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Peter M. Mayer (born 1936) is an American independent publisher who is president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., a Woodstock, New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook’s founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. From 1978 to 1996, Mayer was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. Previously, while at Avon Books, he successfully launched the trade paperback as a viable alternative to mass market and hardcover formats. Recently, Mayer financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the U.K. Born in London in 1936, Mayer migrated to the United States in 1939. A Ford Foundation scholarship enabled him to earn his BA degree in English literature at Columbia College, going on to read PPE at Christ Church, Oxford University, where he graduated in 1954. He returned to Columbia in 1956 with a summa cum laude degree in English literature. He then served in the US Merchant Marine before being granted a graduate fellowship in comparative literature at Indiana University, and in 1959 earned a Fulbright scholarship to study German literature at the Freie Universität Berlin. In 1961 Mayer began work as an editorial assistant at Orion Press, followed in 1962 Mayer by a 14-year tenure at Avon Books, where he became publisher. In the late 1970s he was appointed publisher and president of Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster). From 1978 to 1997 he was chairman and CEO of the Penguin group, overseeing Penguin’s companies in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, and India.
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