What are some upcoming trends for the next year?
Trying to predict trends in my categories, or any category for that matter, is not easy, given how fast things move these days. By the time you’re ready to publish a book into a trend, the trend is over. Having said that, functional medicine, which addresses the root causes of disease, is becoming more and more mainstream; social psychology—why we think, feel, and behave as we do—continues to grow in popularity; and feminist self-help, in fact self-care in general, is trending up thanks to the current political, social, and cultural climate. Books by my own authors in those categories, like Mark Hyman, David Perlmutter, and Amy Cuddy, have very strong backlist sales. I try to focus on what I think will stick around—generally smart, science-based, expert-driven, prescriptive nonfiction.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I’m always looking for the next Mindset: The New Psychology of Successby Carol S. Dweck, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain—the book that has the power to change the way you think. I’d also love to do more single-disease–focused books, particularly autoimmune disease, which is on the rise and difficult to treat in a conventional way. We haven’t seen much spirituality lately; I think the time may be right (again) for that kind of book. And I’m a sucker for math and science of any kind—particularly neuroscience and physics (and astrophysics). I love that stuff.
What topic don’t you ever want to see again?
I’ve sworn off books with swear words in the title! And no more coloring books, yoga books, or vegan books. Other than that, I’m happy to consider anything and everything.
How do you work with self-published authors?
I haven’t worked with self-published authors in a very long time.
What do you want to change about publishing?
I’m sure you’ve heard this many times before in response to this question, but it is vital to our industry’s survival that we become more diverse in every way—in our staff, our authors, our books, our publishing strategy, and so on. We are publishing into a lot of noise, and in order to reach any audience successfully, we need the right books by the right authors published in the right way to cut through. And then of course I wish we could throw out the old financial model of outsized advances against royalties—especially given the way books sell these days. But we’ve been saying this for years, and it’s never going to change.
What’s unique about your corner of the publishing industry?
It’s not unique to me, but we’re finding more and more that books in my categories can backlist really well in hardcover. In fact, when we publish them in paperback (and we only do so rarely now), they seem to sell in the same quantities as they were selling in hardcover. And because of the discounting at the online retailers, the price differential between the hardcover and the paperback is closing up. So why bother putting them into paper? We’re all doing better by leaving them in hardcover. And I love seeing those hardcover reprints coming through!
Tracy Behar is vice president, publisher, and editor-in-chief of a yet-to-be-named new imprint at Little, Brown and Company launching this fall. Sheacquires primarily within the categories of health, psychology, self-help, and science. Among her authors are Mark Hyman, David Perlmutter, Amy Cuddy, Nicholas Christakis, Andrew Weil, Amy Myers, Scott Jurek, William Sears, Sue Johnson, John Ratey, Thomas Buergenthal, and Roy Peter Clark. Prior to joining Little, Brown in 2005, she held posts at Atria Books, Broadway Books, and HarperCollins.