What are some upcoming trends?
Judging from the stack of manuscripts on my desk right now, I would say an upcoming trend is definitely…well, I’m not sure, actually. I’d need some kind of pattern-recognition expert to help figure that one out for me. The truth is, I spent almost 15 years working at monthly magazines before coming to Random House, and so I spent a good/scary part of my life thinking about trends and relevance and what would be interesting or timely two months from now—and one of the great pleasures of this job in books is that you are free to operate, to a certain degree, outside of trends. You can dip a toe in if you want, or not. Do a political book for 2016, or not. Do that celebrity’s memoir, or not. Most of the books I work on take two to four years from acquisition to publication, so I feel in some ways that trying to predict trends is a recipe for frustration or even failure. I look for books that have the potential to survive any given moment, that either present ideas or writing that will be as interesting two years from now as they are today. So I guess the trend I try to follow is quality, whenever possible.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I hate being pigeonholed as an editor, and I really work to be sure I don’t get locked into a certain kind or category of book. I can be interested in any topic, as long as the idea is clear and appealing to me or the writing makes me get all weepy inside. Right now, I’m working on a collection of essays by David Searcy, a 70-year-old Texan who writes on a 1953 Olivetti typewriter and does all his rewriting by hand; a book of short stories by Will Mackin, a former special ops soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan; a big old cookbook by Sam Sifton; a collection of interviews with comedians by Judd Apatow; a book about a famous patient known as H.M. and the dark, largely unexplored history of psychosurgery; and a book about the science of productivity by Charles Duhigg. It’s a wide, crazy range of topics—and that’s exactly how I like it.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
I’m not sure there’s anything unique about my little corner of the industry, beyond the books and the authors and the people I am lucky to work with here at Random House. I’ve been doing this for five years now, and I am still in awe when a weird little book that I happen to find interesting also strikes someone else at RH as interesting, and that person then finds creative ways to tell people out in the larger world that this book is interesting—and maybe even worth 28 of their hard-earned dollars—and that person comes away feeling good about the whole deal and is maybe even inspired to pass the word. I love that. That feels pretty unique to me. What other industry do you get to do that?
Any interactions with indie booksellers lately?
I just had a long talk with George Saunders yesterday, in fact, about his progress on his next book—and if ever there was a person who has benefited from the love, enthusiasm and support of indie booksellers, George Saunders would be it. It has been so thrilling to see how he has taken off in the past two years, and I can’t wait to see where it all goes from here. All I know is, wherever it goes, the indies will play an absolutely essential role. I’m also coming off a fall season that saw the publication of Lena Dunham’s book, Not that Kind of Girl, a publication that was just this amazing confluence of bookseller love, massive consumer outreach and publicity inspiration (not to mention lots and lots of elbow grease). Finally, I have projects coming up in the near(ish) future from John Jeremiah Sullivan and Will Mackin (whose collection I mentioned above), both of whom will, I think, look awfully cozy in the window of your local bookshop.
Andy Ward is vice president and editorial director, nonfiction, at Random House. Before coming to the world of books in 2009, he spent almost 15 years as an editor in magazines, first at Esquire, then at GQ. He lives outside New York City with his wife, Jenny Rosenstrach, and their two daughters.