Michael Rockliff, a longtime marketing and sales executive at publishing houses including Random House and Workman Publishing died on July 28. Rockliff was a beloved figure in the publishing and library communities, where he forged deep, lifelong friendships,and was well-known as an ardent champion of books, authors, and reading. He was 76 years old.
Rockliff spent the bulk of his career at Random House, which he joined in 1968 and left in 2006.
In a remembrance shared with PW, PRH officials recalled that Rockliff began his career when Bennett Cerf was running the company with Donald Klopfer from the Villard Houses on Madison Avenue, and went on to mentor multiple generations of salespeople.
"At sales conferences, Rockliff could be counted on to discuss, with equal passion to the pitches for imminent bestsellers, a book on displaced European Jews or a biography of an obscure but pathfinding musician. Over time, his colleagues began referring to these volumes—many of which went on to win prizes—as 'Mike Books.' One of his many in-house admirers affectionately recalled him as 'a bit of an institution,' noting 'there were a fair number of titles we published I’m pretty sure, other than the editor, copy editor, and publicist, no one else among us read, other than Mike.'
Editor's Note: Count me as among one of Michael's many admirers. In 2013, my friend and former colleague Heather McCormack called Rockliff a "super mensch," which is absolutely accurate. In the coming days, we will be assembling a more fitting memorial for Michael, and anyone who wishes to share a remembrance or a photo is encouraged to get in touch with me.
Services for Rockliff were held on Sunday, August 1. In lieu of flowers, the Rockliff family has requested donations to the Musician's Foundation be made in Rockliff's name.