News for Authors

Q&A with New CEO of Penguin Random House U.S.

by The Author Newsletter Team|May, 2018

Our newly announced CEO of Penguin Random House U.S., Madeline McIntosh, comes from a book-loving background. She has worked at PRH for more than twenty years in a variety of capacities, from editorial to digital and from sales to audio, from serving as chief operating officer to, most recently, overseeing the Penguin Publishing Group. Like few others, Madeline has experienced the making and selling of books from all possible angles. It comes as no surprise that she has always been a passionate reader—and to round things off, it so happens that she is also married to house author and onetime editor Chris Pavone. We sat down with Madeline to ask about her vision for the company, her goals for our authors, and the book publishing landscape as a whole.

 

What are your priorities for your first few months in this role?

I’m often envious of new employees, since the freshness of their perspectives provides a kind of clarity that can be hard to get once you’re settled in. Despite being a veteran, I’m trying as hard as I can to bring “day one” eyes to my new experience in the company. That means doing more listening and learning than anything else for a few months. I’m working with the publishing division leaders to reacquaint myself with their lists and their teams. And I very much hope to use this time to listen to our various external partners, especially our authors, to gain their perspectives on how we can work even better together going forward.

 

Do you think the value that books provide has changed in today’s world?

Many have said that ours is an industry in love with its own demise, and that we’ve been that way since Gutenberg’s first printing. Books have been around a very long time and have weathered more than their fair share of challenges, but, one way or another, they’ve evolved to survive and even thrive.

Today, I think of the challenges as relating primarily to consumer attention span. With the combined effects of addictive technology and a rapidly-more-addictive news cycle, there are days when it feels impossible to get media or consumers to pause long enough to consider a book. And even once they’ve bought a book, it may be taking people longer to make their way to the next one.

Having said that, I know from personal experience, and from paying attention to how real consumers talk about books, that the value we readers place on books hasn’t diminished at all. We all crave the restorative experience of “long-form” reading. We all appreciate the opportunity to escape into a great story. And many of us are looking for answers to the big questions: How did we get to this particular moment? How can we improve ourselves and our culture? Our great opportunity as publishers is to insert books as the answer to many of the questions or problems consumers are trying to solve.

 

What are some top challenges you’ve noticed that authors face, and how do you think PRH can help with those issues?

It’s safe to say that what would make most authors happier would be to sell more books, and of course that’s always our goal, too. The question I hear from many authors is: What’s the best way for me to help make that happen? What can I do—online, in person, or otherwise—to help grow my audience? I know it can be very frustrating at times that, no matter how much we improve as data scientists, there is rarely a single answer for how best to influence sales. Sometimes it’s a clever marketing campaign or a publicity booking, or a retailer promotion or the author’s own social media platform, that does the trick. Sometimes none of those things seems to work. Sometimes it’s the jacket; sometimes it’s not the jacket. For an author, this can be confusing at best, frustrating at worst. Our responsibilities as the publisher are to continually experiment with new approaches, to communicate what we’re doing, to be respectful of the author’s time, and to be transparent about what’s working or not working. And of course to celebrate jubilantly when the stars align in a book’s favor!

 

What is your vision for PRH U.S. as CEO?

Despite all the market challenges, I know we will continue to succeed in the world as long as we continue to be the very best partner for our authors, and that means simultaneously acting at a very small and a very large scale. We need our editors, publicists, marketers, and designers to have the bandwidth to bring individualized care and attention to each new book. We need salespeople to have a chance to read (at least in part!) as many of those books as possible so they can persuade the network of booksellers and librarians to provide their support. At the very same time, we need sales and marketing and operations teams who stay resolutely focused on reaching readers at scale. Not many kinds of companies have to manage that degree of tension between big and small, and it’s no wonder that it often feels challenging.

Part of our company’s strength is that we allow and encourage a diversity of opinions—what and how to publish, which problems to focus on and how to solve them, which new ideas to test and which to shelve. At our best, we provide a fertile environment that allows success to emerge from any corner, and then we take that success—be it an individual book’s sales or a marketing capability or a service for a partner—and scale it more aggressively than anyone else can.

 

What are your favorite kinds of books to read?

I mainly read fiction. I do like to jump between categories to avoid getting in a rut, but I’m a particular fan of crime novels. I’m especially happy, for some reason, when the dead body shows up in Ireland.

