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How to be a successful publisher


The future of book publishing
Peter Mayer Publisher
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Small companies and large companies all face technological change and changing consumer patterns, and changing retail patterns – you mentioned Amazon. So, we all struggle, and it could be – I don't have any crystal ball – but it could be that the smaller companies are actually quite well-placed for the future. You can't get much smaller than small, but large companies can get smaller. I don't say that that's what will happen, but it is conceivable that book publishing will be a smaller industry. It's not going to go away but it could happen.

And I divide my time between Britain and the US – it's convenient. I like both countries, sometimes I like one country more than another, sometimes not. But I have a feeling for both countries and I think if there is anything I'm proud of in respect of my Penguin years, in a business sense, is that when I came to Penguin in '78 it was British; when I left it in '98, I think it was '98, it was still British. Most of the other companies had changed, they were either Australian or German or French or whatever, but Penguin was British. The irony is that last year Penguin ceased to be British-owned and it is now German-owned, and that has its own ironies since my own background is German/English.

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: Penguin Books, Britain

Duration: 2 minutes, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015