Translating the Old Into the New
Marian Lizzi “grew up at St. Martin’s,” as she puts it, spending 14 years at the company, beginning as an editorial assistant and working up to building her own list. In 2004 she moved to Penguin’s Perigee Books division, where she is now Editor-in-Chief.
In the years since her arrival, Perigee’s focus has been evolving.
“When I got here, the Perigee list was largely prescriptive,” she says. “It’s always been non-fiction, but it was really focused on various kinds of self-help and how-to—a lot of health, parenting and fitness, as well as some business skills books.”
As the Internet sticks its fingers everywhere in publishing, so did it intrude into the world of self-help publishing.
“It’s gotten harder to sell books in those areas unless you really have something that’s truly unique or really new,” says Lizzi.
Books that consumers once turned to for practical information in health and other areas have now been replaced by websites such as WebMD.
While Perigee still does publish in some of those how-to areas, they’ve branched out in new ways over the past few years. Pop reference is a strong area, according to Lizzi, with books that are informative but also entertaining, letting readers have fun brushing up on subjects they learned in school but have since forgotten.
Another successful area for Perigee is creativity, and one book that’s shown remarkable sales in this category is Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith. The visually engaging book has been an under-the-radar hit for the company, with nearly a million copies in print. Lizzi says they’re about 50,000 copies away from this significant marker and jokes: “We should have a countdown clock!” (More on this title in a future article.)
Two other notable upcoming books for Lizzi include a memoir on homeschooling by former child star Quinn Cummings and Found in Translation, a book about how translation affects our world—what we read, watch, eat, and more—and about how ideas and products travel the globe. Just think of those garbled translations you get when you ask a website to translate something. As Lizzi describes it, it shows “what can go wrong when a computer program stands in for a knowledgeable professional.”
And as far the Internet and its sticky fingers, Lizzi is enjoying posting for her Twitter followers (@marianliz) and writing the occasional “Perigee Bookmarks” blog post about life behind the scenes as a book editor. She’s optimistic and ready to embrace digital disruption and find a way to incorporate it into successful book publishing!
p.s. I love that this is included at the bottom of Marian's email signature:
Perigee (n): The point in the moon's orbit where it is nearest to the earth.