Lena Waithe and Gillian Flynn to become book editors with Zando

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When Gillian Flynn submitted her novel “Gone Girl” to her editor, Crown, she wasn’t sure what the executives would think of the story’s twists and turns and her crass, unreliable narrator.

“We knew it was strange, complex and risky,” said Molly Stern, who was Crown editor at the time. “We also knew it was a masterpiece.”

“Gone Girl” went on to become a blockbuster, sold in millions of copies, inspiring a film adaptation starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and creating a booming market for psychological thrillers featuring unstable women.

Now Flynn and Stern, who left Crown three years ago, are teaming up again. Flynn joins Zando, the publishing house Stern established last year – not as a writer, but as a publisher with his own stamp, Gillian Flynn Books. Flynn will acquire and publish fiction as well as narrative non-fiction and real crime. (Her next novel, which she is currently writing, will be published by Penguin Random House.)

“Industry is a harder place to enter. Everyone wants something that seems like a sure thing, ”Flynn said in an interview. “What attracted me was this ability to give people what I have, which was a lucky break in the market. So now I have the chance to defend somewhat different writers. “

With Flynn, Zando brought in writer, producer and actress Lena Waithe, who will launch a brand dedicated to publishing “emerging and under-represented voices” including memoir, young adult titles and literary fiction. . As the company’s first founding publishing partners, Flynn and Waithe will each acquire and publish four to six books over a three-year period, and be involved in marketing and promoting the books to their own fans.

Both Flynn and Waithe have built a huge following and have proven to be versatile in different mediums. In addition to writing the screen adaptation of “Gone Girl,” Flynn served as an executive producer on the adaptation of her 2006 novel, “Sharp Objects” and was the creator and showrunner of the television show ” Utopia “.

Waithe is also a Hollywood powerhouse. After being acclaimed for her work as a writer and actor on “Master of None”, becoming the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing, Waithe wrote and produced the film “Queen & Slim” and created the television series “The Chi” and “Twenty.”

Stern and Waithe met in 2017, when Stern asked if she wanted to work on a book.

“Molly was trying to get me to write a book, and I just didn’t want to,” Waithe said in an interview.

She was more enthusiastic about publishing other people’s books. When Stern asked her to work with Zando, Waithe developed the idea for an imprint, Hillman Grad Books, which she will direct with Rishi Rajani and Naomi Funabashi, executives of Waithe’s production company, Hillman Grad.

“Our mission is to introduce people to authors they might not have heard of otherwise,” Waithe said.

At a time of accelerating consolidation in the publishing industry, Zando, an independent company, is something of an outlier. It will likely publish less than 30 titles a year and invest heavily in marketing those books, rather than acquiring a lot more and hoping for a few to come out, as most corporate publishers do. .

“Hopefully we can have a force multiplier effect on books that would have sold modestly or were not a priority at a large publishing house,” Stern said. “Now there will be air around them.”

Like Hollywood studios, large corporate publishers increasingly rely on blockbusters for profit and have become more risk-averse when it comes to promoting new writers. These authors are struggling more than ever to find their audience in today’s algorithm-driven marketplace, which favors recognizable brands and books that are already selling.

Celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, and Emma Watson can give their book clubs a boost, but these types of takes are the publicity equivalent of love at first sight – powerful but rare. Zando’s model tries to reverse the process by recruiting cultural influencers to select the books.

To combat what she called a discoverability ‘crisis’, Stern is enlisting leading publishing partners, which will include companies and brands as well as celebrities, to promote the books to their own. fans and customers. Zando’s partners will get a share of the profits, although Stern declined to say how much.

Zando received a significant start-up investment from Sister, an independent global studio founded in 2019 by Media Director Elisabeth Murdoch, Film Industry Director Stacey Snider and Producer Jane Featherstone. Zando’s print books will be distributed by Two Rivers, a distributor managed by Ingram, but Zando also plans to experiment with unconventional channels like direct-to-consumer sales.

In addition to its imprints, Zando has its own editorial team making acquisitions. Her first batch of books, due out next spring, is rich in fiction, including “The Odyssey”, a novel by Lara Williams that tackles consumer capitalism; Steve Almond’s debut novel “All the Secrets of the World” set in the 1980s in Sacramento; and Samantha Allen’s “Patricia Wants to Cuddle”, on contestants for a TV dating show billed as a “Queer Grendel for the Instagram Age”.


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