15 April 08 | Chad W. Post

Here’s a little nugget from the London Book Fair:

Introduced by agent Ed Victor as a “publisher to his core,” Peter Mayer, former head of Penguin and who now runs both Overlook Press and Duckworth Press, was presented with the Trilogy Lifetime Achievement Award at a lunch during Tuesday’s London Book Fair. (via The Winged Elephant)

Overlook does a good number of interesting works of international literature (such as Kharms’s Today I Wrote Nothing), and it’s good to see Peter Mayer get some of the recognition he deserves.

To be frank though, this viewpoint troubles me a bit:

Mayer, who began as a publisher of mass market paperbacks and became known for publishing some on publishing’s most respected authors, said it is important to publish not only serious books, but dangerous books and commercial titles as well. He noted that it was his decision to publish a series of Sudoku books that will permit the publication of more worthwhile works well after the Sudoku craze is over.

Sure that’s true, but it’s only one path to reaching the goal of publishing great books. A nonprofit press with proper funding by individuals and foundations can focus solely on “worthwhile works” without having to succumb to doing books just to make money. One could even argue that chasing the next bestseller and veering away from one’s initial mission can spell doom for a literary press. (Even in this statement, there’s an implicit assumption that “good” “worthwhile” books can’t sell . . . I’d rather presses stick to the dangerous books and forget chasing the commercial dollars.)


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