Exclusive Interview: Jane Friedman, President and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers, Offers Insights On Motivation, Mentors and More
EXTRA: What publishing mentors have you had in your career, and what did you learn from them?
FRIEDMAN: My two greatest mentors were two men: one Robert Gottlieb, who was the editor in chief of Knopf Publishers, and that’s where I grew up. He taught me things like: have ideas, good or bad, have ideas; and make sure you pay attention to everything that goes on. If you are getting coffee for your boss, that’s OK because maybe you’ll hear something at that coffee machine that you can then internalize and make work for you. Open the mail, answer the phone, do all of the things that will get you very familiar with the company that you are working for. Ask questions. He taught me a lot about confidence, and I will be forever indebted. … We used to have sales conferences where people presented the actual titles, and he told me he wanted me to present the list with him. But he wouldn’t tell me what books I was presenting until I got on the dais. It was nervous making, but the fact is it stopped me from ever being afraid again. He said to me, “You know how to talk, talk!”
The other person was a man named Anthony Schulte, who was Bob’s counterpart. He sort of ran the publishing and business side of Knopf, and he also taught me, how to say no. Because you do have to say no as you increase your position within a company. Not everybody’s going to love you; you do have to make decisions. They both loved literature and they both loved books. Between those two men I really sort of learned lots of life and business lessons.
EXTRA: What has motivated you throughout your career and what continues to motivate you today?