Sulkin to retire as Williams becomes Bodley head

Sulkin to retire as Williams becomes Bodley head

Will Sulkin will be retiring from his role as publishing director of The Bodley Head in April 2012, with Stuart Williams, editorial director at Harvill Secker, to step into the position.  

Sulkin's retirement in 2012 will end a 43-year love affair with publishing, which began in 1969 at Penguin Books. Sulkin described his time in publishing as "terrific", and added he was considering continuing to edit in a freelance capacity with Random House, claiming "it would be too much to go cold turkey".

Sulkin worked at Penguin for 11 years, before leaving to join Oxford University Press in 1980. In 1986, he moved to Faber, before joining RH as publisher of Pimlico in 1990. He then became editorial director of Vintage and associate publisher- of Jonathan Cape, before reviving The Bodley Head in 2007.

Sulkin called his years at RH "absorbing, challenging and various", but said it would be "impossible" to choose a favourite book from his career: "The problem is you've forgotten the ones you did at the beginning. I can remember when I was at Penguin, I was about 27 or 28, and I was V S Naipaul's editor for a time, and I remember thinking I had made it . . . But then all these things fade with the passage of time."

Other highlights of his career include setting up Pimlico and restarting The Bodley Head. When Sulkin was asked if he wanted to set up a hardback imprint—which would go on to become non-fiction list The Bodley Head—he claims "it took about a nanosecond to say yes."

On the industry, Sulkin said: "It's changed beyond all recognition. If you think of all the changes—to fewer publishers, the advent of conglomerates, the digital age—it's a completely different scene. The core remains the same—you're like an author, you do everything in your power to make [the book] a success." 

Meanwhile, Williams will continue to publish around six fiction titles a year at Harvill Secker, with the job title of associate publisher (fiction). Rebecca Carter, editor-at-large, will be taking on more editorial responsibility.

Williams said: "I have been a huge admirer of The Bodley Head since its launch . . . I am proud to be joining this distinguished list and I am delighted, too, to continue publishing fiction at Harvill Secker."

Williams joined RH in 1997, becoming editorial director at Harvill Secker in 2009. His team at The Bodley Head will comprise senior editor Jorg Hensgen, editor Kay Peddle and an as-yet unappointed editorial assistant.