The list that follows represents a choice, inevitably subjective and idiosyncratic, of some of the men and women who have been most influential in the development of the American book business over the past century and a quarter. The majority of the names are of people no longer living, or active, for we wanted to emphasize the important historical figures in this anniversary history. To avoid the natural temptation to focus too exclusively on the names of today, the criterion for inclusion in our pantheon is that a person must have been in an influential position, helping to shape the business, for a good part of the past 25 years.
The listing is in alphabetical order, embracing publishers, editors, book-sellers, wholesalers and agents—but not authors.
Harry N. Abrams (1904-1979) was a pioneer in American art publishing and creator of the house that still bears his name. He was an innovator in inexpensive editions of great artists' works, and opened up the world of international co-publishing. He ultimately sold the company to Times Mirror and in 1977 founded Abbeville, still run by his son Robert.
Irwyn Applebaum, as head of two major paperback publishers in the past 10 years, has done as much as anyone to shape the current profile of paper¬back publishing, and more recently of hardcovers too. Beginning at Bantam in the mid-1970s, he rose through the ranks until he left to head Pocket Books in 1985. He built it into the best¬selling paperback house in the U.S. before returning to head his old company in 1992. One of his particular skills has been building paperback genre authors into major hardcover bestsellers.
Stuart Applebaum, Irwyn's brother, comprises the other half of the only such top-level fraternal team currently in publishing. Beginning as a publicist at Bantam in 1974, Stuart is now the undisputed king of his profession as senior v-p and director of corporate public relations for Bantam Doubleday Dell. Formidably well-informed, infinitely quotable, sometimes portentous in tone but never without humor, Applebaum is a treasured Deep Throat of publishing to all who cover the industry.
Ian Ballantine (1916-1995) was one of the prime creators of American paperback publishing, beginning with his introduction of Britain's Penguins into the U.S. in 1939. After WWII he was one of the founders of Bantam Books, and in 1952 with his wife, Betty (who is still active in publishing with their son Richard), launched the company that bears his name, doing much science fiction, and many notable environmental books. Ian was particularly noted for his whimsical nature and his abiding love of the retailing end of the business; he spent much of his time in the field. After selling the company to Random, the Ballantines became editor-packagers, working again for Bantam and others.
Carole Baron had worked in her time for half-a-dozen publishers before being named to head Dell in 1987, where she has displayed a strong commercial sense as long-time publisher of Danielle Steel and the buyer of such a trendy and successful book as The Horse Whisperer. After early positions at Dutton and Holt, she became editor¬in-chief of Pocket Books (where she bought John Irving's Garp), then moved to the same position at Crown in 1979, where her authors included Judith Krantz and Jean Auel.
Curtis Benjamin (1901-1983) began as a salesman at McGraw-Hill and in his 40 years there built the company into a major world force, with operations around the globe. He was also a notable public spokesman for American publishing (particularly in its role in making available government material), a major authority on copyright and the first recipient of the publishing award for editorial excellence that bears his name.
Robert Bernstein took over Random House from Bennett Cerf in 1966 and built it, under RCA ownership, from then until his retirement in 1989, from a $40 million company into the largest American trade house, with $800 million in annual sales, many hardcover and paperback imprints, and a major outpost in London. Ever an active crusader for human rights, Bernstein published notable Chinese and Russian dissidents, and later became a consultant and imprint editor for John Wiley.
Albert Boni (1892-1981) was an innovative publisher who was in on the founding of two lines that eventually became major publishing institutions. The Little Leather Library, which he founded with his brother Charles and Harry Scherman, evolved into the Book-of-the-Month Club, and the Modern Library, which he founded as a partner in Boni & Liveright, became the basis for Random House when it was sold in 1923. As publisher, with Liveright and later with Charles, Boni introduced such writers as Theodore Dreiser, Ford Madox Ford, Thornton Wilder, Marcel Proust and Will Rogers to American readers.
Richard Rogers Bowker (1848-1933) was not only our founding father—the first editor of both PW (from 1884) and Library Journal (from 1876)—but was also a founder of the American Library Association, a successful campaigner (with Major George Putnam) for international copyright protection, the author of several books and a significant political figure of his time (as the first "Mugwump").
George Braziller is still active at his eponymous firm, once described as "the most independent of the independent publishers." He has always gone his own way, even if his company has never grossed more than $2 million a year. His list is a blend of beautifully produced art and architecture titles and literary fiction, usually by overseas authors.
