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My policy is to have no formal policy


On being a 'great' publisher
Peter Mayer Publisher
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[Q] Tell me why you're a great publisher and what that means.

Well, I wouldn't say I was, but I've been around a long time and I love… I don't know what they mean by it if they say it.  They could mean one thing, that you've lasted a long time – although it occurs to me that people are often remembered, especially rock stars, if they die young so… But if you last a long time you may get some plaudits for that.

I think a lot comes to you based on not only what you do, but what you work for. So, I was blessed by being asked to work for Penguin, which was a great company before I came. I made it viable, I took it in new directions, or I and my staff made it viable and took it in new directions.

I think just lasting and working for the right company makes other people say something or other is great, but… I mean, I don't know… I don't know how to answer your question, it's embarrassing and… I mean, from time to time somebody comes up to me and says oh, you're Peter Mayer, you're a legend. I say that means I'm almost dead! You know, I don't want to be a legend, I just want to... And I've made a lot of mistakes, and everybody does. I think lasting a long time and running a great company gives you… but do you know, people who are the heads of things, they get too much credit. They get much too much credit, and when whatever they're running doesn't work out they get too much blame.

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

Duration: 2 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015