Jack Artenstein, formerly group president and publisher at Simon & Schuster and founder of RGA Publishing/Lowell House, died on February 20. He was 83. The news of Artenstein's death was announced by his son, Jeff.
Artenstein was born in Lowell, Mass., and started his career as a greeting card sales manager covering New England before becoming a regional sales manager for the Grosset & Dunlap imprint Wonder Books in 1963. In 1975, Artenstein was named executive v-p of Grosset & Dunlap, and also took over as president of Ace Books, the publisher's mass market division. During his seven years overseeing G&D, Artenstein returned the publisher to profitability, helped in part by the success of the Conan the Barbarian series, which sold over 3 million copies. Other G&D bestsellers published under Artenstein included RN: Memoirs by Richard Nixon, Marilyn by Norman Mailer, The Little Engine that Could, and The Pritikin Program for Diet and Exercise.
Also during his time at G&D, leaning on his greeting card background, Artenstein adapted the Hallmark retail concept to book publishing. After seven months, G&D’s Exclusive Inventory System (ICS) had made its way into 30 department stores around the country—effectively taking over the entire book department sections of those stores in the way Hallmark had taken over the greeting card sections.
In 1979, Simon & Schuster CEO Dick Snyder offered Artenstein the post of either overseeing adult trade paperbacks or the launch of a new juvenile books division. Artenstein said he would move to the company if he he could run both, and joined S&S in January of 1980. During his four-year association with S&S, Artenstein directed one of the most successful startups in children's publishing, which featured paperback editions of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series and the bestselling Chubby board book series created by Artenstein. Under his direction, S&S also acquired book rights to E.T.: The Extraterrestrial prior to the hit movie’s release; the tie-in series would go on sell more than 3 million copies.
While overseeing adult trade paperback publishing, Artenstein oversaw the publication of a host of in-house-created titles, including bestsellers such as The MBA Handbook and J.K. Lasser’s Your Income Tax.
In 1984, Artenstein left corporate publishing to start his own publishing house, RGA Publishing, in Los Angeles. He started with two divisions—a literary agency and a packaging house—before adding Lowell House, a publisher with a focus on self-help, health, and parenting. Among the company's hits were a children’s book, It’s OK to Say No!, designed to educate children about molestation, which sold 7 million copies in just over a year.
Artenstein was chosen by The Executive magazine as one of California’s 100 outstanding leaders in 1986, as well as one of the state’s top 10 executives in the field of media and advertising. Artenstein also served as a member of the executive committee of the Association of American Publishers.
Artenstein retired shortly after RGA/Lowell House was acquired by NTC/Contemporary Publishing Group and Tribune Education Company in 1998. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, and their children and grandchildren.