Cass Canfield (1897-1986), a significant figure at Harper & Brothers and later Harper & Row for nearly 60 years, as president and later chairman, brought the house from near-bankruptcy to a major position among American publishers. As both publisher and editor, his friendships with many noted writers and prominent people brought in such authors as J.B. Priestley, John Gunther, Henry Steele Commager, Eleanor Roosevelt, E.B. White, James Thurber, Allen Dulles, John F. Kennedy and Adlai Stevenson.
Bennett Cerf (1898-1971), perhaps the publisher best known to the American public at large through his TV appearances (on What's My Line?), regular book column and the many joke books he edited, was a co-founder (with Donald Klopfer) of Random House, based on the purchase of Modern Library from his then employer, the ever financially strapped Horace Liveright, in 1923. He ran Random for 50 years, adding many major authors, including James Michener, William Faulkner, Isak Dinesen, Sinclair Lewis, W.H. Auden and Gertrude Stein. It was under his leadership that the successful court case was fought that allowed publication here of James Joyce's Ulysses.
Hayward Cirker helped create the trade paperback revolution with his first Dover Publications titles in 1951 (though he had been publishing, mostly scholarly remainders of math and science titles, since 1943). His books, well made and sold non-returnable at remarkably low prices through book-stores as well as via a huge mail-order operation, comprise thousands of titles in the sciences, music and art, as well as many source books, clip art collections and the like.
Robert F. de Graff (1895-1983) pioneered the American mass market paperback when he joined with the partners at Simon & Schuster to launch Pocket Books in 1938 with a list of 10 titles, sold in an entirely new way—through independent magazine wholesalers who made them widely available in non-bookstore outlets.
Nelson Doubleday (1889-1949) was the son of an illustrious father, Frank Nelson Doubleday, who in 1897 created the publishing house and bookstore chain that bears the family name. Nelson, however, vastly expanded on these beginnings, experimenting with new methods of book production and distribution that hugely enlarged the book market. He bought the Literary Guild and developed many other book clubs, initiated many low-priced popular editions for a mass market, and expanded into Canada.
Oscar Dystel, who came from a magazine background, created, in his 25 years at the head of Bantam Books from the mid-'50s to 1980 the model of a big, successful mass market house, setting new standards in terms of design, promotion and distribution—and sales—pioneering in hardcover publishing from such a source, and doing some notable "instant" books on important issues of the day.
Kurt Enoch (1896-1982) was a paperback innovator in his native Germany before fleeing Hitler in 1936. He helped Ian Ballantine initiate Penguin in this country, became its president, and then, with Victor Weybright, launched New American Library of World Literature in 1947, publishing a wide range of contemporary and classic titles under its NAL, Signet and Mentor imprints; he also pioneered in overseas distribution of U.S. paperbacks.
Jason Epstein, in his 46 years as an editor (he is now editorial director at Random House) launched Anchor Books, the first widely distributed trade paperback line, while at Doubleday in the 1950s; was one of the founders of the New York Review of Books; later founded the Library of America for scholarly editions of classic works; and still later created The Readers' Catalog, a massive compilation of annotated titles intended for browsers and book-sellers. He is also the editor of such major authors as Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer and E.L. Doctorow.
Albert Erskine (1912-1993), a long-time (40 years) editor at Random House, was known for his careful line editing, and for the passionate attachment his noted roster of authors, including William Faulkner, James Michener, John O'Hara, Robert Penn Warren and Eudora Welty, among many others, felt for him. He also encouraged then lesser-known writers such as Ralph Ellison, Malcolm Lowry and Cormac McCarthy.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, as poet, publisher and bookstore proprietor, has been a major force in San Francisco's literary scene for nearly 50 years. His City Lights publishing company did Allen Ginsberg's seminal Howl, and his all-paperback bookstore of the same name is a mecca for lovers of poetry and the avant-garde, an indestructible independent.
John C. Farrar (1896-1974) began as a literary journalist and went on to launch two publishing houses, though his name survives only in the one that became, after several changes, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In 1929 he partnered with Stanley Rinehart in a firm that did Stephen Vincent Benet's epic John Brown's Body and later Hervey Allen's big bestseller, Anthony Adverse. After WWII he joined with Roger Straus Jr. for Farrar, Straus & Co. A man of literary tastes who also had a common touch, Farrar's authors included, at one time or another, T.S. Eliot, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Flannery O'Connor, Edmund Wilson and Bernard Malamud.
