Oct 19, 2016 Blog

Sophia Amoruso,  the New York Times–bestselling author of #GIRLBOSS and Nasty Gal founder, is back with a beautiful, ambitious book. We spoke to Kerri Kolen, the editor, to find out how an art book like this gets made:

The book is so distinct in look and feel – what made you zero in on this style and vibe?

Like any book, some of the style and vibe came along organically as the book morphed from an idea to a real book. But we always knew we wanted the book to be unlike anything else out there. There are so many other coffee table books, style books, photography books, fashion/lifestyle books. Sophia really wanted this to be its own thing—not like any of those but a mashup that more appropriately reflected the inspiration that she sees in the world—as she has experienced it. It was also important to both of us to include the essays—in the midst of all the style, there are real nuggets of wisdom and hilarity that Sophia wanted to express but that didn’t have a real place in her previous book, #GIRLBOSS.

How would you describe your collaborative process with Sophia?

The conversation is very open and fluid but also traditional in a lot of ways. For this book, we brainstormed the larger goals, overarching look and feel, and pulled inspiration together and discussed it all in very broad terms. Then Sophia went off and started collecting and creating the pieces of the book. We had a live working document in Google that we both had access to. Sophia would work on it pretty much daily and I would go in every few weeks at the beginning and make comments, notes, ask questions, make suggestions, etc. In this way, the book and its contents kept changing. Once the content felt mostly in place, we started doing the same thing with editing and making final selections, reordering, finding new images and replacing some images, etc. Eventually it felt finished enough to move to a “working manuscript.” Once we had this in place, we would each go off on our own to make notes and then get on the phone to go through the whole book—page by page—discussing our notes in detail, until the next round. We did this until there were no more notes…which was pretty much right up until the end.

Screen Shot 2016-10-19 at 12.21.45 PM

With so many photos, designs, letters, and more, what was the biggest challenge in making this book?

Editing! There were so many great individual pieces that felt worthy of inclusion so the weeding out process felt a little grueling sometimes, though necessary. Plus, every time one design element changes, the whole book changes, and needs to be looked at again as a whole.

What’s your favorite piece of advice in this book?

There is so much great advice in this book. Sophia is terrific at packing a lot of wisdom in her own pithy anecdote. The essays in Nasty Galaxy are small but pack a lot of punch. I think my favorite piece of advice, though, is in the essay “On Fear”: “Get attached. Stay attached. Just don’t forget to keep evolving.” I also like her instructions for How to Check Out of a Fancy Hotel because I couldn’t agree more. Why do people still go through a formal check-out process?

What is your horoscope according to Nasty Galaxy?

Apparently I am an “intense mother*cker,”: really good at getting people on my side and have some jealous tendencies. I’d say it’s all true.

What would surprise readers to know about the making of this book?

It was harder to write and edit than #GIRLBOSS!


Find out more about this beautiful and unique book here:


Oct 14, 2016 Random Notes

Oct 12, 2016 Behind the Scenes

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees. Take a look at the first post in this series here

Ever wonder how an audiobook gets made? Especially one as complicated and visual as Gemina? Read on for interviews with Audiobook Producer Janet Stark, Project Director Erin Spencer, and Audio Engineer Patrick Billard. 

You can preorder the book here. For a Q&A with the authors, click here… and for you superfans, join First In Line here to see the full uncensored version. Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles

Listen to an excerpt of the audio book now!

What is your job title, and what does that mean for your daily work?

Janet Stark: It’s funny, many people I meet in daily life don’t understand what an audiobook producer does. Senior Producer is on my business card. We producers are a bit like casting directors working in collaboration with authors. Hiring actors, scheduling recording studios, basically managing a group of contributors (directors, sound editors, sound design people), all the way to QC notes and delivering the final audio. The production process always begins with reaching out to the author or authors to get a sense of ideas or expectations for the audio, and take it from there.

Janet Stark

Patrick Billard: I’m the Audio Engineer here at Penguin Random House studios in Los Angeles. Our facility is made up of 10 recording studios designed for the purpose of recording audio books. I setup recording sessions and make sure our actors have good recording levels that match our specs, I assist the directors with any issues they may be having during the recording process, I maintain the studios to make sure they are clean and in working order and I book actors to come back to the studios after recording is finish to do pick-up sessions to fix any outstanding issues that remain after the books have been edited and proofed. 

