ALISON S. WEISS
Sky Pony Press, New York
“Publishing is a business; blending
the thrill of an exceptional read
with the potential to break out
never grows old.”
When she landed an intern position as a college sopho- more, Weiss’s first reaction was “I can read children’s
books for a living.” Three days later she was
explaining to her father that “you have to
balance the quality of a project with salability.
A book may exhibit exquisite writing, but if
no one wants to buy it, it doesn’t make sense
to pursue.” A decade later, that is still the
mantra that drives her.
Georgia Morrissey, a former colleague,
credits Weiss with broadening the commercial reach of the Sky Pony list by
bringing in a mixture of critically acclaimed
authors, including Mike A. Lancaster,
Helene Dunbar, and Michelle Houts. Weiss
is behind the launch of the press’s first
chapter book list, the cornerstone of which
is Project Droid, a series cowritten by the
internationally bestselling author Nancy
Krulik and her daughter, Amanda Burwasser,
and illustrated by Mike Moran.
Weiss likes to work with lesser-known
authors as well. “I love championing something unusual and delicious,” she says,
pointing to the forthcoming Timekeeper,
a gay fantasy set in an alternative Victorian
Light Messages, Durham, N.C.
“I see myself as a midwife for books—
I help the stories to be born. It’s an
Turnbull must be a busy midwife. In her three years at the independent press, she has birthed 20 debut authors, with 85% of them winning awards. From 2013 to 2015, revenue grew by nearly 80%. All those
babies and she still finds time to serve on the executive board of the
Independent Book Publishers Association. She also organized the first Read
Local Book Festival in Durham last year.
While very pleased with the company’s strong finances, Turnbull also
takes pride in the press’s mission “to publish meaningful works that tell
an engaging story.” Whether it’s a thriller, a YA fantasy, a work of literary
fiction, or even an inspirational romance, she’s looking for books that invite
the reader to “peel back the layers and ask the hard questions.” As an
example, she points to the recent publication of Rebecca Brewster Stevenson’s
Healing Maddie Brees, which delves into illness, faith, honesty, and isolation.
“It’s one of the most beautiful, brave books I’ve ever read,” she says.
Leading the editorial team at a small press means that Turnbull is involved
with a book from acquisition to postpublication, something that she
considers “an incredible privilege.”
Dey Street Books, New York
“Thornton sets a standard for profession-
alism and thoughtfulness that we can all
aim to emulate.”
—Yfat Reiss Gendell, agent, Foundry Literary & Media
Thornton considers herself lucky to have played an integral role in the reboot and launch of two imprints: first Three Rivers Press at Crown, and then Dey Street at HarperCollins. “There is something so exciting about creating a
mission statement and helping to design your imprint’s identity,” she says.
Dey Street’s list is broad, but, as a voracious reader of psychological suspense,
Thornton is jazzed about Claudia Rowe’s The Spider and the Fly, coming in
January. She is also committed to publishing books “by musicians who speak
to my generation.” To that end, this fall she will publish a memoir by Johnny
Marr, Set the Boy Free.
Thornton is passionate about her relationships with authors. “Our jobs
our unusual,” she says. “We become intimately acquainted with writers as
we are asking them to bare their souls or offer up their expertise and personal
time.” For her celebrity clients, there is an added layer. She is tasked with
having to explain a world that is foreign to them and guide them through
the publishing process. Gendell, an agent who has sold Thornton several
books, calls her “an invaluable North Star to my clients.”