Monday, September 8, 2014: Dedicated Issue: Flatiron Books

Flatiron Books: Dedicated Issue

Flatiron Books: What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey

Flatiron Books: Pogue's Basics by David Pogue

Flatiron Books: Irritable Hearts by Mac McClelland

Flatiron Books: Battle of Versailles by Robin Givhan

Flatiron Books: Kim Jong-Il Production by Paul Fischer

Editors' Note

Flatiron Books

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness looks at Flatiron Books, the new Macmillan division that will publish a range of fiction and nonfiction. The stories were written by John Mutter.

Flatiron Books: Year of the Cow by Jared Stone

Books & Authors

Flatiron Books: New Publisher with Historic Roots

Bob Miller has returned home: the offices of his new Macmillan division, Flatiron Books, are in the iconic Flatiron Building at Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street in Manhattan, where Miller got his start in publishing at St. Martin's Press as an editorial assistant for Tom Dunne, then as an editor under Tom McCormack.

Flatiron Books' first list of seven titles is set for this winter (for more about them, see below), and when Flatiron Books gets up to full speed, it'll publish every month five to six books. Miller emphasized that the staff will select books they feel passionate about. "We're looking for distinctive ideas from unique voices," he said.

Most of the staff has been hired, and Miller said he'd like to keep the staff small to avoid, as he put it, being "a linear Rube Goldberg conveyor belt operation." He added: "With the size of our list, we can all be creatively involved. Ultimately that's more gratifying for us and for the authors as well."

Editorial director Colin Dickerman (who came over a year ago from Penguin Press), Whitney Frick (formerly at Scribner) and Miller have already signed more than 40 books. "We're laying down future titles in the wine cellar to be ready later," Miller commented.

At first, Flatiron Books planned to publish just two or three nonfiction titles a month, but in a fortuitous move, this summer Miller hired Amy Einhorn as publisher, who had her own imprint at Penguin Random House. With Einhorn aboard, Flatiron aims to publish two to three fiction titles a month.

Einhorn said that Flatiron's fiction will feature authors who are "wonderful writers and incredible storytellers" in all areas from literary and commercial fiction to young adult crossover. She is hiring a concentrated staff of fiction editors. Editorial director Colin Dickerman and senior editor Whitney Frick may well acquire fiction, too. Einhorn will continue to acquire some nonfiction as well.

Will Schwalbe, founder and chairman of, which Macmillan bought, and editor-at-large for Macmillan, is acquiring cookbooks for Flatiron. Already he's bought a half dozen, which should start appearing in fall 2015.

Liz Keenan, who had worked at Plume and Hudson Street Press, is associate publisher. Publicity director Marlena Bittner came to Flatiron from Little, Brown. Tricia Cave, from February Media, is the publicity assistant. The art director is Henry Sene Yee, and Karen Horton, formerly of Oxford University Press, is senior designer. Caroline Bleeke, formerly of Knopf, has joined the team as an associate editor, and James Melia, assistant editor, has come on from Doubleday. Jasmine Faustino, who worked in editorial and production at Macmillan, is an assistant editor and administrative assistant who is "very helpful connecting us with the infrastructure here," Miller said.

Flatiron's first book out of the gate was Oprah's What I Know for Sure, which was published last Tuesday and is the division's only book for the fall. What I Know for Sure collects the best of Oprah's 165 columns that she did for 14 years for O, the Oprah Magazine, organized by topic. In these columns is "where you get Oprah at her most heartfelt," Miller said.

Flatiron Books: You Are Not Your Pain by Vidyamala Burch & Danny Penman

Flatiron's First List

A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power by Paul Fischer (March)
This is a wild tale: before he became the Dear Leader, North Korea's Kim Jong-Il was in charge of the Ministry of Culture and was obsessed with filmmaking. (Most of the more than 10,000 movies in his collection were American.) Aware that the country's films were of poor quality, he arranged for the kidnapping of Shin Sang-Ok, South Korea's best known director, and Choi Eun-Hee, South Korea's best known actress--who had once been married. They were held for four years--he most of the time in prison camps--until they were reunited. Kim forced them to remarry and to make nine feature films, one of which was a Godzilla ripoff. Eventually they received permission to visit Vienna, where, after a car chase, they escaped with CIA help. It's an untold story that "reads like fiction," Miller said, "a kind of Orphan Master's Son meets Argo."

