Susan Kamil, longtime publisher and editor, dead at 69

NEW YORK — Susan Kamil, a revered editor and publisher who found critical and commercial success with authors ranging from Salman Rushdie and Ta-Nehisi Coates to Elizabeth Strout and Sophie Kinsella, has died at age 69.

Random House Publishing Group President Gina Centrello announced that Kamil died Sunday, eight days before her 70th birthday, from complications relating to lung cancer. Kamil, who joined the industry more than 40 years ago, was most recently executive vice-president and publisher of Random House and imprints such as Dial Press and One World.

“Susan was one of the great editors, and working with her has been the best experience of my writing life,” Rushdie said in a statement. “Her clarity and sharpness were invaluable to me and I trusted her instincts always. She was also one of the loveliest human beings I have known, and I grew to love her very much. It’s a devastating loss for so many of us.”

Her death was widely mourned on social media. Lena Dunham, whose bestselling “Not That Kind of Girl” was published by Kamin, called her an “inimitable force” who gave “the best notes & best hugs.” Laura Zigman, Elizabeth McCracken and other authors also tweeted tributes. Some of the fall’s most prominent books were completed under Kamil’s leadership, among them Rushdie’s Booker Prize-nominated novel “Quichotte”; Coates’ debut novel, “The Water Dancer”; Prince’s posthumous memoir, “The Beautiful Ones”; and Strout’s “Olive, Again.”

Kamil’s many editing credits included “Quichotte,” Kinsella’s “Shopaholic” novels, Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton” and Allegra Goodman’s “Kaaterskill Falls,” a finalist for the National Book Award in 1998.

Kamil “must have read this manuscript five, six, maybe seven times,” Goodman told Publishers Weekly at the time the novel came out. “She wrote on every single page all over in pencil — and she did that twice. She cared so deeply for this book and the characters in it. She would talk about them as if they were real people, which is how I feel about it — but you don’t expect other people to feel the same way.”

Born and raised in New York City and a graduate of George Washington University, Kamil spent the early part of her publishing career at Macmillan, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich and Simon & Schuster, where she befriended publisher Joni Evans. When Evans moved over to Random House in the early 1990s, she founded the Turtle Bay imprint and named Kamil executive editor. Her other Random House positions included the editorial leader of Bantam Books and editor-in-chief of the Random House imprint.

“My heart is broken with the devastating news of Susan Kamil’s death,” Strout said in a statement. “She was an incredible person, an unbelievable editor, and a wonderful friend.”

Kamil is survived by her husband, Bob Kohn, two stepchildren and two brothers.

The Associated Press

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