Last Sunday, a much loved and major figure in book publishing died. Peter Workman was an icon of our industry. Not only was he kind and generous, but he was also a creative genius. Beginning as a book packager, he quickly became the publisher of such bestsellers as What to Expect When You’re Expecting, The Silver Palate Cookbook and many other hugely successful titles. The New York Times says his percentage of “wins” merited membership in the Cooperstown Baseball Hall of Fame and it did. One out of every three books he published sold over 100,000 copies.
Why were this man and his publishing company, one of the last independent companies in our business, so successful? Because time and again he stepped out of the box in his book packaging and marketing decisions. His willingness to do the untraditional and unexpected was what made him and Workman Publishing so incredibly successful.
We all, I think, can learn a lesson from Peter Workman. I see it in the book ideas many of my clients present to me. I see it in the new arena of indie book publishing, which is so exciting. I see it in publishers’ new willingness to be creative in their pricing and promotional ideas. Most importantly, I see it in publishers and authors being more willing to work together to publish great books successfully.
We will miss Peter Workman very much. But I believe we can pay a great tribute to him by studying his many and varied creative ideas and implementing versions of them as we step out of our boxes and conduct and grow our business.