Ralph Woodward Remembered

We thank Beth Martin of Northeast Publishers Reps for sharing these recollections about her father, Ralph Woodward, a legend in the publishing industry and in his beloved New England:

Ralph Woodward

It's with great sadness to inform you that my father, Ralph Woodward, died peacefully on May 20.

After graduating from Princeton in 1951, he knew he wanted to work in publishing. He got his first job at the New York Journal American, a daily newspaper owned by William Randolph Hearst. He was the "errand boy" for the editor and lasted six months or so. He then got a position at George P. Putnam's and Sons where he first learned all about the publishing business. He became the jack of all trades, writing copy, selling, and organizing things. This lasted two years until he got his big break at Doubleday: he began his journey as a sales rep traveling the Southeast, where he met my mother, Betty Southgate, at a Nashville bookstore, of course! They married, and he continued as a road warrior.

A colleague at Knopf recommended him to Pat Knopf, and he then became part of their publishing family selling in the Midwest. Two years later, he was appointed the advertising manager for the firm. If you remember John Updike's first bestselling novel, Rabbit Run, Ralph wrote the ad for the announcement in the New York Times. This is one of his personal favorite achievements. 

He then went to Meredith Press, which at the time was a new publishing house, where he began as sales manager and ultimately became managing director.  After that, he moved to Boston and worked for Little, Brown. He began as the general manager of the children's book division and was responsible for introducing the initial and immensely successful Sesame Street Books derived from the classic TV show. He went on to be the marketing director for all Little, Brown adult and children's books, supervising the advertising, promotion and sales of many noted authors.

In 1974, he decided to become an independent commission rep, forming New England Books & Arts and later, Consolino and Woodward. He was able to gather 40-plus publishers and began his last journey in life as a New England rep until he retired in 1996. He was very active with the New England Booksellers Association, serving on its board, and organized its very first trade show. He was also a founder of the National Association of Independent Publishers Representatives (NAIPR).

I know that many folks had the pleasure of him coming to your bookstores with those canvas bags full of samples, a tradition that I now carry on for him.

He spent the last few years at Heritage House in Framingham, Mass., where he became one of its beloved residents. He also got a lot of pleasure introducing the residents to a weekly poker night. He told me he felt a bit guilty taking everyone's money but that didn't stop him! He loved opera, classical music, reading the classics, chess, chorus and was tapped to be the MC at many events.

Asked if he had a favorite quote or words to live by, he answered: "Simplicity of Life, Self-Reliance and Directness of Purpose."

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Minute Man ARC or visit your local independent bookstore.

Here is a link if you'd like to send stories or messages. I know he loved the business and all the great independent booksellers he called on.

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