Erwin Glikes (1937-1994) was a noted publisher of nonfiction, with a remarkable gift for making scholarly, sometimes controversially conservative, books into strong sellers. He was president and publisher of Basic Books for 10 years, then headed The Free Press at Simon & Schuster during its best years. When he died he had just joined Penguin to head a new imprint there.
Robert Gottlieb, whose leadership of Knopf for nearly 20 years helped consolidate its position as one of the leading quality imprints in contemporary publishing, went on to become editor of the New Yorker before being unseated by Tina Brown. He is widely regarded as one of the most effective, if unobtrusive, of literary editors and some of his Knopf writers, like John le Carre, are still edited by him.
Phyllis Grann, who began as a secretary and worked her way up to become the most powerful woman in publishing, now heads American operations of the Penguin Putnam Group, after having led the Putnam Group successfully, through several changes of ownership, for 10 years. She has what is seen as an infallible instinct for commercial fiction, and among the bestselling authors she has personally edited have been Dick Francis, Robin Cook, Art Buchwald, Lawrence Sanders, Dean Koontz, Joe McGinniss and Elizabeth Taylor.
Harold Guinzburg (1899-1961) was a co-founder of Viking in 1925 and led it until his death. Along the way it acquired the distinguished lists of B.W. Heubsch and later of Covici-Friede. bringing aboard such major figures as John Steinbeck. Guinzburg was also one of the instigators of the Literary Guild, and the series of Viking Portables he launched in 1943 did much to revive the fortunes of such major American writers as F. Scott Fitzgerald and William Faulkner.
Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1889-1951) created one of the great publish-ing sensations of the inter-war years, the Little Blue Books. Published out of Kansas, these sold at first for a nickel, later a dime, largely by mail order, and embraced more than 2000 titles, covering a wide range of literature, history, philosophy and self-help. It was estimated that some 300 million copies were sold before the mass market format took over the market. Haldeman-Julius himself was also an author, of often radical, muck-raking bent.
Bill Henderson was one of the first, and certainly most vocal, of the generation of small independent publishers that grew up in the early 1970s. His Pushcart Press did an early, seminal how-to book on self-publishing; publishes an admired annual anthology of the best work from small presses; and gives an annual prize (and publication) to a worthy manuscript, fiction or non-fiction, that has been rejected by big commercial publishers (bestselling Rick Moody was such a discovery).
Jack Hoeft, as an ace marketing executive, initially at Pepsi-Cola and then at Harlequin, joined Bantam in 1981 and helped build it, and later Bantam Doubleday Dell, through the 1980s, then became its chief executive at the end of the decade. He has led the group through many successful years, including the recent addition of Broadway Books as a new division, and become in the process one of U.S. publishing's senior spokesmen, as well as one of its best-liked personalities.
Harry Hoffman helped Ingram Book Co. become the largest book wholesaler in the land, raising its sales in his nine years there from $3 million to more than $80 million, and then, as head of Waldenbooks, launched the book retailing revolution that put more than 1300 Walden stores into shopping malls across the country beginning in 1979, and building it into a billion-dollar business. Having made his mark as a visionary book marketer, he retired at 63 to go sailing.
Henry Holt (1840-1926) established the firm that (after various changes) still bears his name in 1873, after an association with Frederick Leypoldt that created what became Publishers Weekly at around the same time. Holt, regarded in his day as the dean of American publishers, was an author himself and a man of wide-ranging tastes, and his firm's titles included not only bestsellers like The Prisoner of Zenda but classic works on science by William James, on philosophy by Henri Bergson and notable European books like Romain Rolland's Jean Christophe. It also published early poetry by Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg and Walter de la Mare.
Lawrence Hughes bought William Morrow with two partners in 1959, sold it to Scott, Foresman in 1967, which in turn sold it to Hearst in 1981. Throughout, Hughes continued to run the company as one of the last of the great editor-managers, acquiring and editing a string of major authors, training a generation of editors and being one of the more eloquent, and popular, spokesmen for the book business in the process. He retired in 1990.
Morton L. Janklow was the first to become as famous—as a high-powered literary agent who began as a corporate lawyer—as any of his stellar clients, who include the likes of Sidney Sheldon, Danielle Steel, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Judith Krantz, Thomas Harris and Jackie Collins, as well as graver writers like William Safire and Richard Rhodes. Noted for the high advances his authors command (his $3.2 million for paperback rights for Princess Daisy is still a record), he linked up in 1988 with ICM's Lynn Nesbit to form the most dazzling blue-chip author list in the business.
