’s very powerful, best-in-class independent distribution. You can probably guess.”