What’s happening for Little A this year?
Little A, Amazon’s literary and nonfiction imprint, is hitting our five-year anniversary this year. It’s still early days, but looking back at the talented authors we’ve published so far (award-winning authors, bestselling authors, sometimes both!) makes me confident and excited about our future. Our mission remains the same: serve our authors and publish the very best fiction and narrative nonfiction—books that delight our audiences and drive compassion and understanding across cultures and people.
We have a great lineup of books this year. Halsey Street by Naima Coster, which just came out, is an absolute gem of a novel—Naima is definitely on the rise. I’m also excited for the nonfiction we are publishing this year, including A Marriage in Dog Years by Nancy Balbirer, a poignant but funny memoir about a failing marriage and a terminally ill dog, and The Tenth Island, by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Diana Marcum, about rediscovering the meaning of joy and connection on the remote islands of the Atlantic Ocean.
We also have an amazing group of talented editors at Little A. Vivian Lee, Erin Calligan Mooney, Laura Van der Veer, and Hafizah Geter are all deeply passionate about their work and bring so much to the table. Sitting in editorial meetings with them talking about books is a highlight for me every week. Coming up in March, we’ll all be at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs conference in Tampa. If you’re there, check out a panel I’m moderating about the craft of memoir with Nancy Balbirer, Cinelle Barnes (Monsoon Mansion), and Hannah Howard (Feast).
What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Feminism isn’t a trend, but I foresee books written by women dealing with career and workplace issues. I’m also anticipating books about how technology is influencing the lives of women in both good and bad ways. Caeli Wolfson Widger’s novel, Mother of Invention, which we’re publishing in May, follows the life of a Silicon Valley executive who has some tough choices to make. It’s a page-turning story with a lot of heart. It asks: What will a mother sacrifice to have it all?
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
For me, the point of reading is to see the world through another perspective, so I’m always eager for projects by underrepresented voices. As someone who grew up in a Spanglish household with a Mexican-American mother, I’m drawn to multicultural stories. We’d all benefit from more books by people of color and LGBTQ writers in both fiction and nonfiction and on any topic. Send them our way!
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Politics! Unreliable narrators! Anything with “Girl” in the title! Actually, no, I’m up for anything as long as it’s a fresh and original take. I’ve read a million memoirs and coming-of-age novels and will keep doing so. There is beauty in finding a new take on a topic you may have seen before.
What do you want to change about publishing?
Innovation is part of Amazon’s DNA, so I don’t have an unfulfilled need to change things up. We do it every day. At Amazon Publishing, we start with the author and work backward, so we’re always thinking about ways to improve and evolve. A great example is Amazon First Reads, which offers customers early access to new books across popular genres from Amazon Publishing in both Kindle and hardcover editions. Every month, customers can choose one Kindle book from our editors’ picks for $1.99—Prime members get it for free—and also purchase hardcovers at exclusive prices. It’s the result of us wanting to radically expand audiences for our authors, and it works! Our titles Halsey Street andJames Han Mattson’s The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves were both in the program recently, and it was awesome to see the books resonate with our readers.
Carmen Johnson is the editorial director at Little A, Amazon Publishing. She is responsible for shaping Little A’s list and overseeing the editorial team in addition to acquiring and editing her own list of memoir and fiction. Her upcoming titles include: The Long Deception by Mary McCluskey, Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen, A Marriage in Dog Years by Nancy Balbirer, Mother of Invention by Caeli Wolfson Widger, and Stray: Memoirs of a Runaway by Tanya Marquardt. Prior to Amazon, Carmen worked at Knopf. She lives in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, with her husband and daughter.