Even in a year that saw scores of departures from the publishing industry of well-known figures, booksellers around the country were stunned when Hachette Book Group announced in June that its longtime head of field sales and account marketing, Karen Torres, would retire in mid-July after a 36-year career.

Describing herself as “bereft” at losing her “friend for life, mentor and a constant advocate,” Elaine Petrocelli of San Francisco’s Book Passage declared in an email sent to the famously straight-talking Torres and shared with PW that whenever she had “a problem, a question, or an idea, you were the first person I called. As the publishing world changed, you stood by me. I have always counted on you to give me a straight-forward answer and to help me find the best path forward.”

And Calvin Crosby of The King’s English in Salt Lake City wrote to Torres that he has always admired her “insight, wisdom, straight-up honesty, and directness,” declaring that there is now “a Karen Torres–shaped hole in my heart.”

Hired by Warner Books as a marketing assistant in 1987 after her graduation from NYU, Torres, who proudly hails from the Bronx, worked her way up the marketing department ladder in the various iterations of the company that is now HBG. She played a pivotal role in conceptualizing and executing sales and marketing campaigns for hundreds of blockbuster bestsellers, from Bridges of Madison County to the Twilight series, and cited campaigns for Pachinko and The Lovely Bones as personal favorites.

Despite rubbing shoulders with some of the most famous authors writing today while leading the sales and marketing campaigns for their books, Torres says that one of the favorite parts of her job was “developing things that had nothing to do with the standard practice of publishing, but had everything to do with bringing people to books,” like HBG’s annual Book Club Brunch. The event, which launched in 2011 with 70 attendees, drew almost 400 participants in 2019 before the pandemic led to a permanent change. Now livestreamed via Zoom, it still pulls in more than 350 attendees.

“It was exciting to create and thrilling to see it grow, year after year,” Torres says, “Those are proud moments.”

Editor’s note: PW would also like to thank Torres for her many years of service as a judge in our Bookstore of the Year and Rep of the Year programs.

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