Saturday, December 15, 2012

Liz Mohn, the woman behind Penguin Random House - "books mean a lot to me"

Liz Mohn, the woman behind media giant Bertelsmann, talks about the future of Penguin Random House - just don't ask her about Suzanne Mubarak, says Sophie Hardach.

Liz Mohn, the woman behind media giant Bertelsmann: 'books mean a lot to me'.
Liz Mohn, the woman behind media giant Bertelsmann: 'books mean a lot to me'. Photo: Luca Teuchmann/WireImage
Liz Mohn is a quiet type of media tycoon. Her company, Bertelsmann, recently merged its publishing arm, Random House, with Penguin to form the world’s largest books publisher. It’s the German media giant’s first major deal since Mohn took over after her husband’s death in 2009, and has set off a flurry of speculation about the future of publishing. Some are simply relieved that Penguin has not ended up in the hands of Rupert Murdoch. Others fear that Bertelsmann, the conglomerate behind The X Factor, Fifty Shades of Grey and brash broadcaster RTL, will squash Penguin’s literary heritage. And then there are those who simply don’t like the thought of progressive Penguin marrying into a German company that for decades lied about its Nazi past.

In her first public comment on the merger, Mohn, who controls Bertelsmann together with her children, argued that authors will benefit from being part of a bigger group.
“Books do mean a lot to me: Bertelsmann grew big on books, and I myself grew up with them,” Mohn told me. “We will continue to publish books for a mass public as well as works for smaller readerships. The planned combination will give authors from all genres even more publishing options for the success of their books.”

Such options include ebooks, which Mohn believes will “coexist comfortably” with printed books rather than lead to their downfall. She also emphasised that each imprint would make its decisions independently. And Random House is not exactly a literary lightweight: Haruki Murakami, John Irving and Ian McEwan are among its authors.

However, encouraging independent decision-making is not quite the same as having a range of independent publishers. On a recent New York Times bestseller list, 11 out of 15 titles were published by an imprint belonging to either Penguin or Random House. Agents often try to raise an author’s advance through a bidding war, but why would imprints owned by the same group bid against each other? 
Full story at The Telegraph

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