What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
There’s one trend, call it a long-term trend rather than upcoming, that includes some of my favorite books and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. These are books of historical crime woven into the fabric of an American city or region. The crime or crimes are fascinating, often game-changers in the history of the place. In the storytelling, the setting itself is a main character. Readers who call the setting their hometown recognize the story as part of their heritage—and a dark part of it, which is often the most interesting and entertaining aspect. And if the author is connected to the place, then there’s a passion that comes through, plus an authenticity that readers respond to. You can trace this genre back to Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City, but it’s an evolving trend with books like Lyons Press’ own Terror in the City of Champions by Tom Stanton (Depression-era Detroit) and The Last Good Heist by Tim White, Randall Richard, and Wayne Worchester (Providence, Rhode Island, in the mid-1970s).
So, do narratives drive your publishing program?
Narratives are a big part of it, but another trend—especially in the categories where I play, like Americana and sports—involves non-narrative books that offer smart, quick hits of information, entertainment, and commentary alongside stunning visuals: plenty of images and sidebars. These are the book medium’s answer to Tumblrs, website slideshows, and other eye-catching content of online magazines and social media. In sports, for example, we’re doing these gorgeous “flippable” books with a dynamic series called Game Changers and sports bucket-list titles like The Amazing Baseball Adventure by Josh Pahigian.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d love to see projects about unsung American teams that accomplished the unexpected—and I’m not talking only about sports (Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat or Julie Checkoway’s The Three-Year Swim Club), but teams in any aspect of American culture. It’s especially riveting when the individuals are underdogs or trailblazers. For example, I wish I had published Nathalia Holt’s Rocket Girls, about the trailblazing female mathematicians central to transforming rocket design in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the 1940s and ’50s. What a great American story!
Have you worked with self-published authors?
I’ve worked with authors from all kinds of publishing backgrounds. What I’m looking for are authors in American history, historical crime, American cultural topics, and sports with unique voices who are tapped into their markets, experts on their topics, and who know how great storytelling or smart, creative content packages can bring forth a memorable point of view or angle on a topic that a reader couldn’t get anywhere else.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Lyons Press is part of a non-Big Five publishing company, Globe Pequot, dedicated to regional and category-enthusiast publishing. Our imprint focuses on American history, military history, sports, nature and animals, and fishing and hunting. I like to say that the patron saint of Lyons Press—based on those categories—is Theodore Roosevelt.
Anything else you’d like to add?
There’s never been a time when the book has had more competition from other media in delivering written-word content. That means books have to up their game—more stunning packages, better stories, stronger and more unique voices. It’s a challenge, but rising to that challenge will produce an exciting new kind of book publishing.
Keith Wallman, senior editor, joined Lyons Press, based in Guilford, Connecticut, in 2007 after seven years at Carroll & Graf Publishers and Thunder’s Mouth Press. He grew up in Rochester, New York, and moved to Brooklyn after graduating from Princeton University. He lives now in New Haven, Connecticut, with his wife and two sons. At Lyons Press, he focuses his acquisitions on American history, American historical crime, and sports.