What are some upcoming trends?
It’s no secret that psychological suspense has taken the world by storm, and I don’t see that letting up this year. I read a lot in this genre, so it’s obvious when a standout book comes along. I recently tore through an absolutely assured and page-turning debut called All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker, and she was kind enough to contribute a blurb to one of our upcoming titles, The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner, which is one of my favorite books this fall and has the surprise secondary twist nailed.
I’m also happy to see more speculative fiction crossing into the commercial arena. We’re publishing an incredible work of fiction next summer, The History of Bees by debut author Maja Lunde. She imagines a world where bees have become extinct (through a very real global phenomenon) and weaves a spellbinding, suspenseful story of three generations of beekeepers and their relationship to bees, their children, and one another. The enthusiasm from large and small booksellers has been gratifying, and I think it signals that publishers and retailers are warming to the idea that nearly any kind of book, regardless of genre, subject matter, or even the characters’ likability, can become a commercial success if the writing is fresh and accessible and taps into universal emotions. I imagine (hope) that means we’ll see even more unique breakout books in the coming years.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’ve been reaching out to young and diverse authors for contemporary and near-history fiction. We need more perspectives in the commercial-books arena, and I know there’s an audience hungry for it. Our sales and marketing teams are already excited about a few books Touchstone has in the hopper that I think will resonate with our current readers and readers who want books that look more like their lives, like Trust No Aunty by Maria Qamar, a humorous, illustrated “survival guide” for young women about ways deal with the overbearing (but well-meaning) women in their lives based on the author’s popular Instagram @Hatecopy and her own experience in a South Asian immigrant family.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
I’m not falling for this question! I rarely put the kibosh on anything without reading a few pages. I never know what will hit that sweet spot of originality and salability, so I’m loath to turn books away before I’ve had a chance to dig in.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
I’m incredibly fortunate to be working at Touchstone, where my taste and our list converge completely. We have an exceedingly talented group of editors, and they’re cultivating exciting and wide-ranging stories with one common objective: to publish book-club fiction and nonfiction that readers want to discuss with their friends, families, co-workers, and even share on social media. We’re not snobby, but we’re also in the business of contributing in meaningful ways to our audience. Whether that’s through thoughtful conversation or entertainment, the goal is to enrich lives and encourage an ongoing experience with books and authors.
Are you working with self-pubbed writers?
Of course. We’re proud to work with writers from nearly every medium, whether we’re working in conjunction with their self-publishing career or launching them via a single, traditional publishing track. I think we all recognize that there are now multiple paths to success for authors. For every author who achieves success in the traditional model, there’s one who is better served by self-publishing or by a mix of the two. But these new models of publishing make it more important than ever for authors, agents, and publishers to think through their publishing plans holistically and strategically and, above all, communicate with one another.
Tara Parsons was named editor-in-chief of Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, in January of 2016. She is responsible for shaping Touchstone’s list and overseeing the editorial department, in addition to acquiring and editing her own list of commercial fiction. Her upcoming titles include anticipated new books: The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner, Different Class by New York Times bestselling author Joanne Harris, The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer, and The History of Bees by Maja Lunde.