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Famous. Distinctive. On Paper.

exclusive interview :: :: Focus on Distinctive Writers and New Voices ::

Doubleday Broadway
Publishing Group's
Senior Editor

Ann Campbell

By Adrienne Mand

:: You've found the author, you've got the manuscript.
If you are editor Ann Campbell, you are looking for that third element.

Writing may be a delicate craft, but in the age of blogs (Web logs) and 24-hour media saturation, it's no longer a game of publish or perish. Rather, the new adage is market yourself or perish.

Perhaps no one understands this better than Ann Campbell, a senior editor at the Doubleday Broadway Publishing Group, a division of Random House.

Under the Broadway imprint, Campbell has worked with everyone from best-selling "chick-lit" author Jane Green to newcomer travel writer Maarten Troost, whom she describes as the "gen-x Bill Bryson," and several celebrities in between. And in each instance, the marketability of a title and author makes all the difference. "It's really a combination of things that makes me excited about a book, sort of how the whole picture comes together," Campbell says.

The Broadway imprint publishes general non-trade, mostly non-fiction books in categories ranging from pop culture, travel and current affairs to humor, fitness, spirituality, popular history and self-help - an eclectic mix that's "perfectly suited to my tastes," she says.

Its titles include Bill O'Reilly's "The O'Reilly Factor" and Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun."

The Pittsburgh native landed at Broadway as an editorial assistant fresh out of Brown University, where she graduated in 1996 with a double major in comparative literature and Italian studies. She's had her own list for four years and says there's always a "third element" that is the key to attracting her to an author and subject. "I always look for somebody who's not necessarily unknown, but who has something on their resume connected in their field to help us market them."

Authors who are proactive by publishing pieces in newspapers and magazines and who establish themselves within their areas of expertise can greatly help sell a book, she says. In addition, Campbell looks for writers who are thinking beyond the current trend - say, novels about women in their 20s - to the next hot sellers.

"No editor wants to get a manuscript and go on Amazon and see, like, 35 titles on (that topic)," she notes. "If there are 35 other competing titles, make sure you say why it's different in your letter. Make an argument that yours is different and you're contributing something new that hasn't been said before."

Of course, it never hurts to have a distinguishing perspective on a subject as well. "Obviously, the thing that excites all book editors is the discovery of a new literary talent, a distinct voice bringing something fresh to literature. Really, I think voice is a very strong component of that writing talent and ability. We get excited when the person is very dynamic, very promotable."

That was the case with financial counselor Glinda Bridgforth, who worked with Campbell on her first book, "Girl, Get Your Money Straight: A Sister's Guide to Healing Your Bank Account and Funding Your Dreams in Seven Simple Steps." Her next book, "Now Girl, Make Your Money Grow: A Sister's Guide to Protecting Your Future and Enriching Your Life," is due out in December.

She says Campbell was helpful not only with helping her fully express her ideas, but with keeping them flowing when her creative juices needed a boost. "I think Ann is awesome at what she does," Bridgforth says. "My expertise is financial counseling, and what Broadway determined is that there was something different, something special that they liked about my writing voice - a holistic message to African-American women."

Celebrity Works, Same Criteria

When it comes to books about famous figures, Campbell has edited the memoirs of the late Barry White, as well as the actress Camryn Manheim. She's currently working with American Idol judge Simon Cowell on a book about his life.

In this age of National Enquirer celebrity tales lining bookstore display racks, it seems anyone famous for anything can get a book deal. But Campbell is careful not to confuse stardom with notoriety. She cited disgraced former New York Times reporter Jayson Blair and porn star Jenna Jameson as people shopping products that "nobody here even entertained for a minute."

Instead, she sees value in books about famous people that have a message. For instance, Manheim's book "Wake Up, I'm Fat!" was about her life, "but it also was very much a story of someone coming to terms with body image, learning to love yourself no matter who you are, becoming a famous top-tier actress in an industry that's notoriously image conscious. Similarly, the Simon Cowell book is built around the thread of his life, but it's mainly about how to break into the music industry."

When pitching stories that are related to famous lives, she adds, it's important to be aware of the public's interest in the subject. "It's inevitable that people will try to capitalize on fame, but I think you have to pick your shots very carefully," she notes. "A lot of books that we see, the celebrities are sort of past the sell-by date. One of the things an editor has to do is be very aware of popular culture and when the public is feeling saturated with a particular personality or television show."

This also is when marketability comes back into play, and she says that with crowded non-fiction categories like self-help, it's important to have a distinct message that garners attention. "Few books make it and stand out. Everybody thinks they have their own prescription for leading a fulfilling life ...but if you don't have an idea that's truly new, it's very, very tough to get it across and to sell it."

One author who made the cut was Raphael Cushnir, who writes personal growth and spirituality books and worked with Campbell on his latest work, "Setting Your Heart on Fire."

"She's whipsmart. And fun to work with - the kind of person who might best be described as a 'worthy adversary,' meaning that when she pushes back, or stands her ground, or is insistent about something, you always know it's for the best and truest of reasons," he says. "How rare is that, especially in today's market?

"I hope I write another 20 books with her, so she can be my Maxwell Perkins and I can have the lifelong relationship with an editor that every writer dreams of."

That would suit the 29-year-old East Village resident just fine. As she watches other friends skip from job to job, she's found a home at Doubleday Broadway Group and in the publishing world. "It's hard for me to imagine doing anything else."


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