When the Random House empire consolidated several imprints last December, one of the casualties was revered Doubleday publisher Stephen Rubin, who helmed the company during the successes of Dan Brown, John Grisham, Ian McEwan, and Pat Conroy, to name just a handful. Though Rubin wasn’t fired in the Random House upheaval — he was made a publisher-at-large for Random House, Inc. — he was reportedly bored in his new assignment. So I can’t say I was surprised today when I heard he had been tapped as publisher of Henry Holt, which is now part of the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group. When I talked to him this afternoon, Rubin said, “It’s a venerable old house. It has the current Nobel and Booker Prize winners. But,” he added, “It isn’t the house it used to be. There was a time when Holt published everyone from Philip Roth to Sue Grafton. I want to bring it back to that, to have it be a seriously competitive house.” To shake Holt out of its mid-list doldrums, he said, “We’re going to have to lure more high-revenue, big-ticket writers.” When asked if he would be a part of that — if he himself would be luring authors to the company from their current publishers — he replied, “You bet your ass I will!” Working with writers, he says, is one of the things he’s most excited about. “Holt’s not a big company. It’s small, so I’ll be able to really get my hands dirty.”
Rubin starts next Monday.