The Dollhouse Murders is the first release from Pearson Education's newest science trade imprint, Pi Press. PW spoke with Stephen Morrow, Pi Press's executive editor, about the new imprint.
PW: How did the Pi Press get started?
Stephen Morrow: Gary June, CEO of Pearson Technology Group, wanted to grow Pearson's trade science business by building on the works that Pearson Education already has with its college and technical publishing. So it was a great opportunity where I could use my editorial talents to introduce the principles and beauty of science to people who aren't scientists.
PW: How long did it take to get the imprint off the ground?
SM: They came to me in February and in a matter of weeks we had a publishing plan and the name, Pi Press. We worked tirelessly for six months until the last of this fall's book list went off to the printer.
PW: Why are you starting a trade science imprint in this market?
SM: There is a perennial interest in science. By some measures, it isn't as large a category as current affairs or history, but there is plenty of room for it. Science publishing will grow and grow and grow. It may have dips and turns, but it won't stop unless human civilization stops. Popular history has been around longer but popular science has been around for over a century, and it is just getting started. If I may be so bold, science is what is happening in the area of human knowledge; everything else is just habit.
PW: Do you have a science background as well?
SM: Not academically. I was introduced to science in a bookstore by such books as The Selfish Gene and A Brief History of Time. I am the consumer, not the academic.
PW: What distinguishes Pi from other trade imprints?
SM: Usually trade imprints at major publishers make all their major acquisitions through agents, so the relationship with the agent often creates the fundamental network powering the imprint. Pi does work with agents, but the approach is more academic-based. I like finding the author, usually a scientist, and being closely involved with the inception of the book, its writing, production and selling. Generally, editors have a narrower function than that at trade imprints. Simply, I like to start early in the process and see it all the way through. Trade publishers often refer to one or two books on their list as "make" books, meaning they require special publishing attention to reach their potential. All Pi Press books will be "make" books.
PW: So you were a part of the creation of The Dollhouse Murders?
SM: The book was my idea based on a magazine article in a popular science magazine about the very quirky way Mauriello, a top crime scene investigator, teaches his techniques. I knew the writer Ann Darby. and Professor Mauriello knew the photographer. They show how C.S.I. really works. It's gritty, not always neatly resolved and it, well, happens in a dollhouse.
PW: And you have an astronomy book coming out as well?
SM:Norton's Star Atlas, the 20th edition. The book is being completely redesigned and updated with new sections to make it more accessible than ever before.
PW: Can we expect to see Pi trying to home in on the recent trend of pop culture science books?
SM: All of Pi Press will be underwritten by scientific authority. The Dollhouse Murders is a perfect example. It is about a popular subject, but it is written by one of the country's pre-eminent crime scene investigators.
PW: Given your connection to Pearson, will you be looking for books that are of interest to the general public that can also be in the classroom?
SM: We are not publishing textbooks. Those are packaged in a particular way. We are designing books for a trade audience. But in the publishing industry, there can be a crossover, and thankfully we have Pearson's infrastructure to deliver bestsellers as well as the smarts to deliver books that have real educational value.