What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I’m always looking out for percolating ideas, issues, and questions where there is tension but no clear-cut answer. And right now there’s no shortage of issues. I’d like fewer books explaining the political circus (not much of a reality TV fan) and more that zoom out to offer perspective on how we got here and where to go next. We just published Ian Bremmer’s Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism,about the rise of populism and what we can do about it; I’d like to see more books about learning what’s outside of your bubble that might just burst it and building understanding with those you disagree with rather than cementing that divide.
While I’m personally struggling to reconcile where we’ll be in two years’ time—about how long it typically takes to write, edit, and publish a book—professionally I’m excited to hunt down unheard voices and the opportunity to help people via books. A trend that never goes out of style is a book that helps people see the world—and think—differently: books that might just instill hope.
A trend I’m still hot on is standout ideas at the intersection of business and women. I recently published Emily Chang’s Brotopia: Breaking Up the Boys’ Club of Silicon Valley and am working with the founder and CEO of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe, on her forthcoming book Make the First Move. I’m eager to work with brave leaders with brave ideas, especially if those ideas can make the world a better place.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Nothing makes me happier than a book with a big idea powered by narrative and research, with a dash of counterintuitive advice. Something to help you change the way you think. One of my favorites is Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond. Also Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth and Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I devour fiction for pleasure reading and look for nonfiction writers who can bring a sense of good storytelling to the table, who want to build in narrative arc, plot, and characters, like Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption and Tara Westover’s recent memoir, Educated. I’m on the hunt for powerful ideas by people with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Thanks to diving into backlogs of the New York Times bestseller lists, I’ve learned that trends have a way of recirculating. I hope “get rich quick” stays out of style, or at least I don’t want to be responsible for bringing it back.
How do you work with self-published authors?
We’ve successfully worked with several self-published authors, including Nir Eyal (Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products) and Cara Alwill Leyba (Girl Code: Unlocking the Secrets to Success, Sanity, and Happiness for the Female Entrepreneur) and Seth Godin, who successfully worked with us, then self-published, and then returned to publish with us again.
The ideal self-published authors know their audiences and have pretty good packages already but still need help getting their books in stores, which is necessary to get the books to the next level. We’ll provide help with editing and positioning and then really prove our use with promotion, production, and distribution.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I work at an imprint dedicated to one subject, business books, which is rather rare in publishing. That said, I’m on a mission to expand the idea of what a business book is. The way people work and their relationship with work have changed dramatically, and business books should reflect that transformation. We’re on a mission to plant powerful ideas in the business space that will revolutionize how people think and act, with books like Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, Sophia Amoruso’s #GIRLBOSS, Ryan Holiday’s The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials Into Triumph, and John Doerr’s Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs. We aim to connect readers with powerful, cutting-edge ideas that can help them improve and inform their working lives.
Stephanie Frerich is an executive editor at Portfolio, where she acquires and edits narrative nonfiction and idea-driven books on business, technology, culture, current events, and women’s issues. Her authors include Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe, venture capitalist John Doerr, entrepreneur Marie Forleo, Bloomberg Technology’s Emily Chang, musician Claire Evans, and Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky. Excited to return to publishing in 2015 after a two-year sojourn in the startup world, she previously worked at Ivan R. Dee, McGraw-Hill, and Sourcebooks.