Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Trendsetter at the 2017 One Story Debutante Ball

The One Story Debutante Ball is one of the most eagerly-anticipated literary parties in New York. This year’s edition was held on the evening of May 12 at Brooklyn’s Roulette Intermedium, a space friendly to cultural events like this one – though there really isn’t anything else quite like this one.

True to its name, the literary journal One Story publishes one piece at a time, sent out to subscribers every few weeks in small, handsomely-printed booklets. A given writer can only ever appear once. The journal recently celebrated its fifteenth anniversary, and there are now over 225 One Story issues – and, therefore, over 225 One Story authors. Some were already well-known when they joined the roster, but quite a few were just beginning their lives as published writers. Thus the ball, which celebrates the year’s cohort of those who’ve published their first book. Tickets started at $100, though larger donations and corporate sponsorships were welcome: this is the journal’s largest fundraiser of the year.  The guests dressed up accordingly, wearing a striking array of dresses and suits.

I was attending as a volunteer on the rope brigade – more on that later – and arrived early, as the stage lights were being adjusted. The space at Roulette consisted of an open check-in area attached, via double doors, to a dance floor and stage. The dance floor’s decorations were designed and executed by One Story HQ: there were large posters of each book hung from the balconies, as well as banners strung with past issues. From the ceiling hung fairy lights done up to look like clouds and lightning, and along the walls were small tables piled high with the honorees’ books, free for the taking.

(“This is way better than prom,” a fellow volunteer said as we watched the attendees check in at the front table.)

As the evening got underway, it was occasionally difficult to tell who was being celebrated and who was simply celebrating. Trays of hors d’oeuvres circulated as a folk-style four-piece played covers of popular songs. At the bar just outside the dance floor, attendees could pick up a cocktail designed especially for the occasion: it was called “All Is Forgotten” in tribute to Mentor of the Year Lan Samantha Chang’s 2010 novel All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost. A few attendees agreed that this was a good name for an alcoholic beverage, period, and it went quickly. The honored guests of the evening mingled with the crowd but were easy to spot, having been given knitted corsages at the door.

Streamers made of One Story issues hung over the dance floor.

Of course, a debutante ball wouldn’t be right without a presentation of the debutantes. About halfway through the party, the honorees were taken to the back of the hall and two lengths of rope were unfurled down the dance floor by volunteers (the aforementioned “rope brigade”), creating an impromptu aisle. The room hushed, though not all at once: “Quiet, debutantes in the back!” One Story co-founder Hannah Tinti ordered.

Once the room was settled, the journal’s other co-founder, Maribeth Batcha, took the microphone to give a few remarks. The ball, held now for eight years in a row, was originally meant to be a playful, bookish spin on an American tradition. However, Batcha said, “each year it becomes a little less cheeky and a little more sacred.”

Then it was time to introduce the debutantes: Sam Allingham, Angelica Baker, Clare Beams, Julie Buntin, Anne Corbitt, Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes, Lisa Ko, Emily Ruskovich, and Melissa Yancy. Each was accompanied down the aisle by a beloved mentor, beaming, while co-founder Hannah Tinti and editor-in-chief Patrick Ryan took turns reading the first sentences from their books. Once onstage, the nine writers and their “dates” were corralled together so the photographer could take a few shots – and most of the room seized the opportunity, too. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/8-5/12

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Pearson Education is planning more cuts, including the possible sale of its US K-12 group.

Milo Yiannopoulos will sue Simon & Schuster and self-publish his memoir.

Scholastic launched its summer reading challenge this week.

Bill Clinton is teaming up with James Patterson to write a novel, and Hillary Clinton will speak at this month’s BookExpo.

A new Chrome extension aims to improve book discoverability.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 5/1-5/5

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

The federal budget passed this week actually increases funding for both the NEA and NEH

Tor Books is launching an imprint dedicated to experimental fiction.

The owners of vanity press Tate Publishing have been charged with extortion and embezzlement

Amazon has come to an agreement with the EU over ebook contracts.

George Coe, new COO of Follett Corporation, has retired after just one month.

 

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 4/24-4/28

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Barnes & Noble named a new CEO at last.

Author of the Percy Jackson series Rick Riordan started his own imprint at Hyperion and announced its first titles.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt underwent a round of layoffs this week. 

Amazon launched a new feature, Subscribe with Amazon, for digital subscriptions.

Both the Edgar Awards and PEN Gala were this week. 

BONUS: Tomorrow, Saturday, May 29th, is Independent Bookstore Day! Find out if your local indie is participating here

Keeping It On Campus: University Presses in America

There’s life in publishing outside the Big Five – in fact, university presses have been leading the bookish charge for centuries. Unclear on what kind of work these presses do? Interested in getting involved? We’ve put together an overview to get you up to speed.