I also love memoirs; historical fiction; thrillers; books that teach me how to think about a situation in a new way; books that inspire me to be a better leader; and cookbooks, whether I cook from them or not. I also listen to books, and the Harry Potter audios are still my all-time favorites. A high point from many years ago was visiting the studio while Jim Dale was recording book six. Wow.

 

What are you reading currently? What have you most enjoyed recently?

My colleagues have given me many recommendations over the last month, and needless to say, the bedside pile is teetering dangerously. A few of this year’s novels I’ve particularly enjoyed: The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, Tin Man by Sarah Winman, The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan, and Whiskey When We’re Dry by John Larison. A few recent nonfiction books I’ve loved: Educated by Tara Westover and I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell. I also highly recommend Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, an expose of Silicon Valley darling Theranos, and How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan, which is a fascinating read even if you thought you had no interest in the topic of psychedelics.

Then there are two outside loves I jealously wish we’d published: Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday and Circe by Madeline Miller.

 

Apart from reading, what do you like to do when you’re not at work?

Anything my twin fourteen-year-olds will do with me—other than play Monopoly, which I can’t stand. I’ve recently migrated them to Scrabble, and I’m trying not to mind too much that I often lose. For the increasingly frequent times when these teenagers would rather be with friends, or when they and my husband, Chris, are fully absorbed by their shared baseball obsession, I console myself with yoga, gardening, baking, and hanging out with Wally, our family’s eccentric labradoodle.

Protecting Our Authors’ Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression

by The Author Newsletter Team & The Penguin Random House Legal Department|April, 2018

The right to freedom of expression, and the protection of writers against censorship and unjust persecution, are indispensable to the development of society and culture. We at Penguin Random House are unwavering in our support of writers who seek out truth in their stories and stand with organizations that share in our commitment and devotion to free speech as a fundamental right. Read more

How to Build Your Online Author Community

by Neda Dallal and Phil Stamper-Halpin|April, 2018

Building a community of other writers, supporters, and readers is an important way for authors to spread the word about their work. In this article, we’ll provide tips on how to engage with authors and readers using social media, online events, and email. Read more

New on the Author Portal: Notification System & Annual Survey

by The Author Newsletter Team|March, 2018

You may have noticed a recent upgrade to the Author Portal: a site-wide notification system that keeps our authors up to date when any new information is added to their portals. Continue reading to learn more and to take our annual Author Portal, newsletter, and webinar survey. Read more

Behind the Scenes: A Tour of Penguin Random House’s Audio Studios

by Dan Zitt|November, 2017

Penguin Random House Audio has been producing award-winning audiobooks for more than thirty years, and is on pace to record more than nine hundred titles in 2017.  Many of these books are recorded in our fifteen state-of-the-art in-house studios—five in New York and ten in Los Angeles—which allow us to record all kinds of audiobooks, ranging from single-voice narration to large-scale full-cast recordings with many narrators. Read more

11 Apps and Tools to Make Your Writing Sessions More Productive

by Phillip Stamper-Halpin|July, 2017

Whether you write fifty words a day or five thousand, you have a writing process that works for you. Whatever your process, we suggest some tips on how to cut distractions and get the most out of your writing sessions. Read more

Out of Print: Turning Books into Merchandise

by The Author Newsletter Team |July, 2017

Penguin Random House recently acquired Out of Print, the pioneering creator and retailer of licensed illustrated literary-themed products. Read on to learn more about the new addition to the PRH family and find out how to get 50 percent off your next Out of Print order. Read more

How to Refresh Your Author Website

by Brandi Larsen|June, 2017

Your author website can be a key resource for your fans. Use these design, content, and discoverability tips to refresh your site. Read more

Educator Events: Connecting Authors with Educators

by Michael Gentile|November, 2016

From book fairs to educator conferences and at the many venues in between, Penguin Random House partners authors with educators to improve learning for students of all ages. Read on to learn more about these partnerships and educational events. Read more

Frequently Asked Questions About Amazon Author Pages

by Penguin Random House Amazon Sales Team|November, 2016

In summer 2016, the Penguin Random House Amazon sales team met with the head of the Author Central team to discuss frequently asked questions about author photos, new titles, and reader notifications. Here are those questions and answers: Read more