William Jovanovich, in his 36 years at the helm of what he ultimately called Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, built an $8 million company in 1954 to a $1.3 billion educational and trade giant at the time of his resignation in 1990. The house had an exceptional literary list, including T.S. Eliot, Mary McCarthy, George Orwell and E.M. Forster, and also published the distinguished foreign list of Helen and Kurt Wolff. Unhappily, in his successful effort to fight off a hostile takeover by Britain's late Robert Maxwell, he plunged the company into a debt it could not ultimately repay, and Harcourt is now a much-shrunk version of its former self.
Laurence Kirshbaum came out of the sales side at Warner Books, then a mass market paperback house, and in 20 years of steady advance—he is now chairman of the Time Warner Trade Group—has always shown an infallible marketing sense and instinct for the public pulse, putting his company's titles continually, and often surprisingly, at the head of bestseller lists, no matter how the critics may sneer. Madonna's Sex, the GWTW sequel Scarlett, The Bridges of Madison County and, more recently, The Rules have all apparently broken them, but won anyway. Kirshbaum has even nurtured a midlist and in Mysterious Press has fostered one of the top mystery lines.
Donald Klopfer (1902-1986) was the much quieter half (with Bennett Cerf) of the pair who ran Random House for its first 40 years of growing success. Cerf used to say that while he handled editorial and promotion, Klopfer looked after the business side. Quiet, avuncular and a bookman to his fingertips, Klopfer once told PW: "You publish because it's fun; if it's not that, it's nothing."
Alfred Knopf (1892-1984) was once described by H.L. Mencken as "the perfect publisher," a man who published by betting on his enthusiasms, and producing from them beautifully made books. He created his company in 1915 jointly with his wife, Blanche, who suffered, as women did at the time, from the lack of recognition for her gender in the book world. Together they were a remarkable team, commanding, cosmopolitan and formidably well read. They scoured the world for authors and came up with an astounding list of Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners, including, among many others, Thomas Mann, Albert Camus, Franz Kafka, Katherine Mansfield, Max Beerbohm, Andre Gide, John Hersey, Jorge Amado, John Updike, Simone de Beauvoir, Muriel Spark, Ilya Ehrenburg, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
Michael Korda, nearly 40 years at Simon & Schuster, 30 of them as editor-in-chief, is certainly the most glamorous editor of his day, with his largerthan-life movie forebears, his own string of often successful, always highly readable books (from Power! through Charmed Lives, Queenie and now a book about his own prostate cancer, Man to Man). Widely regarded as one of the smartest line editors and manuscript doctors around, he has also been the editor of choice for a range of significant and successful authors from Joan Didion and Graham Greene to Mary Higgins Clark, Harold Robbins and Clive Cussler.
Carl Kroch, once described by Alfred Knopf as "the giant of bookselling in the twentieth century," certainly did more for books in his native Chicago than any other living man. From the time he launched Kroch's Bookstores at the age of 21, to his amalgamation with Brentano's to form the admired Kroch's and Brentano's, to the turning over of the chain to its employees and its eventual dissolution in the face of superstore competition in the '90s, his was an epochal bookseller story.
James Laughlin is perhaps the supreme example in publishing of great wealth turned to the publication and support of great writers. Ever since, as a young undergraduate and heir to a huge steel fortune, he spent time with Ezra Pound in Italy, Laughlin wanted to help bring notable work to the public's attention. His New Directions, founded in 1936 and still going strong, has a list of writers published and/or discovered that is a 20th-century pantheon: Pound himself, William Carlos Williams, Vladimir Nabokov, Dylan Thomas, Garcia Lorca, Rilke, Levertov, Ferlinghetti, Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles. His idea was that the quality of the readership mattered more than its size.
Seymour (Sam) Lawrence (1928-1994) began in publishing convention-ally enough, as an editor at Atlantic Monthly Press and later at Knopf, before launching his own imprint—one of the first to do so—in 1964. Publishing in turn through Dell/Delacorte, Dutton and finally Houghton Mifflin, he amassed an extraordinary stable of writers who stuck with him loyally in what was essentially a mutual admiration society. They included Kurt Vonnegut, Robert B. Parker, Katherine Ann Porter, Tim O'Brien, Jayne Ann Phillips and William Kotzwinkle, and he also discovered or published at one time or another J.P. Donleavy, Edwin O'Connor, Rick Bass, Richard Yates, Barry Hannah, Dan Wakefield, Tillie Olsen, Thomas McGuane and Frank Conroy. "If I have any publishing philosophy," he once told PW, "it is based on the long view that quality endures."
