Viacom tapped noted publisher Jonathan Karp to take over the Simon & Schuster book division that had been headed by Carolyn Reidy until her sudden death of a heart attack earlier this month.
While quickly tapping a company insider with a proven record for picking bestsellers should help to steady the ship at the 96-year-old publishing giant, there is also much uncertainty since the parent company announced earlier this year that it planned to sell the book division.
Karp, who jumped to S&S in 2010 from Hachette, had been president and publisher of the Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing, which in addition to the flagship S&S imprint includes Scribner, Atria Books, Avid Reader Press, and Gallery Books.
The appointment is effective immediately.
“This is not a surprise,” said one publishing veteran at a rival house. “While Carolyn didn’t expect to die, she probably would have retired in the next few years and was grooming him. The big question is what happens when it gets sold?”
The book industry has rapidly shrunk over the past decade as a dozen big book publishers have consolidated into a Big Five. In addition to S&S, the Big Five include Penguin Random House (owned by Germany’s Bertelsmann), HarperCollins (owned by News Corp., which also owns the Post), Macmillan (Germany’s von Holtzbrinck Publishing Group), and Hachette Books (France’s Lagardère Publishing).
During his tenure at S&S, Karp oversaw the publication of a string of bestsellers including “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, “What Happened” by Hillary Clinton, “Fear” by Bob Woodward, “Frederick Douglass” by David Blight, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, “In One Person” by John Irving and the “Library Book” by Susan Orlean.
His stable of pop culture authors also includes NFL quarterback Tom Brady, late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Earlier in his career at Hachette, he oversaw his own imprint, Twelve, which published bestsellers including “God Is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens and “War” by Sebastian Junger. At Random House, where he began his career and rose to editor-in-chief, he oversaw “Faith of My Fathers,” by John McCain and longtime collaborator Mark Salter, who followed him to S&S. He also discovered Laura Hillenbrand and her best-selling “Seabiscuit.”