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.


First brush with the unions


Our vertical offices
Peter Mayer Publisher
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

The same thing was truly… was actually the case as well with respect to working conditions: nobody had even thought that I might need an office!  I think the notion was that I would work in Harmondsworth, but I quickly dispelled any of that notion because the editorial process was not in Harmondsworth and given my own background, which was largely editorial, I would certainly look toward the editorial side of publishing as that area that I would most want to involve myself in towards turning Penguin's fortunes around, [as] I was expected to do.

So, the editorial part of Penguin was actually in Victoria.  Rather ridiculous offices, organised vertically rather than horizontally, which [isn't] the way people would organise things today for relative easy access of people to each other and departments to each other.  Instead, people ran up and down stairs.  I was told this was rather typical of British publishing, and it was - an older form of British publishing.  Publishing today, and in the years since then, did devolve into a more or less horizontal scheme.  But at that time, many publishing companies were in houses that had never been built, or buildings that had never been built, for offices.  And I think somebody or other must have thought it was literary which, of course, was some sort of nonsense because anything that is literary is in the books, not in the architecture of the offices.

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, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015