Albert Rice Leventhal (1907-1976) not only conceived the Little Golden Books that revolutionized children's publishing when they were launched in 1942, and Golden's bestselling dictionary, nature guides and encyclopedias, but served as a mentor for many people at Simon & Schuster during his 25 years there who eventually made their own names in publishing, including Robert Bernstein and Robert Gottlieb. He is also credited with having launched, at his Vineyard Books, the first-ever all-color American art book, the 1958 American Treasury of Art Masterpieces.
Frederick Leypoldt (1835-1884) was associated with Henry Holt and Richard Rogers Bowker in the creation of what was to become Publishers Weekly, as well as its sister publication Library Journal a few years later. He was also the first to attempt a systematic annual bibliography of books published in this country, in the form of The American Catalogue, first published in 1880-81, a publication that later evolved into Bowker's Books in Print.
Horace Liveright (1884-1933) was, along with Alfred Knopf, one of the truly innovative publishers of the 1920s who, first with Alfred Boni as partner, later on his own, successfully published several of the writers who were helping to create a new American literature. These included Theodore Dreiser, Ernest Hemingway, Eugene O'Neill, Sherwood Anderson, Emil Ludwig, Robinson Jeffers and Ben Hecht, and he also enjoyed remarkable success with the works of Hendrik van Loon. Liveright was an inveterate gambler who often spent more on his authors than they earned, turned his publishing house into a perpetual party, and lost a for-tune trying to become a Broadway and later Hollywood producer.
Esther Margolis scored two firsts: she was the most innovative—and most senior—publicity director, at a time when that role was becoming increasingly important (she worked in that role at Bantam from 1965-1981); and 15 years ago she was the first woman to launch her own general trade house in New York, Newmarket Press, doing a range of fiction and nonfiction, and with a special interest in movie tie-in volumes and movie-associated publications.
Peter Mayer, who helped transform two paperback publishing houses, Avon and Pocket Books, and went on to put his stamp on the worldwide empire of Penguin Books—integrating it more thoroughly with Viking in the process—left suddenly at the summit of his power (and before Penguin's merger with Putnam) to head a small family firm, Overlook, that he had started with his father many years ago. One of the few editorially driven heads of houses left, Mayer is the essence of the international bookman, constantly roaming the world centers of publishing, book fairs, writers' gatherings, still signing up authors and even editing their books.
Thomas McCormack is one of the great contrarians of publishing, who believed, against the publishing grain, in volume at all costs. He succeeded spectacularly at St. Martin's Press, turning it in his 26 years there from an insignificant trade house on the brink of bankruptcy to a quarter-billion-dollar powerhouse with one of the most extensive lists in the business. A skilled editor himself, he also wrote a book on the subject, and edited several of the house's top authors, including James Herriot, Thomas Harris, M.M. Kaye and Morris West. He retired this year to become, characteristically, a playwright.
Frederic Me!cher (1879-1963) was for more than 40 years one of the key figures in the book business, as editor of PW, later head of the R.R. Bowker Co., in which capacity he vastly increased its bibliographic publications program, and an active officer in both the publishers' and booksellers' national associations, ever zealous in such issues as copyright reform, freedom to read and the struggle against censorship in all its forms. He also invigorated the children's book business with his creation of the influential Newbery and Caldecott awards.
Scott Meredith (1924-1993) was perhaps the most influential literary agent of his time, one who created such ploys (now long standard in the business) as multiple submissions to publishers and book auctions. Coming from the magazine world, where he had been a prolific writer of potboilers, he scorned the quieter, more gentlemanly approach that had characterized book publishing, and freely admitted that money was all that mattered. He was agent for some significant writers, including most notably Norman Mailer and P.G. Wodehouse, but owed much of his considerable wealth to his elaborate and heavily promoted fee-reading program, a practice frowned on by most agents.
Joyce Meskis, perhaps more than any other currently active bookseller, has come to represent the spirit of independent bookselling at its strongest. As the owner and head of Denver's huge—and hugely influential—Tattered Cover, she has for 20 years set a pattern for size, congeniality and depth of stock that was certainly the model for the superstores that have become legion in the '90s, but with a level of personal service they have so far been unable to match.
