(above) Mr. Otto Penzler in his private library (sadly, not the location we visited, although I wish we could have! Isn’t it awesome?)
Otto Penzler began his career as a University of Michigan alumnus. He worked as a copy boy at the Daily News in his 20’s, making $37/week. He has been collecting books since that time, and today owns roughly 58,000 first editions of mystery books, (many located in his private library, pictured above). Mr. Penzler owns one of the oldest and largest bookstores in Manhattan, The Mysterious Bookshop.
Of course, the interesting part is what comes in between those two points (not that 58,000 first editions aren’t interesting). Otto Penzler wrote “The Crime Scene” a weekly column for the New York Sun that he penned for 5 years. He published “The Armchair Detective” for 17 years, an Edgar-winning quarterly journal specializing in mystery and suspense fiction. He founded the Mysterious Press, which he sold at one point to Warner books and recently reacquired. Penzler created the entire publishing firms of Otto Penzler Books and the Armchair Detective Library and has imprints at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in United States and Atlantic books in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Penzler has won an Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1977 for the Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection, which he edited with Chris Steinbrunner. He was also awarded the prestigious Ellery Queen Award in 1994 by The Mystery Writers of America for his contributions in publishing. He was honored with its highest non-writing award, the Raven, in 2003, as well.
If you aren’t impressed, then you mustn’t be truly an English-major. (I would suggest letting your registrar know right away.)
Otto Penzler was featured in The New York Times last year for his amazing store, his collection, and the legacy that he continues to leave for generations to come.
“Books may well be the only true magic.”
Geri Thoma is a literary agent for the Elaine Markson Agency, located in Greenwich Village. Before pursuing a career in book publication, Thoma studied history at the University of Maryland and Columbia University. She claims that her passion for history began in the summer of the Watergate hearings, an event that she followed by the minute. She joined the Agency in 1980, as an assistant. She went on to become the foreign rights director and began to start her own list in 1983. In 2003, she became an official partner in the agency. Having a passion for history, she represents a list of famous American historians, who focus on a wide range of topics in American history. Apart from history books, she is also interested in biographies, memoirs, interesting sociological books, and narrative journalism. In 2007, she took on Ann Packer’s novel Songs Without Words. To read an article written in the New York Times regarding this project and subsequent novel, click here.
Elaine Markson founded the agency, Markson Thoma, in 1972, with the hopes of creating a small independent literacy agency that would foster a tight-knit group and detail oriented managing style. To this day, they have succeeded in doing just that, and as a result, are able to celebrate the amazing list of authors, novelists, historians, and journalists they represent. Markson Thoma proudly represents authors such as Barry Glassner, Kim Edwards, Alice Hoffman, and Billie Letts, who have all published national bestsellers. Their clients have received countless awards and honors, ranging from the Pulitzer Prize to the National Book Award and the Newbery Honor Book. To see a full list, click here.
We are so excited to hear more about Geri Thoma’s journey, hardships, successes and joys as a literary agent for Markson Thoma.
George Andreou, Senior Editor and V.P. at Knopf
This past Wednesday, our class had the distinct pleasure of welcoming George Andreou to our guest speaker panel on the publishing business.
Mr. Andreou is currently serving as a Senior Editor and the Vice President of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., a subdivision of the Random House publishing group. After earning his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his graduate degree in literature from Yale, Andreou started as an editorial assistant at Knopf. Since then, he has climbed all the way to the top, working for the same publishing house for over 20 years. As he noted in class, that’s the way the publishing business works: even the greats have to start somewhere!
During this time, Andreou has been the editor of some truly outstanding books. He edited My Name is Red by the great Orhan Pamuk, which directly contributed to Pamuk becoming the bestselling Turkish author of all time and winning the Nobel Prize. You undoubtedly remember the name James Watson from your high school biology textbook (he and his cohort, Crick, discovered DNA), and Andreou edited Watson’s DNA: The Secret of Life. In fact, his work on this history of genetics was so significant that Watson states in his author’s note, “George Andreou, our preternaturally patient editor at Knopf, wrote much more of this book—the good bits—than either of us would ever let on.” The list of literary giants Andreou has guided goes on and on, including V.S. Naipaul, John Keegan, and Adam Gopnik. More recently, he was named the editor of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s upcoming memoir, which millions of readers are awaiting anxiously. Remember, these are all authors that bear Andreou’s personal mark as editor, but as V.P. of Knopf, he helps oversee publishing for scores of household names like Cormac McCarthy, Chuck Palahniuk, and Margaret Atwood.
If you want to hear Andreou’s brilliant intellect and personal connection to his authors in action (a trait further exhibited in a Harvard Crimson piece on author Louis Begley), here’s a video of him moderating a V.S. Naipaul reading.
Having completed his MA in Cultural Studies at Carnegie Mellon, Eric Zinner began at the bottom of the publishing world. He started with an internship at Jewish magazine Tikkun and climbed up the ladder to his current position at NYU Press, where he has been Assistant Director and Editor-in-Chief since the year 2000, following three years as an Editor.
