Here Come the Doyle Sisters

Dunemere Books was launched in 2016 with the express goal of tapping into the binge-watching mentality
Elizabeth Doyle Carey, left, and Carrie Doyle, authors and sisters, are the founders of Dunemere Books, a publishing press that has released seven novels in its first year. The two hope to tap into the binge-watching mentality of TV and cultivate binge-readers instead. Carrie Ann Salvi

“Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life,” the poet laureate Robert Southey informed Charlotte Bronte when she sent him her poems, along with her sibling Anne’s writing, to critique. The Brontes went on, quite efficiently, to make it their business.

Almost 200 years later, a pair of writerly sisters here are making it theirs, too. Carrie Doyle and Elizabeth Doyle Carey have launched Dunemere Books, a small press described on the company’s website as “offering fresh and original fiction series for tweens, teens, and adults — novels for people who want to get away from it all, whether virtually or actually.” Unlike their predecessors, however, the Doyle sisters are already best-selling authors. 

As native Manhattanites of a certain ZIP code, they grew up getting away from it all with weekends in the Hamptons. Their father, William Doyle, founded and ran the eponymous Upper East Side auction house, which has handled the estates of such Hollywood icons as Rock Hudson and Joan Crawford. Today, their younger sister, Laura, runs the business alongside their mother, Kathy Doyle. “Laura got the auctioneer’s gene,” said Ms. Carey. “Carrie and I got the writing gene.”

Elizabeth, the eldest, began her 20-plus years in the publishing world as a saleswoman at the Harvard Book Store. Today, she is the author of 28 books for middle-grade readers, published by Simon & Schuster, Planet Dexter, and Little, Brown.

Carrie Doyle majored in Russian at college, spent a summer working at the Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton, then moved to Moscow to become, at 23, the world’s youngest editor in chief of an international magazine, the Russian-language Marie Claire. Together with a childhood friend, she has co-authored five novels of what she called the “ZIP code” genre, including “The Right Address” and “Wolves in Chic Clothing,” both national best sellers.

By 2015, Elizabeth and Carrie were becoming increasingly frustrated by the slow-moving publishing process, that strange state of suspended animation between submitting a manuscript and seeing the book appear in stores, which often takes longer than a year. Why, they wondered, in this age of instantaneity, when publishers can turn an electronic file into a printed book in a matter of weeks, should getting it on the shelves still take so long?

Dunemere Books was launched in 2016 with the express goal of tapping into the binge-watching mentality that was fueled by Netflix and Amazon but has so far eluded old-school publishers. The boutique press releases several books in a series either at the same time or in the same season, Carrie Doyle explained.

In its first year, Dunemere has published three books in her own “Hamptons Murder Mystery” series and another three in her sister Elizabeth’s “Junior Lifeguards” series for middle-grade readers. The most recent, “Oscar Season,” hit the bookstands on Tuesday and the next one will be released on July 25. 

Ms. Doyle’s murder series is set in the Hamptons, as is telegraphed by the titles: “Death on Windmill Way,” “Death on Lily Pond Lane,” and “Death on West End Road.” The books fall under the “cozy mysteries” subgenre of crime fiction, alluding to a gentler style of mystery writing, with little blood or violence, along the lines of Agatha Christie. Readers are mostly female; on Facebook, the genre boasts over two million fangirls.

Carrie Doyle has milled East Hampton into grist for her popular books. In a review of the first of the series, “Death on Windmill Way,” Kirkus Reviews wrote, “Doyle is an enthusiastic guide for Long Island’s East End village; she details each street and shop, the spectacular beaches, and the unique play of sunlight that has been a siren call to artists for more than a century.” The series features a foodie protagonist who, after acquiring the Windmill Inn, becomes an amateur sleuth. Also recurring is a politically incorrect reporter from The East Hampton Star.

Her sister’s young-adult “Lifeguard” series is set on the beaches of Cape Cod, where Ms. Carey’s husband is from and where they vacation when not in Amagansett. The material covered in the stories — a tense dynamic between a town’s year-round residents and its summer incomers, as well as an Ecuadorean girl whose parents are caretakers at one of the large estates — translates well for young readers in the Hamptons and almost any wealthy beach community along the Eastern Seaboard. The first book in the series, “The Test,” is currently ranked 27 on the top 100 middle-grade books to read this summer, by Book Riot. 

One year after starting Dunemere Press, seven books and several thousand copies sold, the sisters say they are satisfied with their role as “guinea pigs to launch the company.” Dunemere recently signed on two more authors, Tiffany Brooks and Chuck Vance, and will continue to search for others. 

Next on the to-do list is to leave behind the print-on-demand model, hire a distributor, and cast a wider net. In their downtime, the sisters say, they will continue to write the books that are feeding the appetites of so many of those binge readers.