Helen Meyer began as a clerk for George Delacorte at the firm that bore his name in 1924 and became president of Dell Publishing, its paperback arm, 20 years later—the first woman ever to head an American publishing firm (and still one of the very few to do so). She continued to run the combined companies (which later added Dial Press) with success for more than 30 years, then supervised their sale to Doubleday. She retired in 1978 but remained a consultant, and continued to handle the rights of one of her top authors, James Clavell, for many years.
Ursula Nordstrom (1910-1988) was for her 43 years at Harper & Row, as editor then publisher of the children's book department, later still with her own imprint, the doyenne of children's editors. It was Nordstrom who was largely responsible for bringing children's books from their moralistic past into a present where they connected with children's real hopes and fears. She edited E.B. White's first children's book, Stuart Little, in 1945, and her authors also included Margaret Wise Brown, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Tomi Ungerer, Charlotte Zolotow, Shel Silverstein, Ezra Jack Keats, Russell Hoban, Maurice Sendak and M.E. Kerr.
William Warder Norton (1891-1945) created the house that still bears his name (and his slogan, "Books That Will Live") in 1924, as a publisher that would offer serious but nonacademic nonfiction, starting with such authors as John Dewey, G. Lowes Dickinson and Bertrand Russell, and creating a huge sales success with Mathematics for the Millions. He skillfully created a marketing plan that combined retail sales and sales into college and school markets. He was a prime mover in, and later head of, the Council for Books in Wartime, and was instrumental in launching the Armed Services Editions that did so much to create a postwar market for mass market paperbacks.
Maxwell Perkins (1884-1947) is possibly the only editor whose name is as familiar as that of a famous author, a man whose writers, and his work on their behalf, made him a sort of icon of editorial verve and sagacity. As the director of the editorial department at Charles Scribner's Sons during its golden interwar years, he discovered and developed F. Scott Fitzgerald, was Ernest Hemingway's editor through his best years, and helped create bestselling books (Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River) out of the mountains of manuscripts Thomas Wolfe gave him. Perkins, who wanted to encourage the best in American writing at a time when European models were more fashionable, also was instrumental in the careers of S.S. Van Dine, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Conrad Aiken, Marcia Davenport and Taylor Caldwell, among many others.
Philip Pfeffer rose through the executive ranks at Ingram, beginning in the mid-1970s, to become a major architect of its expansion into the nation's largest and most powerful book distribution operation. Then he took early retirement and moved to Random House as president and chief operating officer, with a mandate to help the biggest trade publisher grow even more.
Leonard Riggio began small, with a student bookstore at New York University (where he went to night school), developed a small chain of campus stores, then in 1971 bought the Barnes & Noble store on New York's Fifth Avenue. Dedicating himself to customer service, he concentrated on depth of stock and began, with his Sale Annex, the selective discounting of bestsellers, the seating and the checkout-style counters now widely imitated. In 1986 he bought the B. Dalton chain of 800 mall stores from Dayton Hudson and began a major expansion; since 1991 this has consisted largely in the creation of hundreds of new superstores, emphasizing size, amenities and depth of stock. B&N also has its own sizable publishing operation, offers a wide range of discounts and is a powerful presence in Internet bookselling; by any standard it is the biggest and most powerful player in book retailing.
Jack Romanos has had a 30-year publishing career that began in a sales position at Fawcett and has embraced the leadership of Bantam (in 1981), Pocket Books (in 1985) and since 1991 has included running Simon & Schuster's consumer publishing group, covering all its trade activities. He is known as a particularly effective marketer, and a keen student of industry trends.
Arthur Rosenthal founded Basic Books in 1953 to publish scholarly works that deserved long life and a wide audience, and sold it as a going concern to Harper & Row in 1969. He went on to become a highly successful scholarly publisher, as director of Harvard University Press for 17 years, where his authors included Leon Edel, Eudora Welty and Stephen Jay Gould. Rosenthal was also credited with having pioneered the creation of specialized professional book clubs with the Readers Subscription Club, the Library of Science and the Behavioral Book Club.
Barney Rosset was the often iconoclastic founder of Grove Press in 1952, making it synonymous with avant-garde publishing (he was an early enthusiast of Samuel Beckett and William Burroughs, for instance) and for fighting needed censorship battles. His costly struggle for D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover pitted him against the U.S. Postal Service and resulted in a court victory that considerably liberalized what could be published; he did the same for Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. Rosset later sold his press to an operation headed by Ann Getty and George Weidenfeld and was forced out, although he remains active with Blue Moon Books and Foxrock.
