There was a little extra buzz around Penguin Group Canada’s announcement last week that its publisher Nicole Winstanley would now also be its president.
Not only were people in the industry excited to see an all-Canadian executive team, with Winstanley working with Barry Gallant as chief operating officer, but Winstanley says she got a lot of emails from women who were pleased to see a woman at the top of the Canadian branch of one of the big multinational houses. Although there are women in top management at the other companies, such as Louise Dennys, Kristin Cochrane and Anne Collins within Random House of Canada or HarperCollins Canada’s Iris Tupholme, none are presidents yet.
(It should be noted that Donna Hayes is publisher and CEO at Harlequin Enterprises and is the first woman to run the company since it was founded in 1949. Although Harlequin is headquartered in Canada, it operates as an international publisher. There are also prominent women presidents of smaller independent houses in Canada, such as Sarah MacLachlan of the House of Anansi Press.)
David Shanks, CEO of Penguin North America, announced Winstanley's promotion in conjunction with news that Mike Bryan was leaving Penguin Canada to return to his native England. “In Nicole Winstanley we have an extremely intelligent and instinctive publishing professional who is poised to take Penguin Canada to the next level of success,” he said.
Winstanley, now 38 and the mother of a two year old-son, quickly rose through the ranks. She joined Penguin Canada in 2005 as a senior editor and was named publisher in 2009. During her time with the company, Penguin Canada author Joseph Boyden won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize with his novel Through Black Spruce. Winstanley was instrumental in acquiring rights to Stieg Larsson’s bestselling Millennium Trilogy. And Penguin Canada launched three new imprints including Hamish Hamilton, a literary imprint where she remains publishing director; Allen Lane for non-fiction; and Razorbill dedicated to YA fiction.
Winstanley says she is honored by the appointment and excited about her new role. She will be busy overseeing new parts of the business but plans to remain involved with acquisitions and some editing work. “I do have a really spectacular editorial team that will be doing the bulk of the acquisitions and editorial, working in conjunction with me, but I still have a boutique Hamish Hamilton list that I will work on. You have to stay close to the books,” she says.
Having a Canadian executive team again, after being led by Bryan and before that David Davidar, who returned to his native India, will benefit Penguin Canada by bringing the company closer to Canadian readers and booksellers, Winstanley said. “We just understand the nuances of the market in a different way.” She noted, however, that she is also looking forward to working more closely with Penguin U.S. and Penguin International to shepherd their books into the Canadian market. “Even the Canadian program has books from around the world, like the Stieg Larssons and people like Andrea Levy and Philip Roth, so we know how to bring international writers as well as Canadian writers to readers,” she said.
When asked in what new directions she might take Penguin Canada, Winstanley says “It’s early days,” but in the last year the executive team has focused on growth genres such as commercial fiction, a new sports publishing program led by associate publisher Nick Garrison, the Razorbill launch for YA readers; and its cookery program, which has already produced a bestseller in chef Michael Smith’s latest book.