Susan Kamil, publisher of Random House and a veteran publishing executive whose career spanned more than 40 years, died on Sunday, September 8, from complications from lung cancer. She was 69.
Kamil’s publishing career began in the 1970s working in the Macmillan’s children’s book division. In 1975 she moved to Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, working in the subsidiary rights department and earning a reputation for her skills in negotiating and selling rights. Kamil joined Simon & Schuster in 1979 as subsidiary rights director, eventually becoming a senior editor under S&S president and publisher Joni Evans.
In the late 1980s, Kamil moved to Random House, working as executive editor of Random House, before joining with Evans to launch the Turtle Bay imprint in 1991. Kamil was recruited by Dell/Delacorte publisher Carole Baron in 1993 to revive and lead the Dial Press imprint at Bantam Doubleday Dell. After joining BDD, Kamil remained at its successor companies and eventually at Penguin Random House, for more than 25 years, working in a variety of senior executive publishing positions.
In 2008, Kamil was named editor-in-chief of the Random House imprint, and two years later, she was named executive v-p and publisher of the Random House imprint, with responsibility for all Random House-related imprints (which now include Random House, Dial Press, Spiegel & Grau, One World, and Hogarth).
Over the course of her career, Kamil was credited for recognizing new literary voices and introducing them to the public. Among the authors she has worked with are Salman Rushdie, Annie Barrows, Ruth Reichl, Sting, Elizabeth Strout, and Sophie Kinsella.
Literary agent Andrew Wylie called Kamil "an angel: diligent, passionate, cheerful, thoroughly professional, a delight to deal with." He added: "Oh, she will be missed.” And Robert Gottlieb, chairman of Trident Media Group, said of Kamil: “Her career was amazing and unexpected. Often that is the way it is. She was so talented and a genius."
Zoë Pagnamenta, who has her own agency, called Kamil "the best kind of champion an author or their agent could wish for." Pagnamenta went on: "She was so savvy, smart, engaged, passionate about her work and her team, and altogether excellent.”
Gina Centrello, president and publisher of the Random House Publishing Group called Kamil's death "shattering in so many ways." Centrello said Kamil "was a brilliant editor, who guided her beloved authors through the creative process with the greatest insight, energy, and care" and that "above all, she was a deeply committed, endlessly supportive colleague to all of us—our unwavering, passionate champion.”
Another literary agent who worked with Kamil, Jennifer Joel at ICM Partners, said she thinks of her as the quintessential editor. Joel then offered the following anecdote: "Another agent once called me to ask if I had any advice for her on how to get Susan to stop editing a manuscript. The only true answer I could give was for her author to realize that Susan was undoubtedly correct and to deliver back a draft that not only heeded her suggestions, but exceeded her expectations. Easier said than done (much easier), but the pursuit of Susan’s ambition--to tell stories that make us feel, whether joyous or heartbroken or outraged or compelled, that showed us people and places and ideas we might not have known we needed to understand, that were True, and to tell them earnestly, insistently--is both our reason and our purpose."
Susan Golomb, a literary agent at Writers House who has known Kamil for over two decades, said her absence will be deeply felt in the industry. Calling her "a brilliant publisher, an indefatigable editor and a cheerful advocate," Golomb said many will miss "her generosity and above all her great love. In fact, her capacity for love was so wide and deep it touched everyone who came within her orbit. A great light has been dimmed and publishing will not be the same without her and her example of everything publishing should be."
Details about a memorial service will be announced at a later date.