The book's editor, Colin Dickerman, said A Kim Jong-Il Production has "everything I look for in nonfiction--a fascinating, untold story; an unbelievable case of characters; and the narrative drive of a thriller." He called the tale "riveting" and "meticulously researched." Fischer, he continued, provides "an oddly humanizing and personal portrait of Kim Jong-Il" and a "perfect, entertaining vehicle through which to understand an incredibly odd and fascinating culture."

Pogue's Basics: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying the Technology in Your Life by David Pogue (January)
The long-time tech columnist for the New York Times who recently launched Yahoo's consumer-tech site, David Pogue offers 200 tech tips in this trade paperback. "No matter how sophisticated you are," Miller said, "you won't know some of these tips." One of Miller's favorites: Pogue suggests pushing your smartphone camera button before the shot to get the picture in "real time," since most smartphone cameras have a delay. Among other tips, Pogue shows how to scroll through a website using only a space bar and how to use a setting that allows owners to track lost phones. Pogue's Times stories were among the newspaper's most popular, and his TED Talk of tips has been seen by nearly four million people and added 1.5 million followers on Twitter.

You Are Not Your Pain: Using Mindfulness to Relieve Pain, Reduce Stress, and Restore Well-Being--An Eight-Week Program by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman (January)
Vidyamala Burch is founder and co-director of Breathworks, which offers mindfulness- and compassion-based approaches to living well with chronic pain, illness and stress, and Danny Penman is a journalist and co-author of the bestselling Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Burch grew up with painful back problems after a car accident, and Penman was in a hang-gliding accident. Based on their personal experiences and on extensive research, they offer an eight-week program--10 to 20 minutes a day--of mindfulness practices that can relieve chronic pain and the suffering and stress of illness. Mindfulness, they emphasize, has been shown to wean people from pain and from taking drugs for pain. Miller called You Are Not Your Pain a "clear, helpful guide to using mindfulness to treat pain." This trade paperback comes with a CD bound in.

Irritable Hearts: A PTSD Love Story by Mac McClelland (February)
After human rights reporter Mac McClelland covered the earthquake in Haiti in 2010--seeing things that shook her to the core--she returned home and found she was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. In love with a French soldier she met in Haiti, she tried to find healing and love and understand PTSD, a process she recounts in this book. Editor Colin Dickerman called Irritable Hearts "an intense, fearless memoir; a love story; a search for healing; and a book that most importantly will further the very necessary conversation about PTSD in this country.... It's the first book to look at the condition outside the world of combat and soldiers, and it expands the definition of what constitutes trauma. It's a brave, honest, at times surprisingly funny and important story that also happens to be a riveting read."

McClelland is one of the first people to contend that PTSD is contagious--children can get it from their fathers. She also examined the depths of its effect, including what it did to her sex life. "She took the conversation out of the war zone and into the bedroom," said associate publisher Liz Keenan.

The Battle of Versailles: The Night American Fashion Stumbled into the Spotlight and Made History by Robin Givhan (March)
In 1973, as a fundraiser for the Palace of Versailles, five American and five French designers faced off on the runway: Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Halston and Stephen Burrows vs. Yves Saint Laurent, Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro and Marc Bohan of Christian Dior. Against all odds, the Americans, whose 10 models were African American, won--commanding the world's attention and becoming a powerful force in fashion. Pulitzer Prize-winner Robin Givhan, fashion critic of the Washington Post, recounts that unusual night, providing what editor Colin Dickerman calls "a great group biography that brings alive the sexiness and freedom of the '70s, managing to tell the entire history of fashion and why fashion matters in the process." Givhan also examines issues of class and race and culture.

