Publisher Susan Moldow to Retire
Carolyn K. Reidy
President and Chief Executive Officer
TO EVERYONE AT SIMON & SCHUSTER
I am writing to you today in celebration of Susan Moldow, President of the Scribner Publishing Group and Publisher of Touchstone, who has enjoyed a truly remarkable career in publishing. Susan informed me in the Spring of her intention to retire at the end of the year, and while I could only honor her desire with the deepest gratitude and some regret, since then I have had occasion to happily recall the innumerable highlights of a long career in which she has been an inimitable presence within our company and our industry, with accomplishments that have had considerable impact here and on our culture.
Susan first entered the publishing world in 1966 as a summer intern at Workman Publishing, and following her graduation in 1967 from Smith College was part of a trainee program, occupying a number of positions at then standalone Doubleday until 1971. After a brief attempt to flee New York City for San Francisco and Boston, she returned to New York and joined Pocket Books (then, as now, part of Simon & Schuster), where she worked at Washington Square Press before joining Avon Books from 1976 to 1981. Over the next few years she held senior positions in editorial management at Dell Publishing, Penguin Books, Doubleday (again) and HarperCollins; she counts as her greatest achievements in those years editing the first “Saturday Night Live” book and John Gray’s MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS.
Susan came back to Simon & Schuster in June 1994, shortly after the Macmillan acquisition. Her first order of business was to rationalize and reorganize a collection of three disparate adult imprints—Charles Scribner’s Sons, Macmillan and Atheneum—and forge them together as one: Scribner, a single powerful brand that at once acknowledged and cherished the distinguished history and tradition of those diverse imprints, while also signaling a new and contemporary focus that would revitalize and move Scribner forward.
And what a turnaround it has been: under Susan’s leadership Scribner has enjoyed many years of unbroken accomplishment that could easily be a case study for how to build and run a successful publishing imprint. Just some of the authors whom Scribner has published well and to bestselling or award-winning prominence are such luminaries as Barbara, Laura, and George H.W. Bush, Anthony Doerr, Angela Duckworth, Janet Evanovich, S.C. Gwynne, Charles Johnson, Chuck Klosterman, Phil Knight, Rachel Kushner, John le Carré, Frank McCourt, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Reynolds Price, Annie Proulx, Kathy Reichs, Geneen Roth, Lisa See, Andrew Solomon, Colm Tóibín, Jeannette Walls, John Edgar Wideman and multiple editions updating our venerable JOY OF COOKING franchise.
Of course, it would be downright irresponsible to salute Susan without also mentioning her role maintaining the vibrancy of the enviable Scribner backlist, which features everything from GONE WITH THE WIND to Thomas Wolfe, A SEPARATE PEACE to JONATHAN LIVINGSTON SEAGULL. But it is her work with the Fitzgerald and Hemingway estates—with whom we enjoy an excellent relationship, in large part thanks to the care and attention paid by Susan and the entire Scribner team—that is most invaluable: Scribner has brought focus and direction to publishing these classics of American literature, constantly updating, refreshing and reviving these titles as the opportunity presents.
Equally, it would be impossible to properly salute Susan without thanking her for her role in bringing Stephen King to Scribner and Simon & Schuster. At the time, it took a huge leap of faith for both publisher and author to enter into such an unprecedented co-publishing partnership. Since the successful publication of BAG OF BONES in 1998, our first book with Stephen, Scribner’s creativity and energy in partnering with him to come up with new and exciting ways to publish his work have been part and parcel of this still-blossoming, twenty-plus-year relationship. That relationship yielded an especially sweet dividend in 2015 when we acquired almost the entirety of Stephen King’s backlist.
In 2012, Susan became President of the larger Scribner Publishing Group, taking on overall responsibility for both Scribner and Touchstone, and since 2013 she has also served as Touchstone’s publisher. To no one’s surprise, Susan’s brilliance as a publisher has shined through in this role as the imprint has enjoyed a run of eclectic bestsellers such as Allie Brosh’s HYPERBOLE AND A HALF, Cary Elwes’ AS YOU WISH, Denise Kiernan’s THE GIRLS OF ATOMIC CITY and THE LAST CASTLE, Cecile Richards’ MAKE TROUBLE, multiple works from house authors Philippa Gregory and J.A. Jance, and most recently, Reese Witherspoon’s WHISKEY IN A TEACUP.
To talk with Susan, whether one-on-one or in a meeting when she is giving one of her trademark, carefully composed and enthusiastically delivered presentations, is always an adventure. No matter the subject, or the book involved, she is always ready with an arch remark or self-deprecating quip, demonstrating her encyclopedic knowledge of the publishing marketplace and her love for what we do. And let’s not forget that Susan, who never used a computer, played a major role in launching the digital revolution as the publisher of Stephen King’s RIDING THE BULLET, the first-ever major ebook success. While she was a demon emailer with her classic-model Blackberry, which she insisted on using well beyond its date of obsolescence, and has never met a piece of paper she didn’t annotate and keep in the world’s most curious filing system, she also led Simon & Schuster in finding ever-new, cutting-edge digital marketing techniques to highlight Stephen King’s publications.
I know that many of you, like me, are grateful to have had the pleasure of working with Susan and observing up close her singular mind, her unique success as a modern-day publisher, and that one-of-a-kind, frequently pessimistic sense of humor, all of which makes time spent with her an experience not to be forgotten. She has been a generous colleague and a mentor to multiple generations in our industry who have gone on to forge their own successful careers. I have no doubt that however Susan spends her time in the future, those activities and the people with whom she does them will benefit immensely from her thirst for knowledge, her intelligence, her wit and her expansive yet incredibly detailed focus.
I will certainly miss Susan, and I hope you will join me in offering heartfelt thanks and gratitude for her contributions to Simon & Schuster, and in wishing her all the best in retirement.