Zinner is experienced in both university and trade publishing. Prior to working for NYU Press, Zinner held an Acquisitions Editor position at Routledge, the British publishing house known primarily for its scholarly work. Zinner highlights the differences between the two approaches to scholarly publishing, university and trade, in this interview with the Minnesota Review. He notes in particular the discipline specialisation of university publishing, as opposed to trade publishing where “you rarely find a trade editor who wouldn’t acquire any interesting book that struck their fancy.”
When Zinner first joined NYU Press it had not focused its discipline specialisation like competing university publishing houses. Fortunately, Zinner managed to attract previous clients from Routledge, which was suffering internal difficulties at the time, and helped establish a strong list of publications in Cultural Studies and Media Studies. These two fields have since become intrinsically associated with NYU Press, even more so following Zinner’s instatement as Editor-in-Chief.
Whilst at NYU Press, Zinner has faced a rapidly changing academic publishing landscape. As the popularity and scholarship in the humanities waned among students, shifting to economics and the natural sciences, Zinner has managed to keep his publishing house active, particularly through encouraging interdisciplinarity. Similarly, Zinner has faced challenges with the rapid development of technology as scholarly work is reaching its audience through countless new media. This has lead to a steep decline in revenue from traditional sources (especially hard-back print). However, despite these hurdles, Zinner’s publications have been frequently receiving awards, including National Jewish Book Awards, Katherine Singer Kovács Book Awards (Cinema & Media Studies) and the Alan Merriam Prize (Ethnomusicology), all of which are coveted achievements in their respective fields.
– Nicholas Gubbins
Originally from Durham, North Carolina, Kate Torgovnick is a journalist, editor, and author now based in New York City. Torgovnick attended Barnard College at Columbia University where she received a degree in sociology and was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. After college, she started working as the assistant to the editor of Jane magazine, later advancing to the position of associate editor for Jane. Torgovnick’s body of work for Jane includes interview pieces with stars like Jeremy Piven as well as investigative works.
In 2005, Kate was assigned to cover NCA College Nationals for a piece in Jane, and her experience led her to write her first book, a work of nonfiction entitled Cheer!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders. In order to pursue research for her book, she left Jane in 2006 and became a freelance writer. Kate has written several articles for The New York Times and Page Six Magazine, among other publications. Her article “Getting Paid for your A’s” appeared in Time magazine in 2008. Links to some of her other articles can be found on her website.
Initially published in 2008 and now available in a reprinted edition, Cheer! debuted to great critical acclaim. Torgovnick’s book follows three different universities on their journey to nationals, chronicling the discipline and drive needed to succeed in this competitive sport and debunking misconceptions about cheerleading along the way. Cheer! has been praised by Daily Cents as a “unique hybrid of narrative non-fiction that reads like fiction,” while Good Morning America describes it as “a fascinating look at something most people misunderstand.” In 2010, the CW television network debuted Hellcats, a fictional drama based on Cheer!.
Today Kate Torgovnick is the news and pop culture editor at the webzine TheFrisky.com, which focuses on “love, life, stars, and style.” She provides interesting and insightful posts on many pop culture events. Links to some of her blog posts can be found here. Also, an interview with Kate about Cheer! can be found here, and here is a link to her appearance on Good Morning America.
– Amanda Ukleja
Courtney Martin is an author, philanthropist, blogger, editor, and lecturer on topics such as feminism, activism, and philanthropy. Her first book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: How the Quest for Perfection is Harming Young Women is about twenty-first century culture and its impact on women. The book delves into topics such as food and weight obsession, celebrity images and their effect on girls, and how new doors opened to women have been twisted into a “you must do everything” sense of self. This book was complimented by The New York Times and was nominated for a Books for a Better Life award. Courtney’s latest book, Project Rebirth: Survival and the Strength of the Human Spirit from 9/11 Survivors, written with Dr. Robin Stern, takes a look at the lives on nine people who were forever changed by the tragedy. The book does not recall the events of the day, but instead looks at the peace found in the individuals, and how resilient they have been since the events.
Courtney also founded the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy (SSCP). According to the Society’s website, the organization was founded when Courtney decided to give ten of her friends $100 and asked them to give it away, creatively. They were also asked to go to a bar and share their giving story. The giving and coming together to share stories of giving has since multiplied, and people gather once a year (at a top secret annual meeting) in cities across the United States. You can read more about the society here.
Courtney is both an editor and contributor to an online community that pledges to “provide a platform for feminist and pro-feminist writing, to connect feminists online and off, and to encourage activism” (feministing.com) Her feministing profile says that she loves stories and dance parties and hates expensive cupcakes, boredom, and excuses. All of these seemingly fragmented ventures, loves, and hates come together into one award winning and passionate woman.
Click here and here to listen to two lectures Courtney has given about feminism and her writing.
By- Casey Hicks