Paul Bogaards, who helped promote many of Knopf’s best known and most successful authors, will leave at the end of the year after 32 years at the Penguin Random House imprint. Bogaards said he felt the time was right to leave after helping Reagan Arthur settle in as the successor to Sonny Mehta, who died in late 2019.
“I’ve been a company man my whole life, and a happy one at that. I have loved every aspect of the work, right down to my sometimes tussles with reporters. But after thirty-two years in the saddle, your priorities change,” Bogaards said. “Time, and how you spend it, becomes the priority. I am going to continue doing the work I’ve always done, just a little less of it, and on my terms.”
In a memo to employees, Arthur, executive v-p and publisher at Knopf, noted that Bogaard has had an “unparalleled impact on scores of bestselling and now-classic books.” She noted that his “passion, creativity, and savvy media instincts have not only burnished the Knopf ethos but also shaped the reading and bookselling world at large. “
During his career Bogaards, worked on books by Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winners, celebrities, debut novelists, politicians, and chefs. The list of authors cited by Arthur includes Andre Agassi, Lidia Bastianich, Ken Burns, Robert Caro, Julia Child, President Bill Clinton, Michael Crichton, Joan Didion, Bret Easton Ellis, Nora Ephron, Bill Gates, Katharine Graham, Yaa Gyasi, Tom Hanks, Kazuo Ishiguro, E. L. James, Stieg Larsson, Cormac McCarthy, Toni Morrison, Jo Nesbø, B.J. Novak, Anne Rice, Sheryl Sandberg, Sonia Sotomayor, Donna Tartt, John Updike, and Anne Tyler, among many others.
In his own note to Knopf employees, Bogaards, who is currently executive v-p and deputy publisher at Knopf, recalled being invited for a drink by then Knopf head Sonny Mehta just days after being fired from his first job and weeks away from his wedding. After a different sort of interview at the New York City restaurant Chin Chin, Mehta asked Bogaards to join Knopf.
One of the industry’s more outspoken personalities, with what Arthur called a “wicked wit,” Bogaards was deeply appreciated by the authors he worked with. “He always looks to be on the verge of waywardness, but in fact is able at will to be the consummate diplomat, the raiser of drooping spirits, the decisive leader in a crisis,” Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro said. “For this author, Paul Bogaards has been for the past 32 years a warm loyal friend, a hugely reassuring figure when things grew bewildering or alarming—and a constantly tough taskmaster! I believe his passion and dedication, his readiness to do the unconventional or adventurous thing, his somewhat bizarre sense of humour, has all made a massive impact on the culture of Knopf over these decades. I wish the hugely talented ‘Bogie’ the very best for the future and look forward to seeing which planet he’ll next invade.”
Author Robert Caro also remembered his time with Bogaards fondly. “Thirty years ago, Paul Bogaards, then a brand-new young publicist, was assigned to make my book, Means of Ascent, known to readers. From that day to this very last week, with the opening of an exhibit of my work at the New-York Historical Society, Paul has taken the responsibility of getting my work before the public, and he has done it with a real gift, a rare talent, for that work. I can today without effort think of scores of ways in which he has helped me over the years, and today I am grateful for all of them.”
Bogaards, who had been working remotely from his home in upstate New York, told colleagues that, while he is stepping away from his full-time job, he plans to keep his hand in the industry. “If you’re wondering about what’s next for yours truly, it’s not farming. It’s more of what I’ve been doing, just a little less of it. I’ve always been tempted to hang out a consulting shingle and feel now is time to do so (while I’m still young in Knopf years!) Also: agents keep asking me about that book I’m working on (maybe I’ll have time for that too). All as a way of saying, I may be leaving the room, but I am not exiting the stage, and I hope some of us will be working together down the road.”
He added: “In the meantime, thank you for putting up with me, and with immense gratitude to all of you.”