What are some upcoming trends?
It feels as if American readers are embracing international trends, which is a change from the norm. The biggest self-help book of the year is Japanese: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and the adult coloring/mindfulness trend started in France and Korea. The buzzy books at the London Book Fair this year were novels from France and Hungary. The biggest novel of this year is British: The Girl on the Train, which, granted, is following in the footsteps of superstar Gillian Flynn’s unreliable female narrator. Normally, Americans lead the charge in publishing, and I think for the next couple of years, we may find more of an influx of books and trends from overseas.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
As clichéd as it sounds, I just want a good read. I want something that enthralls me, that I want to return to over and over, and makes me nearly miss my subway stop! I think a good book can transcend genre or topic. It doesn’t matter if it’s a novel, narrative non-fiction, or memoir, any of these books can draw a reader in. Personally, I’m a big fan of genre-bending fiction, something with a sci-fi slant, like Ernest Cline or Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle. A novel that mashes up more than one genre, so I’m never sure what will happen next.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
As a rights director, I’m lucky because the things I read have been vetted twice—the agent and the editor both have to think it has value before it hits my desk. Anytime I think that I’ve sold the last possible book in a genre or form, the right book comes along to blow it out of the water. Personally, I’m not a fan of the business parable, and I think they’ve had their day—but it’s been long enough now that I’m sure one will come along and prove me wrong.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Insight into the international publishing world—finding out what is working and is interesting to readers overseas. And conversely, what doesn’t work. I can remember spending years pitching the Berkley paranormal romance list to international publishers, and being told, “No, we’re not interested,” until the day they were. A few years later, they were all clamoring for American erotica. As I mentioned earlier, it’s an interesting time, as now American editors are watching overseas trends.
Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the greatest joys of my job is being an early adopter of a book—being one of the first to read and help spread the word both within the publishing house and to the outside world. I’ve been lucky enough to be an early reader on books like The Help, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Sue Klebold’s upcoming memoir, and I’m excited about other upcoming projects the world will be reading.
Lance Fitzgerald began his publishing career 20 years ago in the subsidiary rights department at Putnam Berkley, and since then has served as rights director at Penguin Group (USA), Simon & Schuster, and is currently vie president, director of subsidiary rights for the Crown Publishing Group at Penguin Random House. He has sold rights for No. 1 New York Times bestselling books including 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Hard Choices by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Other bestselling authors he has worked with include Andy Weir, Anthony Marra, Cynthia Bond, Mary Higgins Clark, Tom Clancy, Deepak Chopra, David McCullough, Walter Isaacson, and Bob Woodward.