Colson Whitehead

PRH Speakers Bureau and Penguin Live: Powerful Platforms to Extend the Reach of Our Authors Beyond Their Books

What is the next best thing to reading an amazing book?  Meeting the author! Organizing speaking events and creating magical moments that inspire and educate is at the heart of what the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau and the Penguin Live programs do. Both connect authors with readers in interactive and dynamic ways designed to broaden our horizons and to deepen the impact of our books.

Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau (U.S.) The Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau is a full-service lecture agency. It works with a wide range of organizations in the U.S. and throughout the world to identify preeminent speakers for important events. At present, the Bureau represents over 300 Penguin Random House authors, including Pulitzer Prize winners Ron Chernow (pictured above), Colson Whitehead, and Isabel Wilkerson, and bestselling authors Gillian Flynn, John Green, and R.J. Palacio. From historians and creative innovators to experts in international politics and heroic activists, its roster comprises a who’s-who of thought leaders shaping critical cultural conversations. As others have put it: [caption id="attachment_10209" align="alignright" width="300"] Bryan Stevenson[/caption] “Bryan (Stevenson) was simply astonishing. What an amazing man, and an incredible speaker. No notes, no PowerPoint, just stood up there and talked for over an hour, so brilliant! We had 1,250 people, sold out of books and the surveys are all glowing. Huge standing ovation.”—Lonnie Stonitsch, Executive Director, Family Action NetworkLinda’s (Kaplan Thaler) passion and message was a hit with our audience of entrepreneurs – it connected at a deep personal level.  She inspired and energized our Forum kick-off which elevated the energy for the rest of the program.  Many commented it was one of the best keynotes we’ve had at a Virtuoso event, and given our who’s who line-up, that’s saying a lot.”—Matthew Upchurch, Chairman & CEO, Virtuoso, Ltd. In an increasingly competitive market place, the PRH Speakers Bureau has grown into a thriving business, more than doubling its annual gross income over the last four years. Close to 500,000 people—at Fortune 500 companies, universities, libraries, conferences, and trade associations, in 23 countries—attended events in 2017 alone, and over 190,000 books were sold directly at these events. [caption id="attachment_10210" align="alignright" width="300"] Cheryl Strayed[/caption] The Speakers Bureau continues to grow its prestigious list of clients, which includes Deloitte, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Merrill Lynch, and YouTube. Its talent pool continues to grow as well.  In the last year alone,  it signed 39 new top lecturers, among them award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates, American political commentator Robert Reich, bestselling suspense author Lisa Gardner, world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, and Tara Westover, author of EDUCATED, already one of the most talked about memoirs of the year. “The Speakers Bureau has flourished since the merger, which brought two already successful lecture agencies together under one roof and allowed us to capitalize on our strong speaker and agent talent to great advantage for all our stakeholders. Our goal is to provide a first-rate experience for every single client and for each individual event. And happily, the breadth of our speaker roster is so great that if a prospective client’s first choice is unavailable, our team works together collaboratively and cross-divisionally to provide them with an equally appealing alternative who can deliver a top-notch lecture.” says Tiffany Tomlin, Vice President and Executive Director of the Speakers Bureau. [caption id="attachment_10186" align="alignright" width="300"] Colson Whitehead[/caption] New initiatives for the bureau in 2018 include “Company Reads,” which applies the community read and first year experience concept to corporations by bringing employees together around a common book. Launching in June with a website and presence at the Society for Human Resources conference, the initiative will connect organizations with speakers, books, e-courses, and other unique programming opportunities that best fit their employee’s needs. Penguin Live (UK) In the UK, Penguin Random House takes a different approach to organizing speaking events for their authors. Over the past few years, Penguin Random House UK has developed its own event production department, Penguin Live, which now produces over 50 ticketed events and tours per year, providing best-in-class opportunities for readers to enjoy live experiences with the writers they love. [caption id="attachment_10195" align="alignleft" width="300"] Tom Hanks[/caption] These range from intimate gatherings to extensive tours, featuring comedians and novelists, chefs and big thinkers: Ruby Wax, Simon Sinek, Caitlin Moran, and Irvine Welsh, to name a few. Penguin Live has also been creating show-stopping productions featuring household names like Tom Hanks, Margaret Atwood, and Tim Peake, and developing experiences manifesting our brand, such as the hugely successful Penguin Pride @ Proud – a key showcase at the heart of the Penguin Pride campaign, which celebrates the important role literature plays in the fight for LGBT rights. And because every Penguin Live event is organized around books, each not only drives book sales, but fosters communities connected by a shared passion for long-form reading.

