What are some upcoming trends for 2016?
In the small scale of my own books and reading, I’ve noticed a real appreciation of science, or elevated science fiction that’s intended for a general audience. I have a book called The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church that was chosen as the No. 1 Indie Next List pick for May, and it deals with women in science at the time of the making of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos. The other trend that I can spot is more of a publishing-at-large trend. Everyone wants “big” books, and they are willing to pay high advances in order to get them. It seems much harder to get a midlist book off the ground.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would love to see something that takes place in another country but could also work for an American audience, like M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans or Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Sometimes armchair traveling is the only traveling I get to do. I’d also really like to see something that’s literary and has to do with animals. I think that’s a hard subject to do well, but when it works it really gets to me. And I’m always a fan of something that’s both whimsical and dark.
How are you working with self-published writers?
I only work with a few self-published authors, but if I see something that strikes my fancy, has sold well, and the author would actually like to be traditionally published, I reach out. The book has to have done well in order to get a traditional publisher interested, and the author really needs to want to go down that path. It can be challenging going from a publishing process where you have all of the control to one that you don’t, but physical distribution is still a really important part of reaching a wide audience.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
Personally, I could do without terrorists, terrorism, CIA agents, or ex–CIA agents. I feel like there’s enough of that in the newspaper. But other than that, I’m willing to look at anything as long as it’s well-written and has an absorbing story.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
The best thing about what I do is that I can truly be fueled by passion; if I love something, I can find a way to work on it. And there’s nothing better than being an advocate for the author, whose talent is the whole reason the industry exists in the first place. I have a book called Trials of the Earthby Mary Hamilton [edited by Helen Dick Davis] forthcoming from Little, Brown, and it’s a memoir by a woman who homesteaded on the Mississippi Delta in the late 19th century. I work with her estate; it’s an amazing process to finally get her words to a larger audience, and it’s purely dedication on the part of all involved that this book is going to exist.Michelle Brower is an agent with Zachary Shuster Harmsworth and Kuhn Projects, where she specializes in literary fiction, book-club fiction, and narrative nonfiction. Her authors include Erika Swyler, Diane Les Becquets, Elizabeth J. Church, Lincoln Michel, and many others