Howard Kaminsky, Publisher With a Best-Seller Sense, Dies at 77

Laurence Kirshbaum, who worked at Warner in the 1970s and ′80s, said in a telephone interview that Mr. Kaminsky had been an entrepreneurial, risk-taking executive as the company grew quickly from a mass-market publisher of genre paperbacks to one that also competed heavily to sign major hardcovers. (Warner Books was part of the company that would become Time Warner.)

“Physically, Howard was a little guy,” said Mr. Kirshbaum, a longtime publishing executive who is now an agent. “And he loved being an iconoclast who didn’t care about corporate politics.”

He recalled Mr. Kaminsky dancing with the ebullient Mr. Simmons in the publisher’s office, “frolicking” with Norman Mailer in a pool at a sales conference and schmoozing with Nixon at a book party.

Mr. Kaminsky was lured to Random House in 1984 and named publisher and chief executive of its trade department — a significantly larger but more sedate realm than the one he was running at Warner. Random House had hardcover imprints like Alfred A. Knopf and Pantheon Books and published Ballantine paperbacks.

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Howard Kaminsky at home in 1987.

Credit
Dith Pran/The New York Times

“We have had many commercial best sellers, of course, but this adds another first-rate editorial mind,” Robert L. Bernstein, Random House’s chairman, president and chief executive, said at the time of Mr. Kaminsky’s hiring.

One of the books Random House published during Mr. Kaminsky’s tenure was “The Art of the Deal” (1987), Mr. Trump’s account (ghostwritten by Tony Schwartz) of his rise as a real estate developer. In pursuit of the company’s deal with Mr. Trump, according to The New Yorker, Mr. Kaminsky produced a mock-up cover with large gold block lettering, which pleased Mr. Trump but prompted him to make one suggestion: “Please make my name…

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