What are some upcoming trends?
I spend a lot of time thinking about just that question. Our new imprint, Hot Books, has multiple books scheduled that I hope will become a new trend in short books by serious investigative journalists about important political, cultural, and social issues. These are books about defending victims and holding people accountable. To name a few: The Beast Side: Living and Dying While Black in America by D. Watkins, Scapegoats: How Islamophobia Helps Our Enemies and Threatens Our Freedoms by Arsalan Iftikhar, and Spooking the News: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood by Nick Schou, among others.
I feel that the financial constraints of magazines and newspapers have decimated the profession of investigative journalism. We are trying to fill that void going into an election year, at a time when these types of important issues are on everyone’s minds.
Another trend that seems to be ongoing is how to counter the incredible levels of stress that unrelenting technology has placed on our daily lives. A few years ago, we started to publish in the areas of yoga, meditation, and juicing. Then we published books for kids who play Minecraft (whose parents want them to read!), and finally, this year, we have launched a highly successful line of adult coloring books. We feel that all of these subtrends are part of that larger trend, which is a growing frustration with technology and a struggle to take back our lives.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
Personally, I’d love to see more adventure narratives by authors like Randy Wayne White, whom I used to publish at the Lyons Press, and Eric Hansen. Adventure travel has changed dramatically with the advent of the iPhone. The idea of disappearing, disconnecting, and immersing oneself in another culture is pretty foreign to the new generation of adventurers.
Explosive books by corporate or government whistleblowers for our Hot Books imprint.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
Given that Skyhorse has 14 imprints, I’m interested in just about every type of submission as long as it’s well-written and the author is willing to be involved in promoting and selling the book.
How are you working with self-published writers?
In the current book publishing environment, book ideas and proposals come from a variety of sources. Agents are still a big part of the process, but it’s increasingly common for publishers to reach out directly to bloggers, YouTube personalities, websites, etc. Similarly, self-published books have become a kind of minor league where publishers can scout for determined and exciting new authors. Many of the bestselling books of the last few years were originally self-published—including Fifty Shades of Greyand numerous Skyhorse books.
If an author can prove that there’s a market for his or her book, publishers inevitably come calling. We had one recent case where author Mark Cheverton had sold 40,000 copies of his book through CreateSpace. We licensed the rights from him, were able to get the book into hundreds and hundreds of accounts all around the world, and have sold over 250,000 copies. Since then, we’ve signed up eight more books with the same author.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Skyhorse is unique in that our staff is interestedin anything new and exciting. We are always on the lookout for angles that we might be missing, for better ways of doing things, new categories that are working, potential joint ventures or branding deals, or acquisitions of other companies. We understand that if you’re not willing and able to change direction on a dime, you’re going to lose out on big opportunities and, if you’re not careful and diligent, potentially become suddenly and irreversibly irrelevant.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I have always been involved in niche publishing, which means publishing to a distinct population—fisherman, golfers, Minecrafters, Lego enthusiasts, homesteaders, science-fiction readers, political junkies, etc. We want to have a terrific sense of the target audience and the more specialized, the more well-defined, the better. If anyone who reads this interview feels that they have good advice for me, if you know of some underserved niche that is crying out for books, I’d love to hear from you. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tony Lyons, president and publisher at Skyhorse Publishing and an attorney, was publisher at The Lyons Press between 1997 and 2004. He founded Skyhorse in 2006 and has been involved with every aspect of the book publishing process. Starting with a small team of people, some of whom still work for Skyhorse, Tony has steadily built the company from a startup into an increasingly prominent midsize publisher.