What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Some days I’m not sure if readers will ever lose interest in political tell-alls and self-help books with curse words in the title. But other than that: I do think that true crime is having a huge moment. Also, since there’s so much growth in the digital audio book space, I’m excited to see what musicians, performers, and other creatives will be doing to make their audio editions really special.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
On the fiction side, I feel like everyone is looking for the next Celeste Ng—that perfect blend of beautiful, literary writing with elements of suspense. So I’m going to go ahead and put that out into the universe, The Secret–style.
As for nonfiction, I’ll go back to true crime: What I think is really interesting about the recent wave is that young women are really the driving force behind it. I hope Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the first of many bestselling true-crime books by female authors—I’m tired of seeing women only as the victims in these stories.
On both sides, I’m looking for writers from underrepresented communities: writers of color, LGBTQ writers, and writers from backgrounds that we’re not hearing enough about.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’m not sure if I’d rule out any topic completely. It’s been five years since Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, and with so many similar books out in the world now, I do think that psychological suspense in that vein has to be very unique and expertly done to rise above the noise. There was a hilarious Twitter thread that went viral about male authors who write completely flat and oversexualized female characters—if a line in a manuscript sounds anything like a line in this thread, it’s a “no” from me. Other than that, I’m open-minded.
How do you work with self-published authors?
I haven’t worked with a lot of self-published authors. We have taken on a few projects that were originally self-published, creating new editions for Touchstone.
What do you want to change about publishing?
We have a serious lack of diversity in this industry. There’s a lot of insightful writing and reporting on this problem and the ways we can work to solve it, so I’ll point you to this recent BuzzFeed interview and this essay by Chris Jackson rather than try to break it down in my own words.
I also feel that, because most of the publishing industry is based in NYC, there’s an excessive focus on authors from and books about the coasts. Great stories come from everywhere! One book that recently got me thinking about this is They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us by Hanif Abdurraqib (one of my favorites of 2017): The author’s roots in Columbus, Ohio, deeply affect his view of the world and the cultural moments he covers in his essays. I was completely moved by his writing—books like this one make it so difficult for me to understand readers who only seek out books by or about people exactly like them.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Touchstone is a fun place to be because we publish such a wide range of books: We have debut novels, self-help, celebrity projects, and serious nonfiction all coming out in the same season. Looking at my shelf right now, Cecile Richards’ Make Trouble is sitting next to Charlamagne Tha God’s Black Privilege, Denise Kiernan’s The Last Castle,and Claire Belton’s Pusheen Coloring Book. So, there’s a “can-do” attitude here that’s perfect for someone like me, who’s just starting to build a list.
Lara Blackman is an assistant editor at Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. She lives in Brooklyn; she’s on Twitter at @longtweetclub and Instagram at @larabee_reads.