a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Paying my way in life


Catching the publishing 'bug'
Peter Mayer Publisher
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

[Q] So by now, at some point, you'd… you, had you changed your mind about being a writer?

No, I don't think I had changed my mind, but I… I was interested in publishing, I had enough ego to want to be validated in what I thought was interesting reading.  One of the first books we published at the Orion Press in the period I was there was Primo Levi's If This Is a Man.  I don't think there's anybody in the world except you, now on tape or video tape or whatever it is, who knows that Primo Levi was first started by the Orion Press. 

There are other books, not so famous, that we published there.  So I started to get interested, and I thought well, you can make a living at this, and I will write on the side. But finally, publishing became a larger and larger part of my life as I, I suppose the phrase is, advanced, got better jobs, and it took up more and more of my time. I found myself getting some satisfaction publishing an author, somebody else, and making his voice well known, rather than my own, or my own in respect of having chosen this book, and published it correctly. 

So there was a shift in my ego, and I found I could satisfy my ego needs as a publisher.  Maybe not as well as it might have been had I continued writing.

Peter Mayer (1936-2018) was an American independent publisher who was president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc, a New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook's founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. There, he successfully launched the trade paperback as a viable alternative to mass market and hardcover formats. From 1978 to 1996 he was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. More recently, Mayer had financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the UK.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: If This Is a Man, Orion Press, Primo Levi

Duration: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015