Patrick Billard

How did Gemina sessions compare to the usual audiobook session setups?

Patrick Billard: The Gemina session was quite different from our typical session here at PRH Studios where most books have one to two readers at most. Gemina was a large project with many actors so our setup was tweaked to have 3 microphones ready to record in our largest booth. Working with Ok Hee Kolwitz, Assistant Director of Technology and Post Production, we spent a couple days setting up the studio to accommodate the 3 mic setup, which required pulling backup gear from our storage closets and arranging the mics, chairs and music stands for optimal audio quality and sight lines for the actors. Erin Spencer, the director for Gemina, was amazing and did so much prep work to make the session run smoothly. We had to work on the fly as actors were going in and out of the studio to do their lines and we had to keep the levels consistent so we always had a good match

How long did it take to cast this book? 

Janet Stark: The best way to describe Gemina: a casting marathon. Amie & Jay provided character descriptions for the primary characters. Secondary voices, maybe ten more, were cast as the book was taken apart page by page. Erin Spencer was project director, and she and I spent long meetings with the pages to nail down the session strategy. Separating out individual page sets for each role, using Gemina’s chat style format of multiple characters per page, we more or less dissected the book to make the most of each actor’s time. Then came the many minor voices with only a few lines each. People in the studio’s vicinity were being asked to get behind the mic for a line or two, resulting in a long list of uncredited voices. Being in the moment during sessions, ready for the unexpected, was basic to this production.

Erin Spencer

What was your favorite part of this project?

Janet Stark: Recording the pop song snippets! Amie & Jay put the lyrics in the text, then the music actually found me as I listened to a blast of new selections. The melody sung by Erin, well, I can’t imagine a session more fun than that.

Patrick Billard: Engineering the pop song part of the session was fun for me since my background is as a recording engineer at music studios in Manhattan for the past 10 years before moving to Los Angeles and starting to work here at PRH studios. Janet Stark, the producer for Gemina, also has a background in music studio engineering so we worked together during the session. I used my extensive experience tracking vocals for pop songs to coach Erin to get good takes and to help hone the parts as the song was being tweaked during the recording process, which is quite typical for most vocal tracking sessions for pop songs. We all had a lot of fun recording the pop song.

MacLeod Andrews
Steve West

How long does an audiobook of this complex take to produce? Is that similar to a standard audiobook production?

Janet Stark: Comparing the complexity of Gemina to a standard audiobook, I’d have to say it was more like producing a film on audio. So many voices, evolving characters, sound effects, it all adds up to an experience I hope people enjoy.

Were you comfortable contributing voices here & there? Had you done something like that before?

Patrick Billard: Yes, Erin and Janet recruited most of the staff here at PRH to do wild lines and it was a lot of fun. For me it was a good experience being on the other side of the glass, as it makes me realize what it’s like to be a voice actor and that it’s not nearly as easy as it may look or sound. It also made me appreciate Erin’s skill as a director- she really knew what she was going for with my lines and did her part coaching me through the process. My particular lines were rather loud and vulgar which made me step out of my comfort zone which was exciting.

Lincoln Hoppe, voice of “AIDAN”

Project Director Erin Spencer’s take on the process: 

Erin Spencer: Working on Gemina was a truly unique experience and unlike any other audiobook that I have directed.  To begin, I read the entire book to get an overall sense of storyline and character arc.  From there, it’s a matter of going over each page individually to see what is happening in each ‘scene’, which characters are speaking and how the art work and graphics can be adapted into an audio format.

We needed upwards of 20 actors for Gemina – with only a handful recurring from Illuminae, so it was up to Janet Stark and me to find the right actors for the roles we had available. Casting is very important and it’s a lot of fun to have so many actors on one title!

