Soho Press: Independent and Flourishing
When many people picture an independent publisher, they envision a small startup hoping to be acquired by a bigger firm. That’s not the case with Soho Press—quite the opposite, in fact. Proudly independent for over three decades, Soho aims to discover new voices and bring them to the literary world, and has seen a great deal of success along the way.
It Started With A Complaint
Not every thriving publishing firm can say they came into existence due to a complaint, but that’s the genesis of Soho Press. In 1987, Laura and Alan Hruska and their good friend Juris Jurjevics started the firm after sharing a gripe about the publishing industry. “Laura, an author, and Juris, an editor, both felt that the big publishers tended to focus on books that reminded them of other books that had done well, which meant a lot of worthy new voices and writers who were working a little bit out of the mainstream were being ignored and underrepresented,” said associate publisher Juliet Grames.
Because Laura and Juris had a passion for bringing new authors with fresh voices to readers, they decided to create the imprint. “Their mandate was to publish books they loved,” said publisher Bronwen Hruska.
Welcome New Divisions
Two years after launching, Soho decided to create its Soho Crime division, focusing on international and multicultural crime fiction. “Laura Hruska had been a crime fiction writer herself and brought a special energy and passion to that list,” Grames said. Some of Soho Crime’s earliest publications included works by Martin Limon, Seicho Matsumoto, and Peter Lovesey. In 2014, the company added a third imprint, Soho Teen, which publishes fiction for young adults.
“Juris retired in 2006 to write full-time and Laura passed away in 2010. She had brought on her daughter, Bronwen Hruska, to work alongside her in 2008, and Bronwen took over as publisher in 2009,” Grames said.
And since then, Bronwen Hruska has been helping Soho Press to continue staying true to its original mandate. “I cannot imagine working in an environment (like so many of the big five) where the marketing department can shut down an acquisition based on perceived commercial potential (or lack thereof),” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. We want to sell books. We want to help authors build their careers. We want to stay in business. But the voice, the characters, and the story are what matter most. I’m deeply proud of the books we publish, and I couldn’t imagine coming to work every day—and trying to do justice to my mother’s vision—if it were any other way.”
Finding Compelling Stories
When looking for new authors to publish, Soho is mainly seeking new voices. “As an editor, a book is most interesting if it has a strong ideology behind it,” Grames said. “I love when a work of fiction is more than just a good story, when it challenges the reader to confront and consider new ideas.”
Those submitting to Soho’s Crime imprint should offer great, immersive mysteries and thrillers, Hruska said, adding that the company leans toward series. “We’re looking for quality writing, complex characters, and a ton of atm
osphere. Most of the Soho Crime list is set outside of the U.S., the idea being that our books can transport the reader to other places and cultures. That said, we do publish several series set in the U.S. that we feel fit the guidelines. Mette Ivie Harrison’s fascinating series set in Mormon Utah is one, as is Stephen Mack Jones’s acclaimed series featuring former cop August Snow, which is set in Detroit’s Mexicantown.”
“Crime Has No Time Zone”
Although Soho rarely takes on new authors, when it does, they tend to have a few traits in common, Grames said. “We’re looking for vivid place and/or cultural setting (our imprint motto is ‘Crime Has No Time Zone’), and our authors tend to be experts/specialists who write about or from within a specific cultural setting,” she noted.
The company has a big year on the horizon, Hruska said. “We have some new series that I’m very excited about. Sujata Massey’s The Widows of Malabar Hill has already gotten a ton of early attention, and the groundswell of support for this author and series is tremendous (and well deserved!). The series is set in 1920s India, and it features a heroine based on the very first female attorney in Bombay.”
In addition, Hruska added, the publisher is featuring a new series set in Cuba called Death Comes in through the Kitchen, by Teresa Dovalpage, as well as a new book by Peter Lovesey. “Lovesey, who won the Strand Magazine lifetime achievement award a few years ago, has a new Peter Diamond mystery, and he’s a master at the puzzle mystery,” Hruska said. “The new one, Beau Death, features an investigation of what may have been a centuries-old murder.”
Above all, the company is aiming to maintain its long track record of publishing quality work. “My vision is to continue to find and publish exciting, interesting, immersive crime fiction. It’s a thrill to discover new voices, and we’ll continue to do that,” Hruska said.