When Molly Stern was conceiving the idea for a new publishing house that would leverage celebrity and influencer fans to fuel sales, she made a list of the people she dreamed of working with.
Among them was Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner artist John Legend.
Stern had worked with many celebrities at Crown, where she was an editor until three years ago; she had encouraged Sarah Jessica Parker to create her own imprint, then edited Michelle Obama’s bestselling memoir, “Becoming.” And last September, this new publishing house, Zando, announced its first two publisher partners: successful novelist-writer Gillian Flynn and actress Lena Waithe.
But despite all of her connections, Stern didn’t have a direct path to Legend – until she met Mike Jackson. The producer co-founded Get Lifted Film Co. with Legend and his longtime manager Ty Stiklorius.
“Mike immediately understood what was possible here, both for Get Lifted and why John in particular would have such an impact,” Stern said.
After meeting Legend, Stern was even more convinced. “When you scratch the surface with someone like John and hear the kind of enthusiasm and commitment and seriousness that he engages with ideas from books, you think, ‘This is exactly the kind of person who has. the visibility and impact on the world and the intellectual seriousness of being an editor, ”she said.
And that’s how the dream came true. Legend joins Zando as a publisher with his own imprint, Get Lifted Books. Along with Jackson and Stiklorius, he would acquire and release four to six fiction and non-fiction titles over the next three years. Under Zando’s business model, which leaves much of the promotion to its partner publishers, Legend and his team will be involved in marketing and promoting the books to their own fans.
“We are in a good position in life where we can allow many creative voices to be heard,” Legend said in a video interview with The Times, “and we take this as a responsibility to enlighten and raising voices that might not be heard otherwise.We have wanted to do this in our film, television and theater industry for a long time, and we think doing it in publishing will be great for writers.
Their first book acquisition is “Rosewater” by Liv Little, founder of UK magazine gal-dem. “Rosewater,” slated for release in Spring 2023, is a coming-of-age story about a queer, black, working-class poet in London.
“Authors and novelists are some of the greatest voices we have, and a lot of them are untapped,” Jackson said. “We’ve had a lot of success launching careers and we thought, as avid readers who love books and novels, ‘Why not expand the platform that we provide these artists with in publishing? “”
The Get Lifted team will be looking for biographies, memoirs, “hypothesis-defying” fiction and other works on race, culture, history and science.
“We always want our content to be provocative and interesting and enlightening and enlightening, and we want to present storytellers who deserve a chance to be heard,” Legend said.
With the caveat, Jackson added, “if a super famous author wants to write a book with us, so will we.”
Although Get Lifted started out as a film company and Zando has significant investors in the film industry, Jackson and Legend said that adapting books to film or television was not the primary mission of Get Lifted Books. “We want books alone to be great books,” said Legend. This does not, however, exclude a possible adaptation.
Legend and the Get Lifted team are Zando’s third publishing partners after Waithe and Flynn. The Get Lifted Film Co. was born out of a long-standing friendship between Legend, Jackson and Stiklorius. Legend and Stiklorious met as undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania in an a cappella group; Stiklorius grew up with Jackson and introduced him to Legend. Jackson would become the first manager of the hitmaker “All of Me”.
Since its launch in 2012, Get Lifted Film Co. has established itself as an industry player, often highlighting the voices of marginalized communities. The company produced the award-winning film “La La Land” and is the originator of the television series “Underground”. Upcoming projects include a film adaptation of “Blacktop Wasteland,” SA Cosby’s dark tale of a Virginia family man driven to the limit by poverty, racism and his criminal past. The novel won the LA Times Book Prize 2020 for mystery / thriller.
Recruiting luminaries with large platforms is at the heart of Zando’s unconventional marketing and advertising model, an effort to help solve a growing problem in book publishing – an industry increasingly dominated by algorithms and pre-existing platforms that make it difficult for strangers to break through.
“We use the adjacency of well-known personalities to publicize work that we believe should be well-known, and without the support of these platforms, there is a possibility that this work will never be read, adopted or discussed,” said Stern. “So having Get Lifted and John in a very concerted, focused and strategic way to support this work, for me is a win-win.”