The print edition of the book will include some never-before-seen Bill Cunningham photos and will have endpapers and gorgeous detailing--a package that suits the subject.

The Skeleton Cupboard: The Making of a Clinical Psychologist by Tanya Byron (April)
A writer and media personality in the U.K., Tanya Byron recounts her experiences in training to become a clinical psychologist via stories about seven of her earliest patients. "It's a memoir in the form of stories, and we see her evolve," Miller said. "It's an entry into the world of mental illness." The first story is about Imogen, 12, who wants to commit suicide; Barnes seeks to figure out why, and the cause is chilling. Byron also recounts how she became interested in the field: when she was 15, she saw her grandmother murdered and wanted to understand why someone would do such a thing. Byron does not take a black-and-white approach; instead she sees people as being on a spectrum. Liz Keenan called The Skeleton Cupboard reminiscent of the TV show House in its pacing and the way it explores medical mysteries.

Year of the Cow: How 420 Pounds of Beef Built a Better Life for One American Family by Jared Stone (April)
When Emmy-winning TV producer Jared Stone decided he and his family didn't know enough about the meat they were eating, he bought a cow. After the cow was butchered, he stored it in a freezer and over the course of hundreds of meals, he cooked his way through the bovine. During the journey, he discusses the ethnography of cattle, how our ancestors prepared meat and "how intense the experience of eating the cow was and its contrast to food that's processed that we don't have a connection with," Miller said. He also reveals the mistakes he made and how his and his family's lives were affected by the project.

Miller called Year of the Cow "a memoir that looks at where food comes from and the paleo trend of eating more meat. It's an entry to those trends, but more fun than a manifesto." There's a recipe at the end of each chapter. Liz Keenan added: "It's fun to see what he leaves to the end to cook!"

Flatiron Books: The Skeleton Cupboard by Tanya Byron

Book Brahmin: Paul Fischer

Paul Fischer is a film producer whose first book, to be published in March by Flatiron Books, is A Kim Jong-Il Production: The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and a Young Dictator's Rise to Power.

On your nightstand now:

Michelangelo: His Epic Life by Martin Gayford, Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink and Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon. And Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book propped up against them--for when my 13-day-old daughter is lying on my chest but won't go to sleep.

Favorite book when you were a child:

It was always a tie between Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Your top five authors:

Budd Schulberg, Michael Chabon, Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Naguib Mahfouz.

Book you've faked reading:

The Bible, back in Catholic school. I think that's the only time I ever have. It was too long, too frustrating to read, and besides I'd already read the illustrated kids' version, which had all the violence cut out and featured what looked like a young, groovy, toga-clad Kris Kristofferson as Jesus. I was already pretty sure I'd always like that version better, but try telling that to the nuns.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.

Book you've bought for the cover:

This happens to me often, most recently with the 2014 Harvill Secker paperback of Never Any End to Paris by Enrique Vila-Matas, of which I knew nothing when I picked it up, other than it just--looked--perfect.

Book that changed your life:

The first installment of the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball. I was maybe seven years old, I liked picture books, and one day in the supermarket this 42-volume Japanese paperback collection caught my eye, and I asked my parents for it. As I remember it, my mother suggested we buy the first one and see how I got on; my dad, however, bought all 42, put them at home in a closet, and told me he'd only give me each installment if I finished the previous one. I devoured all 42 back to back like a demented little addict and have been hooked on reading ever since.

Favorite line from a book:

Two--both opening lines:

"In later years, holding forth to an interviewer or to an audience of aging fans at a comic book convention, Sam Clay liked to declare, apropos of his and Joe Kavalier's greatest creation, that back when he was a boy, sealed and hog-tied inside the airtight vessel known as Brooklyn, New York, he had been haunted by dreams of Harry Houdini." --The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

"Marley was dead: to begin with." --A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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