George Scheer Jr. (1918-1996) was the quintessential book sales rep, a position implicit in his portrayal in a long New Yorker profile in 1973 that eventually became a book. He began as a salesman for the University of North Carolina Press and formed George Scheer Associates, a commission group, in 1945. They covered the Southern territory for a number of publishers, with Scheer remaining on the road until his retirement only three years before his death. He was also a published historian, literary agent and consultant—in whatever he had of his spare time.
Andre Schiffrin is the son of another notable publisher, Jacques Schiffrin, who fled to the U.S. in 1940 after the Nazis invaded his native France and joined Helen and Kurt Wolff at Pantheon Books. After helping to establish a notable, European-oriented list that included Albert Camus, Gunter Grass and Boris Pasternak, Jacques died in 1950. Andre came to work for the imprint 12 years later, shortly after it was acquired by Random House. It became a major literary and political imprint, publishing the likes of Gunnar Myrdal, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Noam Chomsky, Ralph Nader, Anita Brookner, Fay Weldon and Studs Terkel. Schiffrin quit in 1990 in a dispute with Random management and launched the New Press, where he succeeded in getting major funding to publish similar material.
Charles Scribner (1890-1952) and Charles Scribner Jr. (1921-1994) between them ran the family firm that bore their name, founded in 1846, for more than 50 years. Scribner senior joined the company in 1926 and became president in 1932; he was particularly attentive to the stable of rising young American authors brought in by editor Maxwell Perkins, and built strong religion and children's departments, while ensuring the preservation of the company's traditionally strong backlist. Scribner Jr. succeeded in 1952 and ran the company until after it was acquired by Macmillan (and later S&S) in 1984. He was of an academic bent—at one time he also led Princeton University Press—and, seeking to turn the house away from too great a reliance on fiction, launched a strong reference pro-gram; he was also Hemingway's last editor.
Richard Simon (1899-1961) & Max Schuster (1897-1971) together launched the firm that still bears their names in 1924, with $4000 between them, no authors and no books except a crossword puzzle title. This, and its successors, proved so hugely popular, however, that the young firm was soon prospering, on the basis of how-to books, popular history (Will Durant's Story of Philosophy was a huge best-seller) and such novelties as Ripley's Believe It or Not titles and Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Both were skilled promoters, and the concept of book returns, in which they promised to take back from booksellers any book of theirs that did not sell, was theirs, in about 1936.
G. Roysce Smith (1924-1991), a former bookseller, was Bernie Rath's predecessor as executive director of the ABA, and ran it for 12 years until his retirement in 1984. During that time its membership doubled, it launched American Bookseller magazine and ABA Newswire, initiated its Bookseller Schools, and its annual trade show became one of the largest in the land.
Mildred Smith (1892?-1973) was one of our own, a staff member from 1920, co-editor with Frederic Melcher for many years beginning in 1943, and editor-in-chief from 1962 until her retirement five years later. She led PW through some of its most significant changes, greatly expanding the book-selling coverage, developing the People section and improving the Forecasts from a single page of blurb-like material to the beginnings of a reviewing facility that currently covers over 6000 books a year.
Richard Snyder is a publishing legend in his own time, who in his 33 years at Simon & Schuster built a medium-sized trade house into a $2 billion industry giant, the biggest publisher in the U.S., before being abruptly dismissed by Viacom, its new owners. He then went on to buy, and is now working to rebuild, a badly damaged Western Publishing. In his S&S years, the hard-driving Snyder established a highly competitive corporate culture that brought the company many big books and authors, and expanded it with such colossal acquisitions as those of Prentice-Hall and Macmillan, along with a host of smaller ones.
Roger Straus Jr. may no longer be the last of the literary independents in New York—Farrar, Straus & Giroux is now part of the Von Holtzbrinck group—but it is still a house that prides itself on its discoveries, its strong list of translated authors and the impressive roster of awards, especially Nobel Prizes, its stars attract. Straus is a living link to a more urbane and cosmopolitan publishing past, and his house, helped immeasurably by the loyalty of such bestselling authors as Tom Wolfe and Scott Turow, as well as by its disinclination to pay extravagant sums up front, continues to epitomize quality publishing in a way few others do.
Nan Talese is perhaps the prime example today of an editor with her own imprint whose books combine literary and commercial qualities. After an editorial career at Random and Simon & Schuster, she rose at Houghton Mifflin during the 1980s to publisher and editor-in-chief of trade books. She moved to Doubleday in 1988 and has headed her own imprint there since 1990; it publishes such authors as Pat Conroy and Margaret Atwood.
