Atria Publishing: Passion and the Power of Books

“The future of publishing is well assured when there are so many passionate and bright people like these in the room,” said Judith Curr, President and Publisher of the Atria Publishing Group, to a gathering of NYU MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students. We were invited to visit this highly successful division of Simon & Schuster last week and had just finished telling Curr about why we love publishing and our specific areas of interest. Apparently we impressed her. And there’s nothing like a little flattery from a major publishing leader to further inspire students who are already eager to enter the world of books.

The visit started with a tour of the offices led by Melanie Iglesias Pérez, an Atria editorial assistant who graduated from our program last spring; she was accompanied by Sarah Bowne, an assistant in the subsidiary rights department.

The hallways of Atria are lined with countless books—which to publishing students equates to a sort of heaven. The generosity of the staff and their commitment to sharing knowledge through books was evident from the beginning of the visit, most especially when Iglesias Pérez directed us toward a bookshelf and said, “Judith would like you all to take a book from her collection.”

 

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Judith Curr, President and Publisher of the Atria Publishing Group, speaks with an MS in Publishing: Digital & Print Media student after the Atria office tour.

After the tour, we had the opportunity to sit down in a conference room with a group of Atria staff members. Peter Borland, Vice President, Editorial Director, and the professor teaching my section of the Introduction to Book Publishing course, told an anecdote about the sudden success of Fredrik Backman’s first novel A Man Called Ove. A novel that started with a 6,000 copy distribution is now a New York Times bestseller with close to one million copies in print.  Borland said, “It’s the kind of book and kind of experience that makes me so happy to work in book publishing.”

Other staff members included Johanna Castillo, Vice President and Executive Editor; Todd Hunter, Editor; Daniella Wexler, Associate Editor; Dawn Davis, Vice President and Publisher of 37 INK, an imprint within the Atria Publishing Group; Hillary Tisman, Associate Marketing Director; Tasha Hilton; Digital Marketing Manager; Albert Tang, Art Director; and Lisa Keim, Vice President and Director, Subsidiary Rights.

As each staff member introduced himself or herself, it became clear that book publishing would not be possible without a love for books and a commitment to collaboration across every department. As Art Director Albert Tang said: in order for a book to be successful, an author must have “a really good relationship with his or her publisher and editor.”

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Peter Borland, Vice President, Editorial Director for the Atria Publishing Group and MS in Publishing: Digital and Print Media professor, with students in his Simon & Schuster office.

The importance of collaboration became even more evident through a case study Curr presented about the marketing plan for the highly anticipated historical novel, The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa; the book is currently available for pre-order and will be released on October 18th. The German Girl is, “a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel, perfect for fans of The NightingaleSchindler’s List, and All the Light We Cannot See, about twelve-year-old Hannah Rosenthal’s harrowing experience fleeing Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend, only to discover that the overseas asylum they had been promised is an illusion.” (simonandschuster.com).

Curr and her team want to drum up a great deal of excitement for this historical first novel which centers around a true story, the journey of the S.S. St. Louis, a transatlantic liner charged in 1939 with offering safe transport for Jews from Germany to Havana. The innovative marketing plan highlights the very timely topic of immigration, appeals to an international audience, and builds up the backstory paralleling the fictional narrative itself.  (Curr pointed out that the ship’s manifest is reproduced in the book to add authenticity.)

Using special Facebook ads and a “drip campaign” to excite booksellers and readers alike, Atria also wants to tap the author’s extensive platform and reach as Editor–in-Chief of People en Español. “The book will be published simultaneously in English and Spanish,” said Johanna Castillo, who edited the book. We learned that this is unusual for a first novel.

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MS in Publishing: Digital & Print Media students with Judith Curr, President and Publisher of the Atria Publishing Group, (back row, center) in a Simon & Schuster conference room.

We also learned that everyone involved with the novel at Atria must understand all the elements of the book in order to successfully market it and create buzz. For example, Lisa Keim sold rights to The German Girl outside the U.S., a strategy vitally important to the book’s success because the author has a large influence in Spanish-speaking countries. Similarly, Atria worked with an outside vendor to create a book trailer featuring the author and Ana Maria Gordon, a passenger on the S.S. St. Louis, who now lives in Toronto. Hillary Tisman and her marketing team are promoting the trailer (which humanizes the story and serves as an emotional trigger for readers) in their preorder efforts. You can watch the trailer here: http://www.simonandschuster.com/books/The-German-Girl/Armando-Lucas-Correa/9781501121142

We came away from our visit to Atria with a new understanding of the many elements that lead up to the publication of a book, as well as how books can change and influence minds. “Books have power,” said Curr. “As a publisher, editor, marketer, you have the power to make a difference, and not that many industries offer that opportunity.” Atria Publishing Group, she added, focuses on making “books available to take readers into another world.” This point was especially clear throughout the discussion of The German Girl, and it was easy to see how much effort and commitment Atria puts into making sure their titles get into the hands of readers.

Aston, Ariana.JPG by Ariana Aston

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