What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I’m seeing new voices exploring stories and ideas that we might think of as old, including frontier conflicts told from a neglected adolescent’s point of view; intimate visits to the unexpected oases of the West from a scientist and river guide; changing symbolism of the iconic American bison; and uncommon resilience amid intergenerational trauma. Authors are illuminating historical moments and commonplace ideas with a big jolt of creativity and bold perspectives.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would love to see more page-turning narrative nonfiction that tells the story of landscapes, ecologies, or people facing climate and cultural change. We’re especially interested in stories relating to America’s public lands and the ways the West is changing for both people and wild creatures. I’d also like more projects that delve, with grit and heart, into the intimate human connections to climate change.
I’d like to have more work from Native American and Latinx authors telling stories about the intersections of landscape, culture, and politics that show lives and issues that are still so underrepresented. There’s a lot to cover, so I especially love projects that go deep into one piece of a story while examining larger issues, as Jonathan Thompson did in River of Lost Souls: The Science, Politics, and Greed Behind the Gold King Mine Disaster, a discussion of pollution in the southern Rockies amid a headline-grabbing mine spill.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
We all live extraordinary lives, but not every extraordinary experience makes for a compelling book. I love a good memoir, and I’d like to see more aspiring memoirists be certain their stories speak to universal themes or illuminate compelling issues.
How do you work with self-published authors?
As a traditional house, we buy projects and publish them, but we’re happy to look at new work by previously self-published authors. I think there’s an important place in the world of books and readers for self-published authors.
What do you want to change about publishing?
I’d like to see win-win ways of removing returns from the publisher-distributor-retailer cash flow lines. Booksellers depend on returns to help reduce their considerable risk in purchasing inventory, but the unpredictability of returns and their attendant distribution fees crush publishers’ cash flows, making it hard to plan for and acquire new work.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Torrey House Press is the only nonprofit literary publisher in the Intermountain West, and we’re the only independent press with a mission to promote conservation through literature. We’re filling a gap in both our region and our interest area, and with America’s arid public lands in the crosshairs of both climate change and destructive land management policies, our books and authors have the power to spark much-needed conversations throughout the country.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m continually amazed by how fabulous people are in publishing. From authors, booksellers, and librarians to reviewers, media folks, and other publishers, I’m learning all the time, and I’m thrilled and delighted every day to be working in this field.
Kirsten Johanna Allen is the publisher of Torrey House Press, based in Salt Lake City, where she oversees editing, production, marketing, and fundraising. A native New Yorker, she’s also a sixth-generation Utahan and feels most at home hiking in Utah’s red rock country. She has two grown children and lives with a pair of cats and her spouse, Mark Bailey, in Salt Lake City and Torrey, Utah.