Bob Miller has started two publishing companies during his career, and his move to Workman Publishing, where he will take over as group publisher May 3, will put him at the helm of one of the most successful independent publishers of the past 50 years. Indeed, Workman Publishing, founded by Peter Workman in 1968, is so highly regarded that if it were ever put up for sale, there would likely be a bidding war.
Miller said that having long admired Peter Workman, the chance to work with him was “absolutely irresistible.” Workman Publishing is noted for its distinctive publishing style and marketing flair, and Miller said that regardless of the publishing model, success in publishing comes down to creativity and relationships. “Peter has been both more consistently creative and more consistent in his ability to sustain relationships than anyone else I know,” Miller said. Miller has such respect for Peter Workman that when PW did a piece several years ago asking publishers to send a valentine to a publisher they admired, Miller “sent” one to Workman.
While Miller's arrival at Workman will help ensure its future, his departure from HarperStudio puts the future of that unit in question. Started two years ago as a test to see if a large publisher could operate under a different business model, HarperStudio has published about 18 books to date and has about 60 in the pipeline. The imprint has had success in attracting authors for a lower advance in exchange for profit sharing and has had three bestsellers. It was less successful in persuading retailers to buy nonreturnable, however, and even the division's strongest supporters acknowledge an imprint doing about 20 titles a year is not in the strongest position to change the entrenched buying habits of its accounts.
HarperStudio—which had four people working at it, including Miller—is now being overseen by Michael Morrison, president and publisher of the U.S. general books group and Canada. HarperStudio associate publisher Debbie Stier said, with Miller leaving, now might be a good time “to take a breath to see what is working and what isn't.” At present, no contracts have been canceled, but Stier said there may be a moratorium on acquiring new books.