Cambridge Perspectives: A Publicist on Fall’s Buzzworthy Titles
Written by: Frances B.
Oh, sales conference. If you’ve ever worked in publishing, you know they’re non-stop, caffeine-filled days of hearing about new books, talking about new books, and planning for new books. From editors to sales reps to marketing associates to publicists (to name only a few!), all hands are on deck to strategize about major new titles in the pipeline. As a publicist, it’s a great opportunity for me to not only have a bird’s eye view of the season’s titles, but also to start crafting the stories that we believe will drive public discussion.
Of course, having timely books helps my campaigns immensely—like London: A Social and Cultural History, 1550-1750. If all the world’s a stage, then all eyes will be on London this summer during the Olympic Games, but even as the city basks in the limelight, London reveals a long-forgotten secret: It hasn’t always been that way. It was dirty; it was sooty; it was fatal to one’s health; it was even prone to fire and riots—in short, it was everything that Charles Dickens once portrayed it to be, but since that was before his time, maybe even worse! How the city turned that around—in a relatively short time—is what London’s all about.
The economics list continues to be one of the Press’ strengths, and two books offer differing paths forward for our troubled markets. In Doing Capitalism in an Innovation Economy, longtime investor and professor Bill Janeway demystifies the real forces that drive venture capitalism and the innovation economy. Tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook (and most recently, Instagram) have achieved rock-star status at a time when most of the economy is experiencing stalled growth, but Janeway points out that the post-WWII state has long been instrumental to their success. In Wall Street Values, economists Santoro and Strauss argue that the ethical foundations of the modern financial industry need a drastic overhaul if another crash is to be prevented. (On a side note, if you’re the Goldman exec who quit via the NYT recently, would you like to blurb for us?)
During sales conference, we are also fortunate to have author visits, and this time Yoram Hazony came all the way from Israel to talk about The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. Regardless of your faith, almost everyone regards the Bible as works of “revelation”—miracles, divine knowledge, and the supernatural—but Hazony makes the case that the Bible is not a book about miracles or the afterlife, but about how to lead our lives, here and now. In other words, the Bible as a classic of Western thought. My mind was blown! Glancing around the room as he spoke, I definitely wasn’t the only one, and I began to see old stories I’ve heard about since forever—Moses, David and Goliath, Cain and Abel—in a new, perhaps more relevant light.
Lastly, two doctors spoke about their groundbreaking new book, Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges. A culmination of two decades of research, they’ve put together ten key ways to weather and bounce back from stress and trauma, using incredibly powerful case studies. Dr. Dennis Charney showed us harrowing slides of what POWs in Vietnam endured, and how they coped through camaraderie; while Dr. Steven Southwick touched on how much good a positive attitude can do.
These are only the tip of the iceberg—if you’ve ever heard me or my colleagues at happy hour, we have plenty more exciting books to promote! Although sales conference itself is a lot of work to put together, now the real work begins.