In Memory of Judith Appelbaum, Editor at Large

I first made contact with Judith Appelbaum in 1998 when she added my book, Publicity on the Internet, to the Recommended Resources section of the website for her book, How to Get Happily Published. She liked my writing, and she asked me to write a profile of publishing management consultant, John Huenefeld, for the Publishers Marketing Association (PMA) newsletter.

That began a very happy period in my life when I was writing publisher profiles and having them edited by none other than “Editor at Large” Judith Appelbaum, former managing editor of Publishers Weekly and a columnist for The New York Times Book Review! Under her careful watch, I interviewed PMA Executive Director, Jan Nathan; Workman Publishing founder Peter Workman; Sourcebooks founder Dominique Raccah; and the head of Small Press Relations at Barnes & Noble, Marcella Smith. You’ll find all these in the re-named Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) archives.

I first met Judith in 2004 on the terrace at Tropica in midtown Manhattan. She was impeccably dressed, remarkably well-poised as if she’d had training, elegant in word and gesture, quiet, thoughtful, with a hint of mischief in her eye perfectly captured in her titanium publicity photo. She was American royalty, in my mind, in a league with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis who had worked as a book editor at Doubleday just down the street.

We discussed plans for a publishing supersite involving contacts from How to Get Happily Published, Jeff Herman’s Guide to Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents, The Huenefeld Guide to Book Publishing and my Complete Guide to Internet Publicity. We could never get all the parties on the same page at the same time and the dream was deferred.

In 2004, she provided detailed comments on the manuscript for Set the Page on Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers, which Jeff Herman was shopping around for me. I was living in New Orleans at the time and the manuscript evacuated with me during Hurricane Katrina. It stayed in the same waterproof box for 14 years while I travelled around the U.S. and Canada filming interviews with authors. Jeff Herman finally sold the manuscript to New World Library in 2018, within days of Judith’s passing in July. I learned about her death when I wrote to tell her my good news.

In 2003, when my father passed away, Judith was right there with a kind word: “Even when a death is expected, it can be wrenching, I know,” she wrote, “I’ll be thinking of you and your family.” Today, I am thinking of her family: her husband, Alan Appelbaum, her writing partner Nancy Evans, her business partner Florence Janovic, her colleagues and the thousands of writers whose lives she touched through her writing and her life’s work. Thank you, Judith Appelbaum, Editor at Large, wherever you are!

With Sincere Appreciation,
STEVE O’KEEFE

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