Industry Honors Publishing Leaders

Folio: the Magazine for Magazine Management, December 1989 | Go to article overview

Industry Honors Publishing Leaders


At the age of 27 Hugh Hefner hocked his furniture for $600 and borrowed another $3,000 to start a magazine that would fill the void the recently revamped Esquire left behind. it would be the magazine to serve a new generation-the members of the sexual revolution. The year was 1953 and

Playboy was born.

The first issue sold 51,000 copies and featured calendar shots of Marilyn monroe. Today Playboy's circulation is 3.4 million.

At the outset, Hefner told his editorial staff-. "Don't do a magazine that will just show how smart we think we are, do an issue that a reader will savor." Playboy's method of mixing gloss and culture with a celebration of human sexuality was a hit with readers.

Over time, he included contributions by such notable writers as john Steinbeck, Truman Capote, joyce Carol Oates and Woody Allen. Playboy has consistently run stimulating interviews with world politicians and celebrities. Fidel Castro, Martin Luther King, john Lennon and Jimmy Carter are just a few who have talked to Playboy.

Hefner attributes his fascination with human sexuality to a repressed upbringing. One formative influence was Kinsey's Sexual Behavior in the Human Male.

"Sex is a natural, good part of life," says Hefner. "Censorship creates an appetite for the hidden and suppressed. By treating citizens like overprotected children, we've produced our present childlike, immature and hypocritical social order."

Playboy's founder is also an astute marketer. During the seventies, the Playboy trademark graced casino clubs and resorts worldwide. Playboy Enterprises became involved with television and movie production and general merchandise. By 1980 Playboy Enterprises was a $200 million industry.

In 1965 the Playboy Foundation established an activist arm to "protect the principles of freedom and democracy." Hefner remains a firm advocate of civil liberties and First Amendment Rights.

J. Lawrence Hughes Bringing a wide range of authors to the world

The publishing philosophy of J. Lawrence Hughes, a 40-year veteran of the book industry, is simple: A title either has to make a cultural contribution (within the bounds of good taste) or commercial one. it's hoped that it will do both.

Hughes has certainly brought to press many authors whose books fit the two criteria. From Jacqueline Susann to Dr. Benjamin Spock, the Hughes contribution is eclectic. Other writers he has published include Erle Stanley Gardner, Paul Scott, Beverly Cleary, Saul Bellow, John Irving, Sidney Sheldon, Margaret Mead and joseph Wambaugh.

He started out in the mailroom of Pocket Books in 1949. Within 10 years he had become editor and was vice president of the firm's Washington Square Press.

In 1959, he was one of three publishers to become a partner in William Morrow and Company. He initially was vice president and editor, and rose to president and CEO five years later.

In the late 1960s, Hughes pioneered the co-publishing venture-a way of uniting unaffiliated hardcover and mass market paperback houses. He and Oscar Dystel of Bantam Books agreed that one house would publish the hardcover versions of some books, while the other would publish the paperbacks. Their arrangement became a model for the industry.

Morrow was eventually sold to the Hearst Corporation in 1981. Hughes stayed on board as president and CEO until 1985. He was then made president of the Hearst Trade Book Group, which includes Morrow, Avon Books and other imprints. He became chairman in 1988.

During Hughes's 30-year association with Morrow, the company's volume has grown to more than $65 million annually, about 25 times what it was when he first joined. The Hearst Trade Book Group is one of the five major domestic trade book publishers.

Hughes was also instrumental in the growth of Morrow Junior Books. In addition, he oversees Lothrop Lee & Shepard and Greenwillow Books. …

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