What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
I work in nonfiction, where trends are often set by world events and historical anniversaries. 2016 is, of course, an election year, so I’m expecting a lot of books on politics: issue-driven books on terrorism and immigration and health care and such. Fall is usually the season of the year’s biggest books; with the election likely to soak up a ton of media attention, it will be interesting to see what kinds of books publishers think can compete. Sometimes, it’s about really auspicious big-name authors, but books that are really different can do well, too.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’d love to be seeing more investigative reporting. I love two things most of all: great storytelling and fresh ideas. A reporter on the trail of a great story can deliver both at once.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Hmm. There are lots of genres I don’t have much interest in: romance, for instance, or advice. But that’s kind of a boring answer, isn’t it? I’ll say this: I think it’s gotten very hard to sell participatory journalism, where the author tries living a certain way for a year and writes about it first person. There was a time when this felt fun and inventive, but I think readers have tired of it.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
Well, like I said, I’m a nonfiction editor, and PublicAffairs is known for publishing journalists. One of the pleasures of my niche is getting curious about something and being able to ask someone smart and talented to dig into it. People often lament the state of media these days, but there are a lot of intelligent, curious-minded, and committed people out there who can find great stories. Connecting with these people and developing ideas with them is the best part of this job. I don’t necessarily have a monopoly on this, but as an editor with a smaller outfit that prides itself on hustle, I think it’s something I get to experience a lot of.
Anything else you’d like to add?
This industry has changed dramatically since I’ve been working in it. The Internet age has enabled a ton of new voices, and that has been a very positive development. What I worry most about is how hard it’s become to pay for deep research and reporting. Book publishers are valuable in part because they can still do that, but we need to know that we’re investing in authors with the contacts, the instincts, and the courage to make these stories happen. If you can find the truth about something I haven’t heard of, you’re off to a very good start.
Ben Adams is a senior editor specializing in narrative and idea-driven nonfiction. He joined PublicAffairs in 2012 after seven years at Bloomsbury Publishing. Recent books he’s published include: Garry Kasparov’s Winter Is Coming, the chess master and human rights activist’s manifesto on Russian politics; Alex Beam’s American Crucifixion, a story of the murder of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism; Susan Swain and C-SPAN’s First Ladies, a group biography of the White House’s women; and Peter Pomerantsev’s Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, a story about the surrealism of new money and politics in contemporary Russia. In his career, Ben has acquired and published books in a wide variety of categories, including sports, science, current affairs, economics, history, food, humor, memoir, and more. A Bostonian by breeding and disposition, Ben lives in Manhattan with his wife and son.