A Brief History

In Colonial and Early America, colleges retained their own printers in order to produce catalogs, scholarly publications, and ceremonial materials. The moniker “University Press” was first used at Harvard in 1802, but the university press as we now know it – a producer of journals, monographs, and popular work – didn’t begin to emerge until the end of the 19th century. Even then, it could be rough going: many institutions had to try several times to get their operations up and running successfully. The oldest continuously-operating university press in America, Johns Hopkins University Press, wasn’t founded until 1878, two years after JHU itself. The press at Johns Hopkins was, from the beginning, an integral part of the university’s mission to get scholarly research into the hands of the public.

Then as now, the competitive nature of commercial publishers made it difficult, if not impossible, to devote resources to books that might have a very niche audience. By contrast, many university presses were subsidized by their universities. This was a comparative advantage, since the obligation to gross profits was minimized, and less lucrative titles – monographs, collections of poetry, etc. – could be offered up for sale. And these books ran, as they still do, across nearly every genre, from fiction to scientific research to ethnographic studies. It may, in fact, “be easier to describe a university press by saying what it’s not.” A tour of press catalogs reveals listings in Jewish studies, rural sociology, and contemporary poetry, sometimes side-by-side.

The largest increase in press openings began with the Cold War. The space race spurred a national focus on education, which led to the founding of the National Endowments for the Humanities and the Arts (NEH and NEA) in 1965. Of course, no boom can last, and this one ended with the 1960s. From 1970 onward the rate at which new presses opened dropped dramatically: only five were opened between 1975 and 2000, down from a high of one a year between 1920 and 1970.

In recent years, uncertain funding and cost-cutting measures have placed a number of presses in jeopardy. Only a handful (including the University of Washington Press and Yale University Press) have endowments, and the rest depend on a variable combination of sales and subsidies. Decreased emphasis on higher education and changing technologies add challenges, too. But these presses aren’t in it alone.

Community

In the 1920s, about two dozen press managers began meeting informally at the end of each year’s meeting of the National Association of Book Publishers. They used these gatherings to share their thoughts and concerns about the business. As the years passed, the group became more and more permanent; in 1937, the group elected a chairman and these managers began to hold meetings of their own. By 1946, bylaws had been adopted and the formal organization process was complete.

Today, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) is the only organization of its kind and currently has over 140 members around the world. Most, though not all, are located in North America. (Exceptions include Wits University Press in South Africa, University of Tokyo Press, and Liverpool University Press.) The association provides its member presses with resources geared toward marketing, data collection and analysis, and professional development.  It also supports collaborative publishing projects and celebrates University Press Week every year with a digital conference. 2016’s events were livestreamed on YouTube. And there are quite a few parties who have reason to be interested: not just press managers anymore, but faculty members, authors, and librarians, too. AAUP supports them all.

There’s also AWP, the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, which champions university presses alongside indie presses, graduate writing programs, and more. At its annual conference, press directors and employees get a chance to come together and compare notes at panels and social events. AWP is primarily writer-focused, and so are many of its resources, but it’s still highly useful for both those looking to break into the small-press world and those just looking to network. Read More »

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 4/17-4/21

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox News, but Henry Holt is standing by him.

Audible will no longer allow its users to gift credits.

Canute hopes to bring a multiple-line Braille ereader to market. 

All this week, Penguin Random House is running #ProjectReadathon in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

Ivanka Trump’s tweet for National Library Week drew Twitter‘s ire.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 4/10-4/14

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Microsoft’s ebookstore launched this week. 

Audio content giant, RB Media purchased Audiobooks.com

Amazon released a new parental control dashboard for their kids app, FreeTime

The Pulitzer Prize winners were announced on Monday. 

Simon & Schuster announced big changes for Howard Books and Tyrus Books

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 4/3-4/7

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Flatiron landed three books by the Bidens.

After being purchased by Kobo, print-digital bundler Shelfie is back.

George Takei will publish a graphic memoir about his time in a Japanese internment camp.

The budget of Maria Pallante’s Copyright Office is under scrutiny

Penguin Random House expands its presence in Spanish-language markets.

Inkluded: Making Space in the Industry for Everyone

Over the last few years, American art and pop culture has begun to focus on diversity in a serious way. This is particularly true of publishing: our industry celebrates free expression but is still predominantly white in both workforce and output. Inkluded is one of a few organizations aiming to change that.

While it’s true that publishers have begun to have a difficult conversation about how to move forward, some people are frustrated that not a lot of action has been taken. This frustration brought together Inkluded’s founding members: Michael Mejias and Andrea Morrison of Writers House, along with Alexandra Hightower, Natalie Guerrero, Mary Gaule, Mackenzie Brady Watson, and Julia Kardon. Its stated mission is to “champion diversity in publishing by supporting like-minded organizations toward actualizing their missions and goals.” Already, it has begun collaborating with a number of programs. Some work from both the bottom up, like Barbershop Books, which creates child-friendly reading spaces in inner-city barbershops to increase black boys’ access to and enjoyment of reading, and the I Have a Dream Foundation, with whom Inkluded set up a day for children at the foundation to learn about the publishing process and meet people, like editors, agents, and writers, who make it all happen. Others work from the top down, like We Need Diverse Books. And this last program has an idea for getting new voices into the business.