Erin Spencer

Studio time is really the most fun but equally the most stressful time for me, the project director.  We had up to three actors in the recording studio at one time because Gemina was recorded as if we were doing scenes in a movie.  The actors are able to engage and play off of one another, which really brings a sense of realism and keeps the tone very organic. As the director, I ran a very tight schedule each day. I may have had 15 actors coming in to read in a single day and the organization and scheduling had to be precise.  My mantra on those days is TRUST!  Trust that I did all the prep work needed to ensure we have every page covered, that all the actors are prepared with their pages, and that I have done everything I can do to make the process smooth and that the end product will be amazing!  We don’t read this book like you would do with other books – in order, page by page.  It’s read completely out of order based on which actors I have scheduled together that day.  So, I have to trust that it’s all there.  And honestly, when it’s all over, it’s simultaneously a relief and a little grief at the same time!

After Illuminae came out, I received the CDs so I could listen to it on my commute to the studio.  I literally cried when I heard it.  Cried out of sheer pride for all the actors who worked so hard, for the editor who did such a phenomenal job and in my mind has one of the toughest jobs of all, cried for the post-production team, and especially for Janet Stark who pulled it all together.  I can’t wait to cry over Gemina, too.

Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff)

Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com


Oct 7, 2016 News

This week, the National Book Foundation announced its Shortlists for the 2016 National Book Award: five titles in each of four categories. 

Our Finalists:



The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead



Blood in the Water by Heather Ann Thompson



The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The winners will be announced at the annual National Book Awards dinner on Wednesday, November 16 during which the Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters will be bestowed upon Robert A. Caro, the singular, #1 bestselling, Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award-winning author of The Power Broker and The Years of Lyndon Johnson biographies.  The award is given annually to an author who has enriched our literary heritage over a lifetime of achievement.

Our congratulations to Mr. Caro, his Knopf and Vintage publishing teams, and to Nicola Yoon, Heather Ann Thompson, Karan Mahajan, Colson Whitehead, and to their editors and publishers.

Oct 7, 2016 Behind the Scenes

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here

Today, we’re going further afield – independent booksellers from bookstores across the country want to share why they’re so excited about Gemina.

You can preorder the book here. For a Q&A with the authors, click here… and for you superfans, join First In Line here to see the full uncensored version. 

Suzanne Droppert, owner and Madison Duckworth, bookseller

“Not only is this an amazing series, the books themselves are works of art. Jay & Amie weave crazy, intertwining stories that all take place in deep space. Gemina keeps you on your toes from start to finish and makes you question everything you thought you knew. One of my favorite series!” –Madison Duckworth, Liberty Bay Books

“Love this space opera series, from the page layouts to the drama between people- Hannah and Malikov, BeiTech team members with Ella…”  Suzanne Droppert, Liberty Bay Books

Tara Soulen and Allison Senecal

Illuminae was one of my favorite reads of 2015, so when I managed to get my hands on an advanced copy of Gemina I was simultaneously thrilled and nervous. Nervous because my expectations were high, and I didn’t know if the particular magic that was Illuminae could be recaptured. Guess what? This book did not meet my soaringly high expectations, it exceeded them. Somehow Kaufman and Kristoff have managed to not only recapture the breakneck speed and engrossing storytelling they introduced in Illuminae, but they have also managed to introduce two new main characters so captivating I didn’t mind leaving the old ones behind. If anything I think I like Nik & Hanna even more than Kady & Ezra. Told in the same format as the previous book, through chat logs, found footage, and mixed media, this book is nearly impossible to put down.

It had me turning pages well past my bedtime, and stretching every second of my lunch break. Imagine, if you will, Die Hard set on a space station with creepy aliens slithering around, and an unlikely duo of teenagers in the starring roles. That’s Gemina. And I loved every minute of it. My one point of angst now is waiting for the third book, as this only made me hungry for more. I can’t wait until Gemina hits the shelves in October so I can buy a finished copy for myself and see all the fantastic art I know will be included. A huge thank you to Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff for lugging an advanced copy through the airport to gift to my store, and to Random House for providing the ARC in the first place. You have a lifelong fan.” –Tara Soulen, Book Shop of Fort Collins

“Somehow even better than Illuminae! Wow. Way more action, plus flesh-eating aliens instead of a zombie virus this time. I loved Hanna even more than Kady, and got attached to some members of the murderous BeiTech squad??? Can’t wait to see Hanna’s drawings in the finished book. More emotional whiplash than Illuminae too. HOW??? Amazing.” –Allison Senecal, Old Firehouse Books

Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles

Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff)

Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com

Oct 3, 2016 Editor’s Desk

Editors get very passionate about books they work on – the Editor’s Desk series is his or her place to write in-depth about what makes a certain title special. Get the real inside-scoop on how books are shaped by the people who know them best.