Our NAIBA 2017 Books of the Year Awards Winners

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) has announced its 2017 Books of the Year Awards, with two books published by Penguin Random House imprints among the winners, in the following categories:

  Fiction:  THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)  YA Literature: STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO by A.S. King (Dutton Books for Young Readers)   Congratulations to our authors, their editors and publishers. All winners will be honored at the NAIBA Conference Awards Banquet on Saturday, October 7, in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The NAIBA book awards recognizes authors who were born or live in the Atlantic states, and/or a book whose story takes place in the region. To view a complete list of the NAIBA Books of the Year winners, click here.


NBA winnerOur authors’ and our treasured long-standing good fortune with the annual National Book Awards continued Wednesday night in downtown Manhattan, as Colson Whitehead’s THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD won the 2016 prize for Fiction. This is the fourth consecutive year a Penguin Random House title has been honored in this category.

Mr. Whitehead accepted his award to thunderous applause from the 700 guests, among them, our CEO Markus Dohle, publishing colleagues from across our imprints, and members of the Penguin Random House shareholder board, including Bertelsmann Chairman and CEO Thomas Rabe and Pearson CEO John Fallon, both attending their first-ever NBA ceremony. In THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (Doubleday HC & E-Book; Random House Audio; Penguin Random House Canada distribution; Literatura Random House/Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, Fall 2017), a #1 New York Times Hardcover Fiction bestseller from Doubleday, Colson Whitehead tells the harrowing story of Cora, an indomitable teenage slave and her desperate bid for freedom from an antebellum cotton plantation in Georgia circa 1850.  In August, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD became an Oprah’s Book Club selection, was excerpted in a stand-alone New York Times Magazine section, and received rave reviews. In her New York Times daily review, Michiko Kakutani said the novel “possesses the chilling matter-of-fact power of the slave narratives collected by the Federal Writers’ Project in the 1930s, with echoes of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and brush strokes borrowed from Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and Jonathan Swift… Whitehead has told a story essential to our understanding of the American past and the American present.” [caption id="attachment_4356" align="alignright" width="359"]Colson Whitehead Colson Whitehead[/caption] From the podium, Mr. Whitehead exuberantly observed that the “last four months since the book came out have been incredible,” noting that Doubleday has been his “only publisher for eighteen years” he’s been an author.  He thanked his publicity teams over the years, and praised his editor Bill Thomas: “No matter what kooky [book] idea I come up with, he assures me we will do an incredible job publishing it. Thank you for your faith in me all these years,” said Mr. Whitehead.  “It is incredible to have someone like Bill in your corner.” Earlier in the evening Knopf/Vintage author Robert A. Caro was presented with the National Book Foundation’s 2016 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  Read a report on this memorable moment here. In a book world of dizzying change, the National Book Awards ceremony dinner remains a celebration of authors, publishers, and the readers we serve. Our cross-company pride in Colson Whitehead’s achievement, and in Bill Thomas, and the publishing team at Doubleday, also embraces our multiple Penguin Random House NBA longlist semi-finalists and short list finalists this year. It continues to be a humbling privilege for us to have the opportunity to bring their work to the widest possible audience. Here is a complete list of our National Book Award winners since the formation of Penguin Random House: Fiction: 2016: THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday) 2015: FORTUNE SMILES: Stories by Adam Johnson (Random House) 2014: REDEPLOYMENT by Phil Klay (Penguin Press) 2013: THE GOOD LORD BIRD by James McBride (Riverhead) Nonfiction: 2015: BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Spiegel & Grau) Poetry: 2015: VOYAGE OF THE SABLE VENUS by Robin Coste Lewis (Knopf) Young People’s Literature: 2014: BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (Nancy Paulsen Books)