In a lovely example of serendipity, my work life and my writing life intersected this week when Michael Pietsch, Publisher of Little, Brown visited Swarthmore College to talk about his career in publishing. (I suppose it’s not entirely fair to call this serendipitous, since I invited him to visit but let’s not mince words, shall we?) Michael is parent to two students at Swarthmore College and married to a Swarthmore alumna; he has been kind enough to visit the campus every year and speak to students interested in careers in publishing.
If you love books, I dare you to attend a talk by Michael Pietsch and not be inspired. After thirty years in the business, he remains energized by acquiring new works and dedicated to the process of working with writers to achieve their dreams of creating the best possible books.
Michael has worked a range of well-known authors such as Alice Sebold, Anita Shreve, Michael Connelly, David Sedaris and many more. He continues to edit James Patterson’s novels – an author who, he said, has impacted the way that authors market themselves more than any other. Michael credits his natural breadth of interest with his ability to edit a variety of books from commercial fiction to literary fiction as well as non-fiction. One of his career highlights came early in his career when, by a sequence of events, he was entrusted with editing Ernest Hemingway’s posthumous memoir A Dangerous Summer. Another highlight for Michael was working with the late David Foster Wallace on his magnificent book Infinite Jest.
Michael was not cagey about the dramatic changes in publishing brought about by technology over the last ten years. But rather than sounding the alarm, he was enthusiastic about the potential for positive results sharing that he doesn’t think ‘p-books’ are going away for a long, long time. When asked what he wished writers knew, he paused. He hoped, he said, that writers could better understand the process so that they wouldn’t feel neglected during the long periods of silence while the editor is working with the many departments necessary to publish a book. If you have a moment, take a look at this fabulous article written for our college newspaper The Phoenix.