It all started with a title on a manuscript submission I couldn’t get out of my brain: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary. OK, I admit to a certain obsession with the British icon–but his secretary? What must it have been like to work during Britain’s darkest hours with that flamboyant, irascible, outrageously complicated figure? Biographies and memoirs abound of Churchill’s generals, his family, his aides. We know all about his pets, his bathing habits, his socks, favorite drink and books. But his secretary?

As I turned the manuscript pages, I was hooked. For this debut novel wasn’t merely about life in the shadow of Winston Churchill during those scary, dangerous days of what became known as the “false war”—it was the captivating story of a brilliant, college-educated, ambitious young woman with a flair for math and codes…who found that the only job opening for a woman in wartime UK government was typing and filing: Talk about a glass ceiling!

And, she wasn’t even British.  She was an American.

An American woman in the Blitz, working at the side of the seminal power makers of the period, forced to elbow her way into a man’s world….And crimson lipstick and cocktails….

What’s not to love?

Over the course of six award-winning novels, Susan and her marvelous creation, Maggie Hope, continue to enthrall me. In these gloriously researched capers, Susan has led Maggie and her spellbound readers down the bomb-torn alleyways of London, into the heart ‎of the UK’s spy network, parachuting into enemy headquarters, conspiring with Eleanor Roosevelt in the very corridors of the White House.  She’s crafted an intimate glimpse of young Princess Lisbeth and the Royal Family at Windsor; cavorted with Fala, FDR’s Scottie; and courageously shown us the suffering of those in the concentration camps.  More important, she’s stripped away the bald historical facts to inveigle us deep into the hearts of women during war:  women making tough choices and sacrifices, surviving, fighting back, courageously holding together their lives and their jobs and their families under unspeakable pressures.

There was a real Mr. Churchill’s secretary, a woman named Elizabeth Nel who worked for the Prime Minister from 1941 to 1945 and even wrote a memoir of it, which begins: “It doesn’t really matter who I am or where I come from.  Without undue modesty, the only thing of real interest about me is that during World War II I worked for four and a half years as one of the Personal Secretaries to Sir Winston Churchill….” 

But Susan MacNeal has proven, time and time again in her marvelous, intriguing novels, that the women behind the scenes did matter.  And that’s the real triumph of the Maggie Hope novels.

Learn more about the Maggie Hope books below!

Sep 30, 2016 Bookspotting

Sometimes a book is just too cute and funny to put down: Penguin Problems is out now! Check out the book for yourself here!

Joe Scalora
Alissa Nigro


Kate Keating
Andrea Comerford
Jules Kelly
Sep 26, 2016 Behind the Scenes

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here

Today, we’re featuring an interview with Publicity Manager, Aisha Cloud. She joins us to talk about her career change, book tours, and being a cheerleader for Gemina. Read below for her inside scoop. 

What is your job title?

Publicity Manager

What does that mean for you on a day to day?

As a publicist, my main job is to create buzz and awareness for our books by securing media coverage across print, tv, radio and online outlets and to support our authors/illustrators throughout the process. Media coverage could be in the form of a review, interview, op-ed piece, and/or giveaway, and I work closely with reviewers/reporters and then back with the authors/illustrators to produce any necessary content or prepare for interviews. I also set up events with bookstores and other venues and these include signings, presentations and school visits. We also pitch authors and illustrators for public events like festivals and comic cons (cons depend more on the genre of the book). These are just some of the different platforms we use to get the word out there about our books. My role also encompasses social media, as that’s a really important way to drive awareness today.

How is working with this book/series different from any other title?

The layout of the book is truly breathtaking, unique and seriously out-of-this-world. I enjoyed not only reading the book and experiencing the story unravel and how it is told in a different format, but also seeing people’s reactions to reading it on social media. Next up for me is listening to the audio book of Illuminae. It has received a bunch of praise and I would love to experience the book in that way too.

What’s the most surprising thing about this job?

