Some of you might know Amy Einhorn by name, especially if you work in book publishing. But even if you don’t, you certainly know some of the books she’s helped to bring to market. Most notably and successfully The Help, a compelling but challenging first novel by Kathryn Stockett that was famously (and embarrassingly in retrospect) rejected by 60 agents and publishers. The book has gone on to sell over 10 million copies! It was the first novel ever published by Amy Einhorn Books.
This interview with Amy from a recent New York Observer gets to the heart of why she’s so good at what she does. And I think there’s something to be taken away from her approach to publishing. She doesn’t just tell her authors to market and promote their books. She does it too. She takes each of her books and pushes them gently into the market, overseeing all aspects of editorial, production, design, marketing and publicity.
While it’s an impossible business to master, and there is no question that luck and timing play a big role in an author’s success, there is definitely some strategy at work here too.
Amy’s imprint has more hits than misses, and reading about how she does it you can understand why. She has a small, eponymous imprint with the resources of a big house behind her. It’s that rare combination of little gal and big gun that has the potential turn books into bestsellers. That combined with her good instincts and loving touch makes for each book to get its share of support and attention. It’s like raising kids. You have to treat each one differently and play to their strengths. There is no one size fits all model for parenting, and that same can be said for selling books. It makes me think about how many good books are out there that don’t get the right kind of support to nurture them along and wind up selling poorly.
I love the anecdote in the piece about a manuscript full of Post-its — this is so old-school, and I also admire writer Emily Witt’s observation about Einhorn’s “commitment to thorough editing and a lot of exuberant salesmanship.” These are things that still matter. A lot.
I know Amy personally (we have 7 daughters between us!) and professionally (we had a book together when she was at Warner, and I would so love to sell her something for Amy Einhorn Books), and I like her very much. I think it would be hard to not like Amy. She’s got that kind of personality that just bubbles with positive enthusiasm and it’s infectious. She’s genuinely curious, interested, engaged, and she makes you feel like you could talk with her endlessly. Come to think of it, with her gift of the gab, she would have been a good agent too!
So, while there is a lot of talk about publishers getting things wrong, I think this piece about a really smart and savvy publisher is worth a read and offers a bit of inspiration to start the year. Good things can happen in book publishing, and with the help (just caught the pun!) of people like Amy Einhorn, sometimes they even do.