In case you weren’t already familiar with it, We Need Diverse Books was founded in April 2014 when Ellen Oh and Malinda Lo started a Twitter exchange about the frustrating homogeneity in children’s and young adult publishing. They’d been having this conversation for a while. The impetus this time around was news of an all-white, all-male panel of children’s authors assembled for the following month’s inaugural BookCon. As the exchange unfolded, Ellen began talking about taking action and others in the book industry chimed in to express their interest. 

The inaugural event was all digital and ran from May 1-3 on Facebook and Twitter. The hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks was created on April 24 to promote it. By April 29, the hashtag was trending, and WNDB’s vast social media campaign was born – and continues to this day.

This campaign drew attention to the lack of diverse literature for children. In 2013, the year before WNDB launched, only 93 children’s books out of a total of 3,200 were about African American people. From year to year, as demonstrated in a graphic assembled by multicultural children’s publisher Lee and Low, the percentage of children’s books featuring people of color holds pretty steady at 10%. However, people of color make up about a third of the country’s population, and that number is rising. Clearly, America’s actual demographics can support a broader set of books.

Of course, books are only part of the goal. Publishing itself is predominantly white. And so the We Need Diverse Books Internship Grant Program was launched in 2015 to address another problem: the barrier young people of color face when pursuing careers in publishing. Internships in children’s publishing are valuable for getting a foot in the door, but, like internships the world over, they’re generally very low-paying. Without the appropriate financial resources, a student can’t pursue the position; later, without an internship on their resume, they’re at a disadvantage in the job market.

The grant program aims to change that. It awards $2,500 to five applicants each year: already, eleven recipients have gone on to land entry-level jobs in publishing – one small step toward closing the gap. These scholarships can launch careers. And, of course, more diverse minds in the industry mean more diverse books for all of us.

This is exactly the kind of work that Inkluded likes to support. In an interview, Julia Kardon says that the group “brainstorms organizations that we know are doing good work during our monthly meetings and reach out of members of those groups.” Accordingly, Michael Mejias contacted WNDB about partnering on a fundraiser for the internship program.

Photo by Taylor Templeton.

And so, on the evening of March 15, a lively crowd filled Manhattan’s Writers House for wine, snacks, and a ticketed reading. The line-up was top-notch, featuring Jazmine Hughes, editor at the New York Times Magazine and co-founder of Writers of Color; Leigh Stein, executive director of Out of the Binders; YA author Cristina Moracho; and PEN/Bingham Prize-winner Mia Alvar. Moracho and Alvar read from their books, while Hughes read a Shouts & Murmurs piece. Stein read an essay about restaurant hostessing and a poem about – what else? – The Bachelor. Representatives of We Need Diverse Books spoke about the grant program and about the young professionals who now work in publishing because of it.

The evening was lively, funny, and powerful – and, fortunately for those who missed it, will happen again. A second reading, says Kardon, is planned for June and will feature Imbolo Mbue and other writers.  But you don’t have to wait until then to support the work that Inkluded and WNDB are doing, They’re still raising money, and until April 15, Leigh Feldman Literary will match every dollar raised up to $5,000. You can make a tax-deductible donation here via credit card or PayPal. Mark your donation “INKLUDED” so it will count towards this pledge.

What else can you do to help the cause? Kardon has a few ideas. “If you work in marketing or publicity,” she says, “think about how certain groups of people are not routinely engaged, or how tactics to engage certain middle-class white women don’t work for other groups.” And wherever you are in the industry, she says, “Make this something you talk about and think about and make sure that you recognize that the feeling of being defensive is less important that the voices being excluded. And try to listen, always, no matter what.”

As organizations like Inkluded and We Need Diverse Books continue to shake up the status quo, our support, monetary or not, matters. There’s plenty that everyone can do to make sure that all of us really does mean all – and each of us will be better for it. 

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 3/27-3/31

number_5_orangeEvery week we recommend 5 publishing news stories that young book professionals should read to feel more connected to what’s going on in the industry. There are only 5, so even if you weren’t able to read a thing all week, these should help keep you in the know.

Offbeat, beloved literary magazine The Believer has a new publisher.

Amazon moves into the Middle East with the purchase of Souq.com.

IDW Publishing‘s comic book Love Is Love raised $165,000 for victims of the Pulse shooting.

Elena Ferrante and Colson Whitehead are coming to the small screen. 

Bob Dylan is finally picking up that Nobel Prize in person.