I've worked in the book business for more than three decades. I became an acquiring editor seven years into that span, after an opening stretch when I owned and ran an independent bookstore chain, Undercover Books of Cleveland, Ohio. My time as a bookseller was especially fertile for strong reader engagement with bestselling novels by such writers as John Irving, Umberto Eco, Mark Helprin, Anne Tyler, and landmark nonfiction like Goedel, Escher, and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and The Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. We became known as a go-to store among publishers sales departments and book publicists, as a place to break out key titles, receiving dozens of advance copies from companies houses each publishing season. We read the new titles early, ordered tons of copies of the books we loved, talked them up with readers and customers on the sales floor every day, then hand-sold the books in large quantities. At our store we could sell 200-300 copies of several different new titles every season, affording me the opportunity to identify the qualities that made for the strongest reader enjoyment of new books. When I became an editor, I already had a keen sense of what made prospective titles appealing to readers, which I continued to sharpen in my years as an in-house editor. This means that as an in-house acquiring editor, executive editor, and editor-in-chief—positions I've held at Walker & Company; Macmillan; Prentice-Hall Press at Simon & Schuster; Kodansha America; Times Books and Crown at Random House; Carroll & Graf with Avalon Publishing Group; and Union Square Press at Sterling Publishing—a high proportion of my books have always sold well beyond their early printings, reaching perennial status as long-term backlist sellers.
In my career I've acquired, edited, and published scores of successful books, such as the notable nonfiction titles below, which includes a distinctive list of imperative books by and about truthtellers, whistleblowers, muckrakers, and revisionist historians:
- The Politics of Truth: Inside the Lies that Led to War and Revealed My Wife's CIA Identity by Ambassador Joseph Wilson, husband of Valerie Plame, basis in part for the movie "Fair Game" (Carroll & Graf, a NY Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller);
- Shake Hands With The Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by Lt. Gen. Romeo Dallaire (Carroll & Graf, a Washington Post bestseller);
- On The Brink: An Insider's Account of How the White House Compromised American Intelligence, by Tyler Drumheller with Elaine Monaghan (a Philip Turner Book, Carroll & Graf);
- The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Refused to Testify Against the Clintons & What I Learned in Jail, by Susan McDougal (Carroll & Graf, a NY Times bestseller);
- Covert: My Years Infiltrating the Mob by Bob Delaney, NBA referee, with Dave Scheiber (Union Square Press, Sterling Publishing, a USA Today bestseller);
- Lover of Unreaon: Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath's Rival and Ted Hughes's Doomed Love by Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev (a Philip Turner Book, Carroll & Graf);
- Writing With Intent: Essays, Reviews, Personal Prose, 1983-2005, by Margaret Atwood;
- Ahmad’s War, Ahmad's Peace: Surviving Under Saddam, Dying in the New Iraq by NPR correspondent Michael Goldfarb (Carroll & Graf, a NY Times Notable Book);
- Young J. Edgar: Hoover, the Red Scare and the Assault on Civil Liberties, Boss Tweed: The Rise & Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York (reviewed by Pete Hamill on the cover of the NY Times Book Review, later a NY Times Notable Book), and Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of James A. Garfield, all three by Kenneth D. Ackerman, each edited and published by me at Carroll & Graf;
- The Glorious Deception: The Double Life of William Robinson, the Marvelous Chinese Conjurer, aka Chung Ling Soo and Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear by Jim Steinmeyer (both acquired, edited, and published by me at Carroll & Graf);
- Mr. & Mrs. Hollywood: Edie and Lew Wasserman and Their Entertainment Empire by Kathleen Sharp (Carroll & Graf).
And these prestigious works of fiction:
- THE PROVOCATEUR'S PAYBACK by Francisco Munoz Botas (I agented this novel which will be published in 2015 by Magnus Press);
- BLAME: A Novel of the Law by Linda Rocker (Wheatmark Press);
- THE ROWAN TREE: A Novel of Dignity by Robert W. Fuller (self-published by the author);
- GEORGE & RUE George Ellliott Clarke (Carroll & Graf);
- HUNGER'S BRIDES by Paul Anderson (Carroll & Graf);
- THE REVENANT: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke (Carroll & Graf);
- THE SANDS OF PRIDE and THE FIRES OF PRIDE, a Civil War series by William R. Trotter (Carroll & Graf);
- MEMORY BOOK, A Benny Cooperman Detective Novel by Golden Dagger Award winner Howard Engel (2005, Carroll & Graf)
The judgment I gained as an independent bookseller continues to inform my editorial judgment today in my work as an independent editor, book developer, literary agent, and publishing consultant.