GLVWG’s Suzanne Mattaboni spoke with Amara Hoshijo of Soho Press, an independent book publisher based in Manhattan’s Union Square. Founded in 1986, Soho publishes 90 books a year across its Soho Press, Soho Crime and Soho Teen lists, and is known for introducing bold new literary voices, award-winning international crime fiction, and compelling young adult mystery and thrillers.
Amara will be taking pitches at the GLVWG Write Stuff Conference on Saturday, April 9. Advance Registration is Required.
Suzanne: I see from your background you’ve spent part of your life in Hawaii, France, and California. What drew you to New York, and what has made it worth staying?
Amara: I was first drawn to New York at the age of five, based on little more than that it was the biggest city I knew. (I’ve always preferred big cities—more specifically regarding the above, I’ve lived in Honolulu, Paris, and LA.) Hawaii remains a special place for me, but growing up, I didn’t see any industries there that I wanted to be a part of. I came to New York the summer after college with no prospects and the sole objective of breaking into publishing. It is certainly a literary epicenter, which was the deciding factor in my cross-country move, but I was lucky in that my personality meshed well with the city itself. New York has the diversity and integration I’ve craved my entire life; I’d say the people there have been brought together by a similar drive.
Suzanne: How do you feel independent authors and publishers are faring in the changing electronic publishing landscape?
Amara: I see the “changing electronic publishing landscape” as twofold: 1) the move to e-books and 2) the rise of online book-buying. Independent publishers have largely adjusted to the first, selling their books across formats, though I wish there were a few more platforms for e-reading. I see the latter as potentially much more disruptive to the culture; with sheer name and buying power, Amazon can stock and downprice in a way that many traditional bookstores can’t. Amazon wields an ever-growing influence over what its customers see and buy, which is within its right, but I know that certain publishers are quite apprehensive about what it will choose to do with that influence.
I think that independent authors have benefited from both of these transitions. Whereas you might not have had a channel to distribute your e-book or short-run print book more widely ten years ago, there are now a wealth of them available to just about anyone who’s looking. As an editor at a traditional publisher, I do believe that authors benefit greatly from having an editor and publicist, but I do not consider the self-publishing movement counter to what I do; rather, I feel it’s complementary to it, and has a rightful place in the industry. (The closest comparison I can think of is crowdfunding’s role in general commerce.)
Suzanne: Here’s a basic one that we are all asked to fill out as GLVWG members: Why do you write? Or alternatively, why are you an editor?
Amara: What we read shapes our perspective. This means that agents and editors act not only as “gatekeepers” of their own industry, but of a piece of broader culture. While I initially became an editor simply because I loved to help others express their ideas in a clear, engaging way, I’ve discovered that I also have a penchant for diverse literature. I would love to bring more work by writers of color, women writers, and writers in translation out into the world.
Suzanne: I was asked to pose one “off-the-wall” question, so here it is. I notice several of your social media photographs have some connection to food (e.g. some kind of drizzled confection on Twitter; a fruity-looking, parfait-like item on LinkedIn). I can relate to this subject! Do you have any theories about how food relates to creativity, or how a passion for sensory items such as desserts affects your process as an editor, or a creative human being?
Amara: I love this question! And I didn’t realize until just now that almost all photos of me on social media involve food. I primarily feel that food is a connection point between people, and that food preferences can hint at certain personality traits. (For example, whether one is adventurous, a bit indulgent, or very discerning when it comes to the little details!) But I’m hoping that cooking abilities aren’t correlated with broader creative talent, as while I dearly love a good meal, I have burned toast on more than one occasion.
Amara is a graduate of University of Southern California and has been with Soho Press since August of 2012, first as an intern, then as an editorial assistant, and since May of 2015 as assistant editor.