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Peter Workman, founder of one of America’s last successful independent publishers, Workman Publishing, was born in Great Neck, New York on this date in 1938. He founded Workman as a book packager and promoter in 1967, and built it into a company that launched about forty titles per year, with one of every three achieving sales figures of over 100,000 copies — and with two-thirds of its books still in print forty years after its founding. Among his bestsellers were The Silver Palate Cookbook, B. Kliban’s Cat, The Official Preppy Handbook, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Sandra Boynton’s series of children’s books, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, and its boxed Page-A-Day Calendar series. Peter Workman was also the founder of Artisan, a press that has produced expensive and enduring books such as The French Laundry Cookbook, and of several other imprints, including Algonquin, Black Dog & Leventhal, Storey, and Timber. He died at 74 in 2013.
“His whole philosophy boiled down to two simple but very radical ideas: Trust your instincts when it comes to telling the reader what he doesn’t yet realize what he wants, and don’t make the reader work too hard to get the message. Peter was a master marketer — he knew how to sell books at all levels: to the readers, to the booksellers, to the salesmen who sold to the booksellers.” —Helen Rosner