What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Given the current political climate, I think we will see quite a few books about social activism, the future of politics, and obviously some autobiographies from prominent figures in that realm. On that same note, we will see much in the way of self-help/self-improvement: managing stress, finances, diet, and just all around wellness. Consumers are searching for an antidote for the relentless news cycle we are living in, so they will start with trying to control the things they can.
Mindfulness books are also going to gain more traction. Basically in nonfiction I see a trend of cause and effect: the political climate is causing an enormous amount of anxiety and stress, so people read about how to take action. Others will want to find tools to help them cope.
Fiction is a bit trickier. My hope is that great debut fiction finds its way to readers—especially by women writers.
Are there any recent novels that you can point to as examples?
Yes. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler, The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney, Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel, The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, The Regulars by Georgia Clark. I also love Gina Frangello’s novel A Life in Men and Amy Koppelman’s novel I Smile Back. If I could discover more writing like theirs, I’d be very excited.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I would love to see books about thought change, new voices in self-help, smart political books, memoir, and high quality women’s fiction. In my mind, “thought change” is different from self-help, in that certain books challenge you to reframe your perception of certain things and are mostly research-based books. A couple of examples that come to mind are Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change by Michelle Gielan and Presence by Amy Cuddy.
I would also love to see [more] YA books written for boys. There is such a gap in the marketplace for great stories that are relatable to boys—especially those who are reluctant readers.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
This is just my personal taste, but zombies could go away and I would be OK with that.
What is unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I made the transition from being a publicity and marketing director to being a literary agent in December. I love Empire Literary and my colleagues there. I think what I bring to the table is 20 years of publicity and marketing experience, plus inside knowledge of the nuts and bolts of getting a book made. We take on projects we feel passionate about and give clients the attention they can only get by being a part of a boutique agency. In short, our corner of the literary agency world is fun, collaborative, and unique. It is by far the best career move I have ever made.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Sure! Anyone interested in sending me a query can reach me at Kathleen [at] empireliterary.com.
Kathleen Schmidt of Empire Literary was most recently associate publisher of Rodale Books, where she helped develop its publishing program as well as new products and initiatives, including the New York Times bestsellers Run Fast. Eat Slow., Thug Kitchen 101, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, and Hustle. Prior to joining Rodale, Schmidt was VP of marketing and publicity at Running Press, Weinstein Books, and Atria, working on such projects as No. 1 New York Times bestsellers You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, Finding Me by Michelle Knight, and The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie. She was also part of the team who launched the international bestseller The Secret and worked with bestselling authors Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Weiner. Schmidt also led her own PR and marketing firm, KMSPR, where her clients included New York Times bestselling author Buzz Bissinger, former WNBA player Chamiques Holdsclaw, and writers J. Courtney Sullivan, Alissa Nutting, and Dawn Tripp. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and two children.