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Zibby Owens has a book empire. Why she decided to write her own novel

"I’ve never given up the dream of becoming a novelist," Owens says. "Finally, it's here."

Zibby Owens started her career as a literary tastemaker with the author interview podcast "Moms Don't Have Time to Read Books."

But it turns out they do have time to read books — and they have time to write them, too, at least in Owens' case.

Owens, 47, has a publishing house, Zibby Books, and a brick and mortar bookstore in Santa Monica, California. She also published the memoir "Bookends: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Literature" in 2022.

But she says writing a novel of her own has been her most surreal achievement, Owens tells NBC correspondent Chloe Melas in an interview for "Blank," Owens' debut novel, was published this March. She has another, "Overheard," out in October 2025.

zibby owens book cover

The novel, which Owens says is loosely inspired by her own life, follows a mom named Pippa Jones over the course of one week. Jones is having writers block just days before her manuscript is due to her publisher. That’s when her son tells her to just turn it in ... blank.

“It’s on-the-nose commentary on the publishing industry and the arbitrary nature of bestsellers,” according to a press release.

Below, we caught up with Owens about this moment in her career, and the rest of her work in the literary world. This Q&A has been edited for clarity.

What made you want to write 'Blank'?

I really wanted to write a novel, because I have written many that have been rejected over the years. And after my memoir came out, I kept pitching ideas to my editor and finally had this one thanks to my son, who suggested that I write a blank book, and handed it in blank. That’s what started the idea.

I wrote it to both shed a new light on the publishing industry, but really to give readers a fun, fast-paced read that will help them escape make them laugh, and, and remind them that there’s always time to start the next chapter.

Have you always been a writer?

When I was 9 years old, my grandparents published two little short stories of mine and a miniature book with my name on the spine. I saw the book and was like, "OK, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life." But it’s hard to go from being 9 to being a published novelist. My life has taken many twists and turns, but I’ve never given up the dream of becoming a novelist. Finally, it’s here. And I’m 47 instead of 10.

What made you start your own publishing company, Zibby Books?

One issue is that publishers pick a lead title and give a disproportionate amount of marketing and support to that title, and then the lesser titles on the list to get hardly any attention and therefore don’t get discovered as often by readers, which is unfair. A lot of times, those are really fabulous books as well.

We make every author's book a lead title. We only publish 12 books a year in contemporary fiction and memoir. We spend the month helping the author. We've taken all the authors on two different retreats.

Not only do we introduce our authors to each other, but we've taken them on two different retreats to get to know each other. They have a WhatsApp group, they learn from each other, they do events. It's incredibly collaborative.

The other issue I was trying to address was authors feeling out of control of the process — that it's a black box once the book was acquired, and they don't have input on, on really anything. We have the author have a virtual seat at the table and input on covers, design and marketing.

How do you find the time to do 'it all'?

What I’m doing is also much fun. I know it’s all technically work. But like owning a bookstore is a dream I’ve always wanted to own a bookstore and never actually thought I would do it. And then I did it, and it’s even better than I thought. Spending time you know, buying books for the store, for new carpet or picking a new shelf title ... that’s fun for me."