Stephen Hawking

Around the time I started working in trade publishing, Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" was a huge bestseller, clocking sales at record rates. I was impressed, and still am, but my thinking on what these numbers meant was altered by the comment of a colleague: "Just because people are buying the book, doesn't mean they're reading it."

And, of course, it's true. Hawking's book was a trendy intellectual purchase. Drop a copy of this much-talked-about dense and brainy bestseller on your coffee table, and guests were sure to gain a favorable impression of your erudition. But speak knowledgably about black holes, quarks and antimatter? Mere ownership of the tome did not such conversations guarantee.

From multimillion-dollar acquisitions to multimillion-dollar best-sellers, powerful women stand at every pivotal, decision-making point in the book publishing process. Book Business’ first annual “50 Top Women in Book Publishing” feature recognizes and honors some of these industry leaders who affect and transform how publishing companies do business, and what—and how—consumers read.

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