What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Publishers will continue to seek out ways to attract the huge population of millennials with books like those published by Atria’s imprint Keywords, which seeks to translate YouTube celebrity into book sales. Essay collections are going to continue to be popular. The bestselling humor essayist Jenny Lawson has another one coming up in the fall; Graywolf announced Angela Palm’s Riverine as the recipient of their next Graywolf Nonfiction Prize; and Little, Brown paid a lot for Leslie Jamison’s next two books of nonfiction (Jamison broke out with her essay collection The Empathy Exams).
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
My overarching, abiding love is for exceptional storytelling, whether in fiction or narrative nonfiction—well-placed foreshadowing, cliffhangers, playing with time, and reveals. Literary fiction and memoir make up a majority of my list but represent only a portion of my interests. On the fiction side, I also love smart, plot-driven book-club fiction, psychological suspense, and certain kinds of crime. On the nonfiction side, I enjoy reading about women’s issues; good old narrative nonfiction; business narratives and biographies that inspire the entrepreneur in me like Brad Stone’s The Everything Store; and books on productivity, writing, and creativity. I’d really like to work with more journalists and creative professionals in general.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
Tiger, Tiger is a haunting memoir by a beautiful writer named Margaux Fragoso about, among other things, the sexual abuse she endured growing up. To say I would not work with a writer on a specific topic is perhaps too bold, but because I consider that book to be the best of its genre, I don’t see myself working on many more memoirs having to do with pedophilia or sex abuse.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
I’m an agent, one-half of a partnership, and a business owner and manager, so all of those roles define my daily existence. What’s unique about that combination is what it allows me to do. I draw on the agency’s brain power to make the smartest decisions in this changing publishing landscape and to always keep the long view in mind so we can grow and thrive over time. The company is only 3 1/2 years old, so we’re a nimble choice at a time when industry innovations are rapidly changing the way we do business.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Even though all of the changes still happening in the publishing industry because of the digital revolution are problematic in the short term, and need to shake out in better favor of the author, we all know that writersarethe most important part of the publishing equation. An author’s primary job of creating meaningful and beautiful work remains unchanged.
I’m in favor of consumer-driven pricing and innovation in our industry, even when it can be considered monopolistic; it takes a certain measure of collective industry passivity for a monopoly to succeed. I’m also in favor of possibly disruptive experimentation that provides long-term benefits to author and publisher alike. I see the need for windowing (e.g., not making e-books immediately available when it means they’re cannibalizing hardcover sales). I see the need for bundling, which would attract readers who want to buy the hardcover and pay a little extra for the convenience of also having the e-book. As a consumer, I would welcome these and other ways to support my favorite writers. We heard during the Amazon-Hachette standoff that books are not like other commodities, partially because the content of each book is unique. Why aren’t we as an industry using that to our advantage? We talk about the transformative power of a good book, after all.
After graduating from UCLA and working in film development, Terra Chalberg began her publishing career in 2002 at Scribner and spent five years on the editorial side before becoming an agent, first with The Susan Golomb Literary Agency and now with Chalberg & Sussman. Among her clients are Victoria Fedden (author of the memoir This Is Not My Beautiful Life, forthcoming from Picador); Lori Ostlund (author of the debut novel After the Parade,forthcoming from Scribner); Glenn Taylor (author of A Hanging at Cinder Bottom, forthcoming from Tin House); Andrew Porter (author of the Barnes & Noble Discover selection and Indie Next List pick In Between Days, published by Knopf); and Margaux Fragoso (author of the New York Times and international bestseller Tiger, Tiger, published by FSG).