Publishing industry veteran Charles Kim has teamed up with digital marketing executive Stephanie Lim to launch Third State Books, a house focused exclusively on Asian American and Pacific Islander voices and stories. Third State is based in San Francisco, and its first title will be Not Your Model Minority by Dion Lim, the Emmy-winning San Francisco–based news anchor known for her reporting on violence against Asian Americans. The book will explore the resilience and togetherness of the AAPI community in response to anti-Asian hate and violence; it’s due out in early 2024.
Other titles on the first list include The Slacktivists’ Guide to the World by the Slacktivists, a South Asian American brother-and-sister team focused on Gen-Z news; Big Emotions, a children’s book series by Jenny Wang, a prominent AAPI mental health advocate; and an as-yet-untitled book by Garry Tan, president and CEO of Y Combinator, the largest tech incubator in the world. Ingram will serve as distributor, and the plan is to release five to seven titles in the first year and 12 to 15 per year after that.
Kim most recently served as senior editorial agent at Serendipity Literary and as associate publisher at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “Personally, and culturally, as an Asian American, I want to make books in which I see myself, my people, and my experience reflected authentically and fully,” Kim said. “I want to make books in which my daughter and all of the children in AAPI communities are able to do the same. This simply has not existed until now in the publishing world.”
Stephanie Lim also has experience in publishing, and early in her career worked as an intern in Penguin Putnam’s children’s division. It was challenging, she said, to connect—personally and professionally—with her white colleagues there, and she found the salary impossible to live on. She then shifted into “a career more acceptable to my immigrant parents”—in digital marketing and technology.
By establishing Third State Books, Lim intends to provide a home for those like herself and others who have been marginalized, underserved, and overlooked by the New York publishing establishment. “We are looking to break through this historically well-guarded and gate-kept industry and enable Asian American storytellers to tell stories on their own terms,” she said, “without having to answer to the inherent biases, whims and ‘gut feelings’ of the established system, which has never been data-driven or objective and has not endeavored to truly understand them.”
“As a publishing professional,” Kim added, “I believe it’s imperative to give Asian American authors an opportunity to work with people who understand and share their unique perspectives—and just as important, prioritize their communities when marketing and promoting their stories. We don’t see or hear about AAPI writers being supported effectively and consistently as authors and as members of a larger community.”
Third State will offer books in all major categories, for adults and children, and in all formats. One area of focus will be narrative and practical nonfiction, where, Kim said, traditional publishers perceive Asian American perspectives as “too niche.” The press also plans to experiment with non-English-language editions. “Roughly two-thirds of Asian Americans grow up in a non-English-speaking household,” he added.
Dion Lim, who published in the past with McGraw-Hill, shared her reasons for moving to Third State: “Charles and Stephanie understand the battle for representation because they have lived it,” she said. “Third State Books is the epitome of allyship.”
Financial support is coming from venture capital partners, and Stephanie Lim said that the goal is to turn Third State into a multichannel media company. Though she acknowledged that more needs to be done, she noted that Asian Americans are doing well as creators on many new media platforms and are making some headway in film and entertainment. “Traditional publishing, however, is still such an important source of original IP, and having an influence in that area is truly where our opportunity lies,” she said. “We aim to develop stories that can then feed into other forms of media, and it is the one area Asian Americans and other marginalized groups have not been able to fully own at the editorial, agency, and distribution levels.”
For now, the focus is on books, and Kim is keen to underscore that the press is not creating books to be consumed solely by Asian American audiences. “While we want to prioritize connecting our books to that audience, ultimately, we want to tell stories that are meant to be read by all audiences,” he said. “AAPI communities are American communities, and as such, we deserve to tell our part of the American story.”