Madison Jacobs

Associate publisher

Crown Publishing Group

It has been a remarkable ride for Madison Jacobs. Five years ago, she was starting her career as a publishing assistant for the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. Today, she is associate publisher, a member of Crown’s executive leadership team, and a key contributor to some of Penguin Random House’s most high-profile recent books, including Spare by Prince Harry and The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama, both of which were #1 bestsellers.

“What Madison has achieved in her five years with Crown so far is nothing short of exceptional,” says David Drake, president of the Crown Publishing Group and Jacobs’s longtime boss. Drake calls Jacobs “the linchpin” that keeps many of the company’s most complex projects together. “And that she consistently delivers results with speed, skill, and grace under pressure makes her all the more formidable a talent to watch in her years to come in publishing.”

After graduating cum laude from Northwestern University with a degree in cognitive science, Jacobs could easily have found herself working in a lab. But summer internships with two literary agencies and an internship with Northwestern University Press opened her eyes to a career in books. In June of 2018, fresh out of college, Jacobs landed an assistant job working for Drake (with whom she still works) and Maya Mavjee, now president and publisher of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, where her organization and management skills quickly set her apart.

“As the global project manager for Prince Harry’s Spare,” Drake says, “Jacobs was the connective tissue between the author’s team and all the internal publishing departments in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, as well as multiple international publishing partners.” That meant maintaining “constant and proactive lines of communication” regarding the myriad steps and considerations required to bring such a blockbuster book into the world. Jacobs was even responsible for designing the security protocols that successfully prevented early leaks of Prince Harry’s manuscript to the notoriously scoop-hungry British tabloids. And, Drake says, she did it all “on an uncertain schedule, and at a time when supply chain disruptions made the publishing landscape one of shifting sands.”

Jacobs has also come to occupy a central role in Crown’s publishing program with the Obamas. “I got started working on Becoming, and that’s a super privileged position to be in as a young person in publishing,” she says. “But that’s what David was working on when I joined. And it’s grown from there.” Indeed, Jacobs acted as the global project manager for Barack Obama’s 2020 memoir A Promised Land—PRH’s first major publication to be executed fully remotely during a global pandemic. And she is now “intimately involved in every aspect of the publishing process” with the former first family—and has earned the trust of their teams, Drake says.

As associate publisher, Jacobs says she is relishing her expanded role at Crown—which comes as the group was recently reorganized as an independent division within Penguin Random House. “It’s an exciting spot to be in, because a lot of my job this year has been helping to set up our systems and how we want to operate, which is very different from working on a book project,” she says. “It’s been great to have a little variety.”

As for what comes next, Jacobs says she doesn’t have any set goals. “I’ve done really well by just kind of looking at the opportunities in front of me and taking them so far,” she say. “I never would have anticipated the way this job has unfolded for me over the past five years, so I think I’d like to just see where it goes, especially because we’re in such an exciting spot.”

One thing she has thought about: trying to pay forward the opportunity Drake and Mavjee gave her by helping prepare future publishing workers to succeed. “I’m trying to think about how to do that in a way that doesn’t bring anyone any sort of false hope. Because this is a tough industry, and mine has been a very exceptional experience,” Jacobs says. “The first year I worked at my job I was also working a second job as a freelancer like 20 hours a week just so I could pay my bills. But there is something super meaningful about being able to work in an industry where you feel you’re making a difference.”

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