Samuel S. Vaughan spent 33 years of his publishing life at Doubleday, nearly half of them as president and publisher—but always as an editor—then went on to Random House as a roving editor in the trade division after he took early retirement from Doubleday in 1986. Vaughan had a passion for publishing education, conducted courses on it, wrote eloquently on it and helped launch it as a cause at the AAP. His authors over the years have included Dwight Eisenhower, Arthur Hailey, William S. Buckley, Bruce Catton, Stephen King, Alistair MacLean, Irving Stone, Gay Talese and Leon Uris.
Alberto Vitale, who has in the past 20 years revitalized three major publishing houses and become one of the preeminent voices in American trade publishing, began at Bantam in the late 1970s. He helped guide the company after Oscar Dystel left, turned around Doubleday after its 1986 purchase by Bertelsmann to form BDD, and went in 1989 to head up Random House for the Newhouse empire. Since then he has successfully presided over America's biggest trade publisher, with its complex collection of imprints, becoming in the process an influential voice on behalf of American publishers at home and abroad.
Nat Wartels (1902-1990) was by any standard the greatest remainder dealer ever, and the Crown Publishers empire he built made him probably the richest man in publishing. Founded in 1933, Crown later came to include also the Outlet Book Co. and the direct-mail Publishers Central Bureau. In later years Crown began to publish original books, even fiction, scoring notable successes with Judith Krantz and Jean Auel. Wartels, famed equally for the messiness of his office and his microscopic attention to detail, sold Crown to Random House two years before his death.
Victor Weybright (1903-1978) was one of the paperback pioneers who in the immediate postwar years capitalized on the interests of returning servicemen and -women to launch a popularly priced mass publishing program. The New American Library he launched with Kurt Enoch brought "good reading for the millions" and by the 1950s, along with its Signet and Mentor lines of intellectual and literary classics, it was the biggest and most successful paperback publisher. After it was sold to Times Mirror in 1966 he established Weybright & Talley, publishing popular business books.
W. Bradford Wiley, who retired as chairman of the family company in 1992, was one of the last dynastic figures in American publishing (he is the great-great-grandson of John Wiley, the company's founder). He joined Wiley in 1932, became its president in 1956 and chairman 14 years later. A confirmed internationalist, Wiley worked at expanding the influence of American books overseas and was instrumental in opening book trade with China. Two children, Deborah and Bradford II, continue in the company.
Helen Wolff (1906-1988), who began as a publisher in her native Germany in the 1920s and with her husband, Kurt, founded Pantheon Books in 1942, went on with her own imprint, Helen & Kurt Wolff Books, at Harcourt Brace for 25 years after Kurt's death in 1963. She was very much the exemplar of a sophisticated, informed taste in international letters, and some of her publishing coups, including Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, became phenomenal international bestsellers. Her authors also included Jan Morris, Georges Simenon, Gunter Grass, Italo Calvino and Ann Morrow Lindbergh.
Peter Workman in 1967 launched one of the most audacious publishing houses on the scene, with its beginnings in a mix of spoof, satire and novelty publishing. Since then it continues to excel in calendars and in products like its phenomenally successful Brain Quest sets for children, as well as serious advice books like What to Expect When You're Expecting and offbeat art books. Always, the marketing and distribution are state-of-the art, and at least half-a-dozen titles have exceeded a million in sales. Workman made an unusual move when he bought Algonquin Books, a Southern literary publisher, in 1988, but even that seems to have worked out well.
Charlie Winton is the essence of the entrepreneur who has made of the small press movement a skillfully orchestrated commercial enterprise. His Publishers Group West, founded 21 years ago, has gone on to become a major player in the book world, what Winton likes to call a "master distributor" that not only markets the titles of its 200-odd member presses but consults with them on editorial content, jacket art, print runs and pricing, and sells them through a dedicated sales force. He has been particularly effective at getting his clients' books into the chains, and recently has even begun offering financial support to certain presses through his Avalon operation.
Walter Zacharius came up by way of the magazine world, and got his start as a salesman in Popular Library, then at Ace—the heart of genre mass paper-back publishing. In 1955 he started Lancer, with help from his wholesaler friends, financing reprints of respectable authors with novelizations of popular TV series. He actually bought Zebra Books, with which he is most strongly identified, from Grove, and, along with Pinnacle, it is now the heart of his Kensington group, where it is expanding beyond the romance origins into a wider range of titles, including hardcovers—but without forsaking mass appeal.