What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
If only I had a crystal ball! Well, for one, I would have done much better in my NCAA March Madness pool. On a serious note, I think the most useful tool in an editor’s arsenal in terms of identifying trends is having an acute sensitivity to the mood and zeitgeist of the country, more so, say, than focusing on what is specifically fashionable at any given moment (i.e. dog books! Zombie books! Unreliable narrators!). And the fact is, the current mood is, well, somewhat bleak. Most of us continue to be preoccupied with the turbulent state of affairs in this country and the world and what feels to be like a perpetual state of instability. This unique sociopolitical climate is having an effect both on what readers want to read as well as writers and their work, both intentionally and subconsciously.
In line with that, I suspect we’ll continue to see a rise in politically/socially conscious books and personal essays; books that explore the “hot topics” of our times—Donald Trump, of course, but also sexual politics/power, immigration, gun violence, global warming, economic inequality, racism, etc. As a society, we’re facing fundamental reckonings with all of these topics, and if there is a light in all the darkness, it’s the potential for talented writers to drive, inform, and shape this reckoning and be a guiding light in this time of upheaval. I think fiction over the next year will also be informed by these same social forces, and readers will be drawn to either purely escapist and/or aggressively feel-good reads or novels that tackle timely topics via the lens of fiction.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
At the moment, I’m hungry for fiction that challenges me, envelops me, and offers an emotionally resonant look at humanity, and from a perspective we haven’t heard from before or need to hear more from. That’s all! One of the books I loved most this past year was Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. The writing was stunning, and it brought attention to important and timely topics: war and refugees by way of an intensely personal love story and characters who demanded your empathy. I am a big believer in literature as a means to bridge our divides and remind us of shared humanity. Any novel that does that is welcome in my inbox.
I’m also very intrigued by the exciting wave of writers of the African and Caribbean diasporas who have had enormous critical and commercial success like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Imbolo Mbue, Yaa Gyasi, Ayobami Adebayo, Nicole Dennis-Benn, and Uzodinma Iweala. I would love to publish books in this vein.
I’d love to fall in love with a memorable, iconic character. Every so often one comes along who captures our imagination, from Bridget Jones to Olive Kitteridge to Bernadette Fox. I want to meet (and introduce the world to) the next beloved literary heroine.
Lastly, I would love to find a narrative nonfiction epic fueled by vibrant storytelling and rich character development that shines light on a social problem that deserves attention, in the vein of Alex Kotlowitz’s There Are No Children Here, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s Random Family, Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, or Matthew Desmond’s Evicted.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’m not in the market right now for “rich people problem” novels, books set within a milieu of affluence. I also have a bit of fatigue when it comes to the young woman living in New York/LA/San Francisco, working in magazine/book publishing/tech, who breaks up with her boyfriend/husband, gets fired, and embarks on a foreign adventure/road trip/meaningful return home. I also, personally, never quite took to the “investigating the mysterious circumstances of murdered/dead girl” trend, even as commercial suspense remains hot.
How do you work with self-published authors?
I actually don’t often work with self-published authors at S&S (though I did do quite a bit of this in my previous role as a freelance editor). That said, I’m always looking for exciting new voices, and there’s certainly a precedent for self-published authors who have had success and built a platform and are primed for (and interested in) a larger distribution with a major publisher. I’m always on the lookout for promising scenarios along those lines.
What do you want to change about publishing?
Broken record alert: I would love for the industry to be more diverse across the board, in every facet. Of course, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that or heard it said, I’d be filling out this Q-and-A on the deck of my yacht. But it really is such an imperative, and though there’s positive momentum on the front (especially when it comes to conversation and consciousness), I am eager for concrete progress. And I don’t just mean with regard to race and ethnicity (though that’s important), but also in terms of people coming from different parts of the country, from different financial backgrounds, and from outside what tend to be insular social networks.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
One unique aspect at S&S is that we work in teams—meaning that our full staff is broken into small groups comprised of a few editors, marketing people, and publicists—that all work together and apply multidisciplinary attention to each of our books. So from the time you have a submission and need second reads until the publication of a book, there’s a group of people dedicated to that book (beyond just one marketing person and publicist) to help brainstorm titles or strategize about events and off-the-page features or to talk through tricky situations. The collaborative spirit is nice and, moreover, tangibly effective in serving our books.
Christine Pride, a senior editor at Simon & Schuster, joined the company in 2016. She spent more than a decade as an editor at various corporate imprints, including Doubleday, Broadway, Crown, and Hyperion, and then struck out on her own for a three-year stint as a freelance editor and ghostwriter. Both in house and as a freelancer, she’s worked with a variety of established and debut writers and has published many New York Timesbestsellers and critically acclaimed books, including Nick Trout’s Tell Me Where It Hurts, Stephanie Nielson’s Heaven Is Here, and Deval Patrick’s A Reason to Believe. Since arriving at S&S, Christine has acquired a range of projects, including Dear World, a memoir by 8-year-old Syrian refugee and Twitter activist Bana Alabed, Inventing Joy by business dynamo Joy Mangano, No One Tells You This, a memoir by Glynnis MacNicol, and Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win, a novel by journalist and bestselling author Jo Piazza. Christine acquires contemporary, literary, and upmarket/book club fiction. She’s especially drawn to voice-driven novels, high-concept premises, and books that explore the terrain of family, relationships, friendship, coming-of-age, and race/culture. She also acquires literary and commercial memoirs—inspirational stories are a special passion—as well as select narrative nonfiction that explores race, pop culture, and women’s issues. Overall, she’s a sucker for any book that offers a distinctive point of view, sparks reflection, starts a conversation, and resonates with women. Though she spends a lot of time reading, she’s also an unabashed television aficionado. Christine attended the University of Missouri’s broadcast journalism program and worked in nonprofit management before embarking on a career in book publishing.