It’s a “perfect loop,” of editors, sales reps, and booksellers who create buzz for the books they love, an excitement based on trust, faith and knowledge, moderator Betsy Burton, co-owner of the King’s English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, noted during Wednesday afternoon’s Editor’s Buzz panel at Javits, during which six editors introduced titles they’re especially excited about to a packed room of 500 booksellers, publicists, editors, and media.
The event began with BEA show manager Steve Rosato presenting the 2013 Ambassador Award to a publisher who creates a lot of buzz around her company and their list: Dominique Raccah, the publisher of Sourcebooks.
The 2013 Editors Buzz titles was a mixed list that included four nonfiction releases and two novels, presented by both young editors and veterans. Two nonfiction titles had started out as magazine articles, one was based a serendipitous discovery in Soviet archives, and the two novels were both debuts, one by an editor and the other by a librarian. If there was a common theme to the six books, it could be, to quote Jean-Paul Sartre, that “hell is other people,” and death, just like birth, is an inevitable fact of life.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt editor Deanne Urmy kicked off the session with Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower, who is both a history professor at Claremont McKenna College in L.A. and a research associate at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich. “It’s original, rigorous research, and she asks brave questions,” Urmy said. Hitler’s Furies, which profiles 13 of “at least 500,000” women who were either murderers, accomplices, or witnesses to Nazi atrocities, “adds to our understanding of Hitler’s Germany; we’ve never seen the rise of Nazism through the lens of these young women.” Foreign rights have been sold in a dozen countries “based just on the book proposal.”
The Facades, St. Louis librarian Eric Lundgren’s debut novel deals with dark themes, Overlook editor Liese Mayer said, describing it as a novel about "self-deception and self-discovery,” as a young man, Norbert, searches for his missing wife in the streets of Trude, a once-great Midwestern city that has fallen into ruins. Barnes & Noble agrees with Mayer that this is a promising debut: The Facades was recently selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick.
Continuing with the themes of love, loss, and alienation, a, Anna de Vries described The Affairs of Others, Byliner Inc. editor Amy Grace Loyd’s debut novel, as a story that New Yorkers can relate to, as well as all women of a certain age. A widow, haunted by memories of her late husband, is drawn into the affairs of her neighbors in her small apartment building. “I hope you understand [Celia] and even like her as she rages against fate,” de Vries said, drawing laughs when she disclosed that this was the first time she’d ever received critiques of her editing by one of her authors.
Five Days at Memorial, by Pulitzer winning journalist Sheri Fink, will be released in early September, eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, and six years after Fink started researching the suspicious deaths of 45 patients at Memorial Hospital there, Crown editor Vanessa Mobley said, describing Five Days at Memorial as “masterful storytelling” by a writer with “impeccable” credentials. Even though it's a book about death, Mobley explained, it's also "a book teeming with life."
In an afternoon of powerful presentations, Scribner editor Whitney Frick’s was probably the most moving, as she related Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death by by "slow medicine" and "care over cure" advocate Katy Butler to her own family’s situation. While editing Butler’s account of her parents’ deaths – her father’s an agonizing and drawn-out process, and her mother’s a “graceful” passing – Frick’s 93-year-old grandmother was hospitalized. “I realized Katie was giving me and my family a gift,” Frick said, “We were able to have that conversation with my grandmother.” It’s also a book “that is extremely timely,” she pointed out: 24 million baby boomers are caring for aging parents.
Moving to the other end of the spectrum, Ecco editorial director Lee Boudreaux discussed All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior, a book that grew out of a New York magazine piece. “I didn’t think all joy and no fun would be the common theme of this panel,” Boudreaux joked, explaining that Senior spent three years researching modern parenthood and "what has changed and what hasn't" changed for parents since the 1950s. “This is not a parenting book,” Boudreaux emphasized. “This is a parenthood book. It describes the topography of our lives, what it’s like to be a parent in this day and age.”