What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Trends are a difficult thing to focus on when making decisions about future projects because of the long lead time it takes to produce a book. The typical publication schedule takes nine months, from delivery and acceptance to books in the stores, so by the time you’ve identified a trend and written a manuscript based on it, the time for it has passed and the world is on to something else. I would probably look to what is happening on social media to identify trends, though they don’t always translate into book-length projects.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I am always interested in the story, whether it be fiction or nonfiction. A good story can make a dry subject interesting, and good characters, whether real or imagined, can make any subject come to life. Interesting and transformative life experiences that can transcend the immediate circumstances and feel universal are always a draw for me. I recently worked on a book, Fast Into the Night by Debbie Moderow, about a woman who was determined to complete the Iditarod—a strong woman at the center, amazing animals, and adventure. How could I resist? I am also drawn to books that dive deep into a topic and offer new understanding and community to their readers. I’m thinking of Hope Edelman’s Motherless Daughters and her upcoming, as-yet-untitled book, which also touches on grief and offers wonderful support to readers and can make a difference in the quality of their lives.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I don’t know that there is a topic I would never want to see again—there is an old saying in publishing that a great writer can make a tuna fish sandwich for lunch be amazing. Wait, I take that back: reality television celebrities. Those books are a pass for me
How do you work with self-published authors?
I look for talent and dedication in self-published authors. I need to see that they have the ability to write with a strong voice, have something that needs to be written about, and needs to be written by them in particular. I like to know that they put a lot of effort into understanding the marketplace and have used good efforts to get noticed. Unfortunately, in today’s data-driven world, it is important to come with a good sales record and a good platform—a good following on their blog, website, Instagram, and Twitter account or good attendance at speaking engagements, conferences, and teaching opportunities.
What do you want to change about publishing?
I would love to see publishers less wedded to BookScan numbers. An author can have a mediocre track record in sales and then have a terrific book that could transcend low sales, but it is often hard to get a publisher and its sales force to see that possibility and give an author another shot.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I do a fair amount of YA and middle-grade books—for example E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars and her upcoming work, Genuine Fraud, and I am thrilled by the high quality of writing for the younger audience and its willingness to try different styles, subjects, and forms. It is thrilling to publish to such an open-minded and curious group.
Elizabeth Kaplan, the founder of the Elizabeth Kaplan Literary Agency in Manhattan, has represented numerous critically acclaimed and bestselling authors in her 20-year career as an agent. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Elizabeth moved to New York City and began her publishing career as the assistant to Jim Silberman, the founder of Summit Books. Elizabeth worked as an editor at Summit before moving on to assist the literary agent Sterling Lord. Before beginning her own agency in 2002, she worked as an agent at both Sterling Lord Literistic and the Ellen Levine Agency. Elizabeth’s main areas of focus include literary fiction, YA fiction, narrative nonfiction (especially issue-based books), history, biography, food writing, cookbooks, and memoirs. Her list includes Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin; The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks, by E. Lockhart (Michael L. Printz Honor Book and finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature); The Making of a Chef, by Michael Ruhlman; FDR, by Jean Edward Smith; Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson; and Start Where You Are, by Chris Gardner with Mim Eichler Rivas.