Steve Ross, Ex-HarperCollins and RH Exec, Joins Abrams Artists Agency

In What's the Buzz by Edward Nawotka

By Edward Nawotka

Steve Ross, most recently President and Group Publisher of the Collins Division of HarperCollins and former Publisher of Random House’s Crown Division, is joining Abrams Artists Agency as the director of their newly formed Book Division. He starts Monday.

Ross left HarperCollins in February 2009 when the Collins division was folded into Harper after a major restructuring at the company. In the interim Ross has been most visible as a contributor to theHuffington Post, penning articles on topics ranging from Barack Obama to e-readers.

Ross explained his new role to Publishing Perspectives via email:

My title is Director of the Book Division of Abrams Artists Agency, but within that capacity I’ll serve a dual function. One is as a regular book agent building a traditional agenting business from a strong and stable platform, and the other is to take the author consulting business and services I’ve been providing the past six months or so, folding them into Abrams and expanding them significantly. Some authors and their work remain best suited for an established publishing company while others may benefit from a more personal, hands-on approach with a different financial structure, an approach only now possible thanks to the rapid proliferation of accessible options in such areas as self-publishing, digitization, and distribution. We see these two businesses as distinct, but inextricably intertwined, and with the combined goal of maximizing the potential for each individual author.

He did say that he’s bringing clients with him Abrams, but that most were not yet “household names” and confidentiality prevented him from revealing names.

As to the types of books he’s looking to acquire, he remarked:

I’m coming into this with a completely open mind about what kinds of books I’ll be representing. Of course my publishing track record demonstrates certain strengths, or longstanding affections, in such areas as popular culture, current events, sports, narrative nonfiction, music, theater, business, health and wellness, and politics, but my interests and tastes are wide-ranging and author-centric: I will continue to look for the captivating author with something unique to offer.

Finally, addressing why he changed sides of the desk, Ross said:

For many, many years my agent friends have urged me to become an agent, because so many of the books I’ve published can be traced to an idea I had or, later in my career, someone in my staff had proposed at a regular brainstorming session. Since I grew up professionally on the fringes of mainstream publishing, of the first 200 or so books I acquired, edited and publish, at least 150 of them were books I conceived and helped assemble myself. I have always found that process, that close collaboration with authors, tremendously gratifying. Editorial skills are indeed more relevant now for an agent than ever before because with all the consolidation that’s occurred the poor editors who still have a job have taken on the additional inventory of books left behind by their former colleagues. On the flip side this means there are a great many wonderful editors who are making a dandy living freelancing.

As for what particular special magic he brings to Abrams, he notes that he can juggle pretty well and won a juggling contest at Crown that “was fair and square” (see photo for proof). He can also wiggle his ears, separately and in unison — skills won’t be out of place at Abrams Artists Agency, which heretofore has been best known for representing clients involved in theater, film and television.

Who knows, he might even find himself up on the silver screen or Broadway stage some day…

Best of luck to Steve and congrats on the new gig.

Photo credit: Sally Wiener Grotta

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.