What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Self-help that is voice-driven, edgy, and packaged in an engaging way, which I often refer to as Not-Your-Mom’s-Self-Help books. One example is Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide (Running Press, May 2016) by my client Tracy Schorn, who is the founder of chumplady.com. It’s an illustrated self-help book about infidelity with a strong, irreverent (and at times snarky) voice that offers a new message to people who’ve been cheated on. It’s inspirational and entertaining in content and design and is conceived as a self-help book that can be given as a gift to a loved one or friend who’s been cheated on and is looking for support. Another title on my list fits into this gift-y, self-help category: There Is No Good Card for This: What to Say and Do When Life is Scary, Awful and Unfair to People You Love by empathy expert Dr. Kelsey Crowe and greeting-card maverick Emily McDowell (HarperOne, Winter 2017). The book is an extension of Emily’s line of popular Empathy Cards and aims to help people communicate during serious illness and loss. As with Tracy’s book, this is heavy subject matter tackled in an approachable, engaging way in full color and with illustrations.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
In nonfiction, I’m actively seeking out storytellers who can spin a tale around science and make it compulsively readable to an armchair enthusiast/commercial reader. With the children’s and young-adult projects I represent, I’m looking for diversity and representation of nonmajority narratives. To give you an idea what this means to me, I recently sold Cyndy Etler’s 487 Days (Sourcebooks Fire, Spring 2017), a young-adult memoir following Cyndy’s unbelievable 16 months at Straight, Inc., a “tough love” program of the ’80s that the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids,” and Pamela Laskin’s Ronit & Jamil (Katherine Tegen Books, 2017), a novel-in-verse retelling of Romeo and Juliet that transports the star-crossed lovers to modern-day Gaza.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I can’t say that I’d never consider a book with vampires, zombies, dystopian worlds, or shades of BDSM. It’s all about execution, so if I get a query or a pitch at a conference that grabs my attention, in spite of a supersaturated market, I’ll consider it. But having said that, I really don’t represent very much in genre fiction.
How have you worked with self-published authors?
I don’t actively seek out self-published authors mostly because I don’t represent genre fiction, and that’s the type of self-published work that can really take off on Amazon, Wattpad, etc. Having said that, in 2015 I did sign and sell two books [mentioned above] that had been previously self-published as Straitling by Cyndy Etler and The Chump Lady Guide to Surviving Infidelity by Tracy Schorn.
Cyndy self-published an adult edition of her book to meet the demands of the Straight, Inc. survivors community, who were clamoring to read the story. She also self-published a YA edition with classroom-friendly discussion questions so that she and other teachers could use the book to engage reluctant readers and overlooked teens. Cyndy queried me (one of the best queries I’ve ever received, actually) because she wanted Straitling to reach a broader audience on- and offline. I sold it to Sourcebooks Fire, where it has gotten a lot of editorial love and attention and will be published with the new title, 487 Days, in Spring 2017.
I met Tracy at a writer’s conference in Austin, Texas. I was on a panel about crafting nonfiction book proposals, and after the talk, she came up and introduced herself. Tracy told me about her popular website, ChumpLady.com, and that she just self-published a book, The Chump Lady Guide to Surviving Infidelity. She had decided to self-publish because she didn’t think her book fit neatly into any one category—it was illustrated self-help, written with a strong, snarky voice that advised people who had been cheated on to leave their partners and move on with their lives. She had a powerful message and an engaged online community, and after our chat I felt like we could find her a home at a traditional publisher—if she wanted one. A few months later, we started working together on a proposal for an expanded edition and sold it to Running Press, where they are publishing it as a beautiful, four-color self-help book with the new title Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life: The Chump Lady’s Survival Guide in May of this year.
Myrsini Stephanides joined the New York–based Carol Mann Agency in September 2009 after 10 years as a nonfiction editor specializing in highly illustrated books. She represents an eclectic list of adult and children’s books, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by The Oatmeal (aka Matthew Inman), I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton, Things I Can’t Explain by Clarissa Explains It All creator Mitchell Kriegman, and Virtually Human by Martine Rothblatt.