For more than three decades, Peachtree has been the publishing home of Margaret Quinlin, who is now stepping down from her position as president and publisher to establish an eponymous imprint. Margaret Quinlin Books rolls out on October 4 with Wombat Said Come In, a picture book written by Carmen Agra Deedy and illustrated by Brian Lies.
Quinlin anticipates that her imprint will release six titles annually, with picture books as its primary focus, along with “selected illustrated books for older readers, both fiction and nonfiction, with themes such as nature, social justice, and community.”
The editor emphasized that her new position is not “dramatically different” from her prior role at Peachtree. “I see my imprint as a distillation of what I have always done at Peachtree,” she said, “including paying close attention to craft, strong storytelling, and strong art.”
Quinlin joined the Atlanta publisher in 1988 as v-p and editorial director, after working in the industry for 15 years in New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. Founded in 1977 by music publisher Helen Elliott, Peachtree morphed from a regional to a national publisher during the following decade.
In 1990, Quinlin purchased a controlling interest in Peachtree from the Elliott family and became the house’s president and publisher. The company was acquired by Trustbridge Global Media, a division of Trustbridge Partners, in 2018.
After Peachtree’s acquisition, Quinlin began contemplating a change of career focus. “At that juncture, a good part of my life at Peachtree was the general running of the company,” she recalled. “I am interested in everything—sales, marketing, editorial, production—even accounting. As a result, I was spread very thin. When we made the transition to Trustbridge, I realized that there was a structure in place that could pick up many things I had previously handled, and I saw the chance for me to spend more time focusing on what I first and foremost love: the words, art, and craft.”
One of Quinlin’s first steps in that direction was acquiring Deedy’s Wombat Said Come In, their first author-editor collaboration in a decade. It was a homecoming of sorts for the two. “Carmen and I have a long publishing history together, and we each came into our own, she as author and I as editor, working in collaboration,” Quinlin noted. “She is such a talented writer and visual thinker, and Brian Lies’s visual storytelling matches the feeling and spirit of her work. I am excited that this is the first book in my imprint.”
The second release from Margaret Quinlin Books reunites the editor with another of her longstanding authors. Due in spring 2023, Lester L. Laminack’s Three Hens, a Peacock, and the Enormous Egg, illustrated by Henry Cole, is a follow-up to this duo’s Three Hens and a Peacock, which Peachtree published in 2011.
The sequel was inspired by a spontaneously drawn image on the endpapers of the first book, showing a crate falling off a truck. “Henry took it upon himself to create this picture, so Lester spent years wondering what was in that crate,” Quinlin explained. “He finally came up with the story, and I am so happy to publish this companion book. Lester is a dear friend and the kindest, most generous person. Oh, and Henry draws the best chickens!”
Celebrating Professional Partnerships
In addition to reviving relationships with authors and illustrators as she launches her imprint, Quinlin welcomes the chance to continue working closely with longtime editorial colleagues, among them Kathy Landwehr and Vicky Holifield, who both arrived at Peachtree in 1990.
V-p and associate publisher Landwehr, who has recently helped steer Peachtree’s transition to using Penguin Random House Publishers Services for its sales and distribution and the company’s conversion from two seasons to three, noted that she is grateful to be concentrating again on editorial development and acquisition.
Landwehr also welcomes the continued expansion of Peachtree’s title output, with this month’s debut of Peachtree Teen and the fall launch of Margaret Quinlin Books. “Margaret has always had outstanding editorial instinct,” Landwehr added. “Even while running Peachtree, she has somehow managed—because she is magic—to acquire and develop wonderful books. It will be exciting to see what happens when she has the opportunity to focus primarily on that.”
Also keen to watch Quinlin’s imprint take shape is Derek Stordahl, executive v-p and general manager of Holiday House Publishing (which Trustbridge acquired in 2018), who oversees the various imprints of Holiday House and Peachtree.
Noting that in the last five years the publishing group he manages has launched multiple imprints (among them Neal Porter Books, Margaret Ferguson Books, and Pixel + Inc at Holiday House; and Peachtree Teen and Margaret Quinlin Books at Peachtree), Stordahl heralded the benefits of the speedy expansion.
“Our growth has given us more opportunities to broaden our publishing program to appeal to more readers’ tastes, and to take advantage of more market opportunities,” Stordahl said. “We’ve seen a significant increase in book awards and starred reviews, and our overall group has more than doubled the size of its frontlist in the past five years.”
And the publisher heartily welcomed Margaret Quinlin Books to the fold, praising its editor’s accomplishments and goals. “Margaret’s imprint will have a very focused list that is deeply tied to the Peachtree aesthetic,” he said. “The books will have an emotional core and a depth of meaning for both older and younger audiences. They will reflect our commitment to high-quality artwork and will appeal to the school and library market as well as the trade. And they will focus on issues that are of great importance to Margaret—and to all of us.”
Quinlin’s aspirations are in clear alignment. “When I create a book, I want it to be the absolutely best book it can be,” she said. “That is the spirit that has always guided me, and it is still a goal for me. I am so happy, with this imprint, to be able to focus on that passion and to gain a greater mastery of the craft.”