When former Crown publisher Molly Stern started her own publishing house, Zando, last fall, she said that one of the publisher's goals was to bring in high-profile “publishing partners” who could develop their own imprints or lists. Stern has now announced the first two partners in the effort: author Gillian Flynn and screenwriter, producer, and actress Lena Waithe.
Both Flynn and Waithe have committed to publishing four to six books each under their own imprints over a three-year span. Flynn’s titles will be released under the Gillian Flynn Books banner, while Waithe’s titles will be published under the Hillman Grad Books imprint. (Hillman Grad is the name of Waithe’s production company.)
In explaining the publishing partner concept, Stern said that the Zando team will work with Flynn and Waithe to identify the types of books they are most interested in publishing, while Zando's editors will make recommendations from the submissions they have received. Publishing partners are also free to choose their own authors. From there, Flynn and Waithe will provide editorial guidance to the authors and help promote the books after they are released.
Stern stressed that Zando's publishing partners must commit to using their contacts and influence to promote each title, and she is confident they will do so. “This will be more than one tweet,” she said. She explained that, under Zando's partnership agreements, the better the book sells, the more money the partners will make. In announcing the two agreements, Zando said Flynn and Waithe are both interested in working to discover "fresh, underrepresented" voices.
In an interview with PW, Flynn said that she appreciated the way Stern took a chance on someone who was a relatively unknown author with a manuscript that did not easily fit into one of publishing's typical categories. (Stern was the publisher of Flynn’s 2017 breakout hit Gone Girl, a novel that is credited with spurring the creation of the psychological thriller category.) Asked if she would like to discover the next Gillian Flynn, she said she would rather find “the next un-Gillian Flynn.” She added that she has a deep interest in nonfiction, and would like to find authors with original insights in that arena; she would also “love to find a woman’s take on a western.” Flynn, who is working on her next novel for Penguin Random House, said she is already reading three manuscripts.
Stern hopes to publish the first title in each imprint in late 2022, but acknowledged that the first books may not come until spring 2023. The first titles from Zando itself are expected to be published in spring 2022. Stern said she expects Zando to do a total of about 30 titles annually, and promised not to "over-publish." The Zando team now stands at 10, and the publisher will soon move into new offices on Crosby Street in New York City.