Our connection to everyone and everything. When I describe what I do, it’s sounds simple…manageable, but publicists are the go-to people not only for authors and illustrators, but within the company, we serve as a central hub for information that is needed by sales, marketing and editorial. Besides the author, we are a spokesperson and cheerleader for the books and we want everyone (I mean, everyone!) to know the next big book to read as it might very well change your life…or make your long plane ride more enjoyable! 

Describe Gemina in one sentence.

I called Illuminae a game-changer. But Gemina is more than a game-changer, it’s revolutionary. Expect the unexpected and enjoy the ride!

Do you have a favorite part of the book? Favorite element or visual aspect?

My favorite part is yet to come…we’ve got surprises galore and I can’t wait for fans to learn about them!

Readers can pre-order Gemina here, and  also see the rest of Marie Lu ‘s unbelievably beautiful and complex illustration of the Heimdall space station!

Heimdall Station drawn by Marie Lu

How did you get into publicity?

I use to work in advertising, I was completely miserable (used to imagine getting hit by a bus to get away from it all…horrible, I know) and it hit me (the idea, not a bus) one day that working at an advertising agency wasn’t the right job for me. So I thought to myself, what do I like to do? I like to read books and talk about it afterwards with fellow book lovers. So I quit my job and took the NYU Summer Publishing Program. There I learned that reading and talking, aka promoting and publicizing a book, was basically the underlying core of a publicist. After I completed the course, I got my first job as a publicity assistant at Doubleday and knew it was the right career for me!

Do you have a favorite moment or memory of the authors?

I was lucky enough to tour with the authors during the first leg of the Illuminae tour which started in Seattle. During our down time, we were able to explore the city and visit the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and walk the Underground tour in their buried city. It was so cool to be a tourist with the authors. It was my first time visiting the city and meeting the authors and it’s now a memory I will never forget! Also, Amie and Jay say that if they make fun of you, that for Australians means that they like you…so they love me a lot!

What are you looking forward to on this upcoming book tour?

I can’t wait to see people’s reaction when they meet the authors at their events and open the book for the first time. It’s obviously not my book, I didn’t write it, but being a part of this huge project is a reward in itself, especially being able to see the delight and excitement of fans when they finally have the book in their hands.

Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles

Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff)

Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com

Sep 18, 2016 Blog

Looking for inspiration? Take the quiz to find out which self-help book you should read next!

Sep 16, 2016 Blog

Penguin Random House authors Ron Chernow, James McBride, Elaine Pagels, Abraham Verghese and Isabel Wilkerson are among the recipients of this year’s National Humanities Medals, and our author Sandra Cisneros is among the recipients of the National Medal of Arts, it was announced this week by President Barack Obama. These prestigious awards will be personally presented by the President in a special White House ceremony on Thursday, September 22.  The ceremony will be streamed live.

Our authors were recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as follows:

  • Ron Chernow for bringing our Nation’s story to life. Through his examination of America’s successful giants and titans, he also invites his readers to discover their failures and foibles, uncovering enduring lessons that inform our modern era.
  • (left to right) Ron Chernow, Sandra Cisneros and James McBride

    (left to right) Ron Chernow, Sandra Cisneros and James McBride

    Sandra Cisneros for enriching the American narrative. Through her novels, short stories, and poetry, she explores issues of race, class, and gender through the lives of ordinary people straddling multiple cultures. As an educator, she has deepened our understanding of American identity.

  • James McBride for humanizing the complexities of discussing race in America. Through writings about his own uniquely American story, and his works of fiction informed by our shared history, his moving stories of love display the character of the American family.
  • Elaine Pagels for her exploration of faith and its traditions. Through her study of ancient manuscripts and other scholarly work, she has generated new interest and dialogue about our contemporary search for knowledge and meaning.
  • (left to right) Elaine Pagels, Abraham Verghese and Isabel Wilkerson

    (left to right) Elaine Pagels, Abraham Verghese and Isabel Wilkerson

    Abraham Verghese for reminding us that the patient is the center of the medical enterprise. His range of proficiency embodies the diversity of the humanities; from his efforts to emphasize empathy in medicine, to his imaginative renderings of the human drama.

  • Isabel Wilkerson for championing the stories of an unsung history. Her masterful combination of intimate human narratives with broader societal trends allows us to measure the epic migration of a people by its vast impact on our Nation and on each individual life.

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were established by Congress in 1965 as independent agencies of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $5 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities.

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