MTV Books is back, and it's all about its page-to-screen pipeline.
First launched in 1995 in partnership with Pocket Books, the imprint is now housed under the Branded Publishing Group at Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. (Both MTV and S&S are part of Paramount Global, formerly known as Viacom, which announced its rebranding in February 2022.) V-p and head of MTV Books Christian Trimmer, who joined the imprint in February 2021, will work with Atria on adult projects and with Simon Pulse on YA projects. Kara Sargent, director of brand publishing, is the lead editor for the imprint on the S&S side.
Trimmer has worked in publishing for more than 15 years. Most recently, he was editorial director at Macmillan’s Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, where he published such hit YA titles as Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. Prior to that, he served as executive editor at S&S. He is thrilled to be “reunited” with many of his old S&S colleagues at MTV Books, he said.
The first title from the relaunched MTV Books was released in May 2022: My Life: Growing Up Asian in America, edited by the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, with an introduction by former MTV News correspondent SuChin Pak, who Trimmer calls “one of my heroes.” In October of this year, the imprint will release Sydney Bucksbaum’s How to Win at The Challenge and Life: A Champion’s Guide to Eliminating Obstacles, Winning Friends, and Making That Money, inspired by the MTV reality competition series The Challenge, which has been on the air since 1998.
The 2023 slate features seven titles—a mix of adult fiction, YA fiction, and adult nonfiction—but moving forward, Trimmer plans to publish eight to 10 YA and adult books per year. He is particularly intent on publishing titles that “lift up underrepresented and misrepresented voices,” citing My Life: Growing Up Native in America, edited by IllumiNative, and Hot Boy Summer by Joe Jiménez as two slated books that embody that intention. (MTV Entertainment Studios has acquired TV/film rights to the latter.)
Along with championing fresh voices, Trimmer also wants to “celebrate established voices,” like bestselling author Daniel Kraus, who will release his upcoming novel Whalefall with MTV Books. Trimmer and Kraus have worked together since 2013, first at S&S, where Trimmer acquired Kraus’s first Zebulon Finch novel, and then on Kraus’s novelization of The Shape of Water at Macmillan. Whalefall's publication in summer 2023 will mark a decade of the duo's partnership.
The imprint’s aim, Trimmer says, is to “take the concepts from some of our most beloved shows and build them into the book space,” with the goal of then creating “new content with its origins in MTV Books.” And while he will prioritize the development of existing IP, he also plans to “acquire traditionally, like I had at Macmillan and S&S,” as he builds out the new list. “Everything I’m trying to do right now is in hopes that it will then go to the scripted, or unscripted, team,” he said.
Trimmer admits that the ethos of MTV Books has been a “different way of thinking for me as publisher.” His acquisitions have become more strategic, always keeping in mind a manuscript’s potential for screen adaptation. At the end of the day, his main objective is to “deliver content” to the MTV Studios team.
Trimmer was initially sought out to head MTV Books by Nina L. Diaz, president of content and chief creative officer for MTV Entertainment Studios and both unscripted entertainment and adult animation at Paramount+. Diaz sees MTV Books as a vehicle for “franchise-building,” with a focus on publishing titles that “build out existing IP or launch new IP.”
Diaz’s approach: “Start with a great book” and then turn it into a film, a show, a podcast—or vice versa. One of the 2023 slate’s lead titles, 16 & Pregnant by LaLa Thomas, is inspired by the MTV reality series of the same name. The YA novel, slated for January 2023 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, follows two young Black women in Nevada as they navigate being young and pregnant in America. Three other 2023 fiction titles are also spin-offs of MTV properties: Anna Gracia’s The Break-Up Vacation is based on MTV Beach House; Angel Luis Colón’s Infested is based on the paranormal reality show Fear, which aired from 2000 to 2002; and Jordan K. Casomar’s How to
Love Lose a Best Friend is based on the reality dating show Friendzone.
Both Trimmer and Diaz emphasized their vision for using MTV books to create a page-to-screen (and screen-to-page) “pipeline.” Diaz sees that pipeline as representative of a “new approach to publishing” and a “completely different way of thinking about books”—that is, thinking about books as IP, and of imprints as IP factories.
This pipeline approach isn’t exactly new to MTV Books. Two of its bestselling titles, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Soul Surfer, were both adapted into movies, and throughout the 2000s, the imprint published nonfiction spin-offs of The Real World, The Hills, and Laguna Beach. The imprint has also published three books by reality show star Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi of Jersey Shore and, in 2012, a novel based on the series Teen Wolf.
But for the relaunched MTV Books, the pipeline is not just an element of the imprint: it’s the bedrock. For Paramount, MTV Books is a key tool in the global media company’s mission, in Diaz’s words, to “expand our universe of content.” How key it really is, should Paramount succeed in selling Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, remains to be seen, but the relationship between S&S and MTV Books is expected to remain in place.