As an independent house, trends are not really our thing. But if the idea of a trend might really mean the development of a new audience for an interesting topic, I will say we are very excited about two soccer books we have coming this Spring: Damned UTD and Red or Dead by the great David Peace. Peace is an absolutely brilliant novelist. And the audience for soccer just keeps growing—especially with the World Cup coming up. So, with these books, we think soccer’s fiction moment has come. Let’s hope we’ll start a trend.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
First-time fiction that’s like nothing I’ve ever read before, always!
Also, I’m always happy to see writing on social issues or current events by informed, credentialed writers with an interesting point of view. One of our biggest books of late was Debt: The First 5,000 Years (2012) by David Graeber. Graeber is an anthropologist, not an economist. So he was writing about debt from a completely different vantage point—debt as an idea in human relations reaching all the way back to ancient history. And as it turns out, it is an incredibly illuminating viewpoint for thinking about debt today.
And, of course, books or topics I didn’t know I wanted. I’m always open to being surprised. Looking forward to it, actually.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Mopey, angst-y, well-written-to-death prose with nothing to offer the reader but tedium. Books that are cynically aimed at being a best-seller.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Melville House is 13 years old, and for our entire history, the industry has been in constant change. As a small startup, that is a very demanding environment. We constantly have to change, innovate and adapt. But it can lead to some exciting developments—like our Hybrid Book project that exploits the separate advantages and pleasures of reading both print and e-books.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I know everyone moans and groans that publishing is over, the book is dead, etc. But I think it’s a really exciting time. There are still amazing books being written and people who want to read them. Books still affect change—both for the individual and the culture at large. My husband and co-publisher, Dennis Johnson, and I just got back from the Associated Writing Programs annual conference, and boy, was it hopping! Young people in love with writing and literature, eager to read everything, to write, to publish. It did our hearts good. My favorite moment happened during a reading when Christopher Boucher, whose amazing, sui generis first novel, How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive, we published in 2011, decided to read from the new novel he was working on. And it was electrifying. We were all transfixed. It was like nothing we’d ever heard before!
Valerie Merians is the co-founder and publisher of Melville House, based in Brooklyn, N.Y.