PROFILE: Bogaards reads into media's needs for Knopf books

At Alfred A. Knopf, Paul Bogaards builds books into bestsellers and helps to shape writers' careers by maintaining a realistic approach to each book's PR and fostering media relationships.

At Alfred A. Knopf, Paul Bogaards builds books into bestsellers and helps to shape writers' careers by maintaining a realistic approach to each book's PR and fostering media relationships.

Paul Bogaards, SVP, executive director of publicity, promotion, and media relations at Alfred A. Knopf, wrote a play and had it produced while still a student at McGill University in Montreal. When he took his first PR job at William Morrow more than 20 years ago, he thought he might become a professional creative writer in the course of learning everything about making and selling books. Instead, he became one of book publishing's most powerful people. "Paul is in that small group of people who can command the attention of reporters, reviewers, and independent booksellers," says New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick. "He is one of the smartest book-industry publicists I've worked with. Knopf has an unusual approach to publicity, which is playing hard to get. He has a certain gravitas that fits that tone." Knopf (a division of Random House) is a prestigious imprint that is as well known for its literary giants - including Thomas Mann, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Toni Morrison, and V.S. Naipaul - as for its ability to foster big-money bestsellers. Bogaards has masterminded PR efforts that have fueled some of the publisher's biggest sellers, including Allison Pearson, Anne Packer, Dr. Andrew Weil, and Carl Hiaasen. "There is a causal link between a PR hit and sales," Bogaards says. "A lot of column inches are available if you know what colleagues in print and broadcast media are looking for. The media helps you advance the cultural narrative. If you don't have access to those people, if you don't earn their trust, you don't add value to the company for which you work. The most artful PR practitioners have the ability to shape stories." Knopf has gotten a lot of attention for Bill Clinton's My Life. The book's high-profile trajectory was expected, but still extraordinary. "Every aspect of Clinton's life is scrutinized, so the fact that he wrote a book was heavily scrutinized," Bogaards says. "You couldn't have a better client to work with. "He knows the expectations of a particular audience, and he gives it to them. In an odd way, he's a bad example of what we do because it's a management campaign. He's a good example, too, because all the choices you make have to be the right ones." Though each project is challenging, Bogaards most enjoys helping shape new writers' careers or advancing established writers who are not huge movers in the marketplace. One of the first campaigns he worked on at William Morrow was Michael Chabon's The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. His efforts propelled Chabon's rise and caught the attention of Sonny Mehta, Knopf's president and editor-in-chief. Mehta promptly poached Bogaards. "I'm delighted that Paul is a part of this group - a very important part," Mehta says. "To be successful, you need to be able to take rejection. You have to be centered. You must have a lot of balls. Paul is irrepressible." Hiaasen, who has been a reporter for more than 30 years, has encountered PR's full array - from both sides of the fence. Before signing with Knopf 13 years ago, his books sold about 25,000 copies in hardcover - now they sell more than 400,000 copies. "What makes him credible is that he doesn't oversell," Hiaasen says. "He's realistic about the exposure each book can get. Not everybody pays that much attention. Many use a scattershot approach. Paul's a lot smarter than that." Over the past 20 years, Bogaards' intelligence, discrimination, and integrity have helped build powerful media relationships. "Paul doesn't give you a blizzard of BS," says ABC's Diane Sawyer. "He has a very clear sense of what he thinks serves the material. Everyone respects him so much because of that." Bogaards says every writer and editor he's worked with has been a mentor. Mehta - a "fierce PR advocate," notes Bogaards - has also served as a mentor. Bogaards calls his staff of 14 "the best in the business" and gives them credit for his department's success. His father, who supervised a warehouse for an educational-film distribution company, taught him to appreciate the role of each employee in an organization. "Paul brings a good spirit of fun to the place," says Gabrielle Brooks, Knopf's director of promotion. "He gets that people who work for you should enjoy their job. It's wonderful to have a boss you can learn from who also makes it fun to come to work." Hiaasen says writers can be tough to deal with, but Bogaards is unflappable. "I can be one of the more surly individuals, especially on a book tour," he admits. "[Paul and his staff] are just complete pros. I wish I could report some bad behavior - I'd love the blackmail power. He was dealing day-to-day with Clinton's people and the Secret Service. I'm sure he has some great stories, but I've been unable to pry one out of him. As he lurches into middle age, he's becoming unbearably discreet." Sawyer makes the same point a little differently. "Paul combines intelligence and heart in approaching all of the sensitive spirits around him," she says. "He's got the heart of a poet, the strategic sense of Gen. Schwarzkopf, and he can cook something fabulous. He's the person there in the darkest time telling you where the door is that leads to something better. He's a beautiful writer himself - extremely gifted." A Long Island native, Bogaards lives with his wife, Laura, and his three children, ages 10, 8, and 6. He is a "passionate cook" and spends weekends cooking with the family. His expertise landed him the responsibility of approving Knopf's cookbook acquisitions. He's edited two books himself and will complete a third next year. He writes speeches (for himself and Mehta), and he teaches publicity seminars at Columbia and New York Universities. Should Bogaards decide he's had enough fun being one of the most powerful people in book publishing, he might yet find time to become a New York Times bestseller himself. Paul Bogaards 2000-2004 Knopf Publishing Group, SVP, exec. director of publicity, promotion, and media relations 1989-2000 Alfred A. Knopf, SVP, director of promotion (1998-2000); division VP/director of promotion (1994-1998); director of promotion (1993-1994); promotion mgr. (1989-1993) 1986-1989 William Morrow & Co., associate publicity director (1988-1989); senior publicist (1986-1988) 1984-1986 New American Library, senior publicist (1985-1986); publicist (1984-1985) 1983-1984 William Morrow, associate publicist (